Consulting the public. What happens now? 

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Dear Member

Consulting the public. What happens now?

The opportunity that residents had to voice their opinion on the current draft of St Albans District Council’s controversial draft Strategic Local Plan ended on Friday 19 February.

The Harpenden Green Belt Association has registered its ‘representation’, some 53 pages long even without attachments.
The next stage in the process is for your District Council to decide on 8 March 2016 if it wants to amend its draft in the light of the representations that it has received from us and from many others or just forward all those representations to a Planning Inspector from the Government’s ‘Planning Inspectorate’.
Maybe we will get a surprise but your District Council has hitherto never shown any desire to incorporate the views of residents into their draft plan, so the odds are that everybody's representations will be forwarded to the Planning Inspector for his independent and professional consideration in an ‘Examination in Public’. We will attend that Examination in Public.
The Inspector has to decide if the Council’s Plans are ‘sound’. He may suggest changes to the draft plan or go further and rule it ‘unsound’. In that case our District Council will have to revise its draft or, quite possibly, submit to being told what to do by planning consultants appointed by the Inspectorate.
Our representation considers the draft plan to be stunningly and comprehensively ‘unsound’.
We are not alone in thinking that.
For example, Redbourn Parish Council’s representation says, on the advice of a top flight professional planner, ‘the extent of the failings in the Pre-Submission Strategic Local Plan as proposed mean that it is extremely unlikely to succeed at Examination’. The Campaign to Protect Rural England’s representation. again using the services of a highly experienced planner, centred on flawed objectives not supported by evidence.
Harpenden Town Council (HTC) , also using the experience of a professional planning consultant, makes the observation that it is ‘extremely disappointing’ that our District Council has ignored HTC’s previous input to the draft plan. HTC then goes on to say that the Plan is ‘unsound’ in a number of key respects.
You can read HTC’s response by clicking here.
Should you so wish, you could raise the issue of HTC’s input being totally ignored by your District Council with two District Councillors. They represent Harpenden on the District Council’s influential ‘ Planning Policy Committee’:
The representation of The Harpenden Green Belt Association was never going to be a light read. It is formatted in a way that is necessary if the Planning Inspector is to take due notice of what we have to say and it is also necessarily detailed.

You can find it by clicking here.
You may just want to glance through it all but I recommend you contemplate the one and one half pages entitled ‘Background and Context’ beginning on page 4 and finishing on page 5. ‘Background and Context’ covers the issue of whether the Plan and its content was compiled from the outset for political reasons rather than for well thought out planning reasons.
At a recent public meeting in Harpenden, a resident voiced concern at the thought of 500 new homes in Harpenden and what that might mean for medical services. Harpenden will in fact have to take about 1,300 new homes under the draft Plan not 500.
To make him even more concerned, I could have told him that Central Bedfordshire Council, which decides what will be built on a swathe of land between Luton and Harpenden, has very recently scrapped its Strategic Plan altogether and called for suggestions on where it could build houses. Legal and General, as a developer, has professed an interest in building on farm land just north of Harpenden. St Albans District Council has no jurisdiction from the planning point of view over that farm land.
It would really help The Association if you would forward this email to those you know who live in Harpenden and who may not know what is going on in your District Council.

Please ask your friends to forward the newsletter on to those they know.

My Thanks.

David Rankin
The Harpenden Green Belt Association
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