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C4C response to St Albans local plan consultation
So, St Albans have finally released their (new) local plan consultation.
Before we continue, it’s important to fully understand the backdrop to the ‘consultation’.
St Albans spent many years and hundreds of thousands of pounds producing their last local plan. Included in this plan was a planned development in Hemel Hempstead (on the council border). Other councils including Hertsmere, Decorum and Three Rivers objected. It went to the High court and St Albans were found wanting and, subsequently, had their local plan thrown out in July 2017. The judge stated that St Albans had ‘not co-operated fully’ with neighbouring councils.
Fast forward a few months and the Hertsmere local plan shows a ‘preferred’ proposal to build 4000-8000 new homes on a development in and around London Colney. St Albans planning were rather obstinate when attending the C4C public meeting and have remained silent on any challenge toward the Hertsmere plan. At this point the alarm bells start ringing. Why are St Albans not challenging Hertsmere? Why is there no court action when St Albans claim they were ‘not aware’ prior to November 2017? Surely this lack of co-operation is similar to the court action undertaken against St Albans?
The Government in December 2017, having had enough of St Albans lack of progress with their local plan, put them ‘on notice’. Of 418 authorities in the UK, only 15 were put on notice due to ‘lack of progress’ with their local plan. They have until 31st January 2018 to prove to Sajid Javed that progress is being made. If no progress is shown, the Government take control and make the decisions on housing development with NO consultation with any parties. Hence the rushed ‘consultation’ we are currently in the midst of.
St Albans open their public consultation in January 2018. The one page plan shows preferred areas for development (based around a study they commissioned). In effect the decision is made, but they have to legally jump through the hoop of having a public consultation.
The one page plan shows 2 development ‘proposals’ in St Albans and one in London Colney (south of Napsbury). In addition, there is a questionnaire.
The market research is not, as far as we are aware, being undertaken by an independent market research (MRS) company and the construction is dubious at best. The questions have limited responses leading residents into answering questions which lead to a skewed set of results, which can then be used for justification to build a new development in London Colney.
The consultation consists of a questionnaire that is not fit for purpose. Mary Maynard, during a meeting in November 2017, publicly informed Colney residents that SADC have ‘little choice’ but to consider a further development in London Colney. The proposals indicate 8 sites that have been identified as (preferred) green belt review broad locations’.
SADC have given no detail regarding proposed size of these developments or supporting infrastructure. The market research is not being undertaken independently and contains poorly constructed questions designed to illicit the responses that will give SADC the green light. It is unsurprising that SADC did not act on resident’s behalf last year, as they are now proving to be part of the problem, not the solution. The Hemel Hempstead plan is back on the table and it is difficult to think past their being some kind of unwritten agreement that if that plan is not challenged, then the Hertsmere ‘garden village’ will also not be challenged. This is increasingly how it is looking.
The government is planning for 300,000 new houses to be built across the UK. London Colney consists of 4500 homes and 10000 residents. Per capita, we should be planning to build 44 homes to ‘do our bit’. At present, we expect the Hertsmere plan to issue a final proposal for around 6000 homes. In addition, SADC are planning a substantial development elsewhere in London Colney. We feel as if we are under attack, residents are not being listened to and we are being made a dumping ground for this and previous government’s failure to address the housing issues in the UK.