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Hertsmere Local Plan

Hertsmere council have been set a Government target for 9000 new homes to be planned for, and built, in the region. Following a ‘call for land’, when landowners were asked to put forward proposals for areas they would be agreeable in selling, a number came forward. The Garden Village site is owned by one single landowner, thus making it ‘easier’ to purchase the land in question. Hertsmere commenced their first public consultation in Hertsmere in 2016. This consisted of a few small-scale events including attending a Youth event in Potters Bar. The consultation was low key and those asked for their opinion unsurprisingly, given the option of regeneration and building in their local areas or placing a new Garden Village on the outskirts of Hertsmere by London Colney, plumped for that latter.

The Market research taken by Hertsmere has been internal and is in serious question. Despite requesting information as to which MRS registered market research company was used and the sampling method, Hertsmere have been unwilling to release this information. This Market Research was undertaken internally and is open to serious questions regarding its authenticity, yet it is this research that will be used to give credence to their final draft plan decision.

A new Garden Village proposal of up to 8000 homes around London Colney was first made public to residents of London Colney following a public consultation event in the neighbouring village of Shenley. Most LC residents became aware in late October 2017, 1 month before the end of the nearly 2-year public consultation process. It is at this point that C4C was formed in order to make local residents aware and challenge these proposals. A public meeting was arranged by C4C for 5th November 2017 and Oliver Dowden, Hertsmere MP, along with Christine Lyons and Cllr Cohen (Hertsmere planning) were all invited. All refused.

The public consultation finished on 30 th November 2017. Recently members of the C4C group attended an event at which the head of planning team of Hertsmere were in attendance. They repeatedly admitted the new garden village was the ‘preferred’ plan, and thus most likely to happen. Yet, they did not have the decency to consult directly with local London Colney or Colney Heath residents.

Hertsmere have given little detail regarding the plan (4000-8000 new homes). They have past history of such developments and failing to deliver regarding infrastructure. They have given no detail regarding roads, Doctors, Schools or any other necessary infrastructure regarding this proposal. The concerns are that already stretched local services will, once the development comes to fruition, be even more over stretched when infrastructure is not delivered. Added to that the denigration of green belt land and current traffic issues, along with the manner in which Hertsmere have refused to engage or consult with those most likely to be affected leave London Colney residents with little choice besides objecting this proposal through the C4C group.

Below is the objection letter sent to Hertsmere Council regarding the proposal.

Dear Hertsmere Planning,

This is my formal objection to your ‘preferred’ proposal to build a new ‘Garden Village’ on the land surrounding London Colney, Colney Heath and Shenley as part of your Local plan issues and options, so-called, ‘consultation’.

The Local Plan: All authorities must produce a local plan. The public have lost all confidence in the ability of authorities to produce rigid and robust plans due to past history. Birth and mortality rates (longer life expectancies) along with net migration are the major drivers behind the local plan initiative. Net migration has been positive every year since 1991 in the UK. In the year ending March 2017, net migration to the UK was 246,000. The increase has been rapid since 1997 when there was net migration of 48,000. This increased in 1998 to 140,000 and reached 332,000 in 2015. This level of migration was, and is, clearly unsustainable with regard to housing.

Population density in England is 413 persons per Square Km compared to Wales (149), Northern Ireland (135) and Scotland (68). Now it does not take Stephen Hawking to understand that if net migration is at such levels, then people require homes in which to live. The intelligent solution would have been to limit migration numbers (which current and previous Governments have failed to do) whilst ensuring that housing is available before allowing such vast numbers to settle in the UK. Along with net migration, birth rates remain between 600,000-800,000 per year with longer life expectancies. This creates a perfect storm of too many people and not enough houses.

So, due to lack of foresight, we now must face the price of Governments failure to plan for the future by spending years objecting to your proposal for the green belt to be concreted over, thus trebling the size of our village whilst being fed the narrative that this is an ‘opportunity’ for growth and other such council and central government gobbeldy gook. In reality, you, the representatives, have ‘messed up’ on a huge scale, yet you now force feeding the narrative that this is an ‘opportunity’ to ‘shape your future’ with regards to the absence of detail on your local plan, which looks like it has been written by a 7-year-old.

Consultation: The so called public consultation has been a shambles from start to finish. Introduced by stealth in 2016, the clear majority of London Colney, Shenley and Colney Heath residents first became aware of your proposal in October 2017. The end date is 30th November 2017. You have refused repeated calls to attend consultation events in London Colney, most notably the Campaign for Colney public meeting on 5th November. This meeting, attended by Anne Main, St Albans MP, was refused to be attended by Harvey Cohen, Christine Lyons and Oliver Dowden MP along with all other invited Hertsmere representatives. This despite the negative press of which Campaign for Colney has been directly responsible.

Your consultation events have not been fit for purpose. You attended a youth conference in Potters Bar and have issued some extremely questionable research findings. You have refused my request to state which independent Market Research Society registered company you used for your research along with your sampling method. You have then printed some extremely ‘positive’ figures stating that most residents want a new garden village as opposed to regeneration of existing conurbations. You have held other ‘consultation’ events in Hertsmere which you have now undertaken in small venues and have ticketed, hence being able to cherry pick attendees and ensure that any objectors are not invited.

If I were a Potters Bar or Borehamwood resident, and I was asked where would you rather build? In your local area or dump it right on the border away from Hertsmere major towns? I know where I would choose. With a single landowner, willing to sell following your ‘call for land’, and the ability to provide all the housing that you have been targeted to provide, then this looks more and more like a ‘done deal’.

The local area will lose its cultural identity and agricultural heritage whilst building on the green belt. The green belt should only be built on in ‘exceptional circumstance’. This is not one such circumstance, but an easy option for Hertsmere to appease Hertsmere residents. How dare you plan a site of this size and then have the gall to refuse to discuss with residents of London Colney and Colney Heath. I find your attitude extremely offensive and your actions cowardly at best. Hertsmere have proved themselves to have the backbone of a squid. Residents are angry and feel as if their voices are not being heard. We have had had little/ no local stakeholders including London Colney parish Council and St Albans, speaking on our behalf and you are refusing to engage. It has fallen to local residents to fight their corner through the Campaign for Colney group. Make no mistake, despite this being a ‘done deal’, we, as a local group, feel put upon in the extreme and will fight this proposal every step of the way.

Harmful emissions will increase, damaging our children’s health with this development, wildlife habitats will be lost for ever along with precious green belt land and a poor quality of live due to traffic issue and overcrowding will ensue. Employment will be limited locally. It’s a simple case of supply and demand. There will be more supply of labour. This will lead to an increase in applicants thus pushing down wages. Its simple economics and has been completely overlooked by Hertsmere.

You have point blank refused to engage with stakeholders who will be most affected by the garden village proposal. You direct people to your consultation portal online. This portal does not work and is not fit for purpose. Despite numerous complaints, including face to face with Cllr Cohen, you have refused to rectify this and will no doubt use the ‘lack of objection’ when putting your case to the Secretary of State come the final approval stage. You have also refused to extend the consultation period despite the local plan only coming to light for local residents a month or so before the end of the 2nd and final public consultation.

London Colney currently has 4500 dwellings. Your vague in detail local plan proposes 4000-8000 new properties thus doubling or trebling the size of the village. Which is it? There is a huge difference between 4 and 8 thousand. This would culminate in up to an extra 16,000 more vehicles and around 21,000 daily car movements extra per day around London Colney. These vehicles would be used on a daily basis on already crowded and dangerous roads. Only this week a motorist was killed on an extremely busy and dangerous stretch of road near to the proposed site on the A414 near the Colney Heath roundabout. Your answer is to increase traffic movements three-fold to alleviate this issue? Laughable at best.

Our concerns are not being taken seriously. In the C4C public meeting on 5th November 2017, St Albans portfolio holder for planning, Mary Maynard stated that Cllr Cohen asked her why local residents are ‘getting so excited’ by the proposals. Hopefully this, and other objections will give you a clue as to the strength of feeling locally and go some way to explaining our ‘excitement’.

M25: In the C4C meeting on 5th November, Mary Maynard, portfolio holder for planning stated: ‘Any new development cannot straddle the M25’, she continued ‘A new development would need a new M25 junction…that’s a no-no’. So, what are the plans for the M25 if you cannot straddle or build a new junction? I guess that’s a bridge you have not planned to cross at this juncture.

There is a large flood plain in London Colney. This has been ineffective recently with the River Colne drying up for large periods this summer due to extraction works which have affected the local environment. There has also been dreadful flooding around the Green Dragon public house area for many years. Should (when) a development on an area as large as this come to fruition, the run off areas will increase and flooding will ensue. The Herts strategy and programme manager, in an email to Anne Main MP on 20th November 2017 states ‘The A414, M25 and A1(M) are all identified as being congested’.

With huge traffic increases with this development, roads locally will be affected dramatically. These include the M25, M1, A1, A405, A414, A1081 and A41. These roads are already gridlocked at certain times of the day. Your answer? To add huge extra pressures with no plan for transport and road infrastructure.

A development of this site would require huge investment in infrastructure regarding roads, hospitals, rail, schools, buses, sewerage, water, doctors and other facilities. Judging by Hertsmere’s recent history of promising, and then failing to provide the necessary infrastructure during Hertsmere based building projects, a development of this scale is untenable and quite frankly you are not up to the task. With the lack of infrastructure, parents on the new site will apply to schools locally in St Albans, Potters Bar and elsewhere and local residents here would then find they would be battling to school their children anywhere locally.

Most residents live in London Colney as they enjoy the semi-rural way of life. They moved here for for health reasons (air quality) as well as green spaces and woodland. This plan would destroy those dreams and also negatively affect house prices.

Affordable housing: There are no concrete plans for affordable housing on this proposed site. Developers have a vested interest in building properties and then maximising returns. There have been no answers regarding how many homes would be social housing or ‘affordable’. Previous government part buy schemes have not worked and are not fit for purpose (I know, I once was a resident of one such scheme). The average salary in the UK as of 2017 is £26,000 pa. Even with a despot of 10% and a X4 mortgage, this would mean that, on a £350,000 purchase price at 90%LTV, affordable housing buyers would require a mortgage of £315,000. On the average UK salary, they would be eligible for a £104,000 mortgage. How on earth will they make up the £211,000 shortfall? Again, if you cannot provide answers for such basic questions, then how can you be trusted to fulfil your idea of ‘providing affordable housing’? It’s all bluff and bluster with no real plan as to how to deal with the minutiae details.

 

The green belt: Oliver Dowden MP is an advocate of ‘defending the countryside’ yet continues to lobby on your behalf to secure funding and a way forward for the proposed garden village. Despite refusal to write a letter which he originally promised through C4C to local residents, along with refusal to deal directly with local residents instead stating that he will not deal with the issue as it is ‘not his constituency’, he remains a firm advocate of ‘defending our countryside’. His website states ‘Nationally I have championed the maintenance of green belt protections. Locally I have joined campaigns against inappropriate and unsustainable developments’. He goes on to state ‘I’ve worked with the Little Heath action group to resist plans to DUMP housing on the outskirts on the of Potters Bar’. ‘As your MP, I will continue my campaigns to protect our precious green open spaces for generations to come’. Reading that has caused me to spit my coffee out through the guffawing.

Neighbouring boroughs: Earlier this year St Albans were taken to the High court by a number of councils including Hertsmere due to their ‘Strategic Local Plan’ and their inability to ‘co-operate with neighbouring boroughs’. St Albans lost the case and scrapped their SLP. In the last week, out of 418 authorities in the UK, 15 were put ‘on notice’ by the government. This means they have been given until January to produce a local plan or the Government will take control. St Albans are one of the 15.

St Albans are not challenging your local plan. This is due to them being wrapped on the knuckles by the judge and having their focus on desperately producing their own belated local plan. There is also a sneaking suspicion that there may be an agreement for St Albans to not challenge Hertsmere and build across the border, thus achieving some of their SLP housing requirements.  In absence of objections from St Albans and parish councils locally (who are funded by St Albans, by means of the annual precept), it has fallen to a group of concerned residents who formed the ‘Campaign for Colney’ group to speak on resident’s behalf. Parliamentary candidate Daisy Cooper (Lib Dems) and a member of the C4C committee, she states ‘Local people are rightly shocked and angry that they had not been informed or consulted by Hertsmere about its proposal’.

I could go on but quite frankly I do not believe my, along with others, legitimate objections will be taken seriously. I have taken the step of asking residents to copy in ‘Campaign for Colney’ on their objection emails as I have little faith in Hertsmere’s ability to act in a morally correct manner.

The consultation does not include those most likely to be affected (LC and CH residents), the consultation portal does not work. You have refused to speak to residents directly or extend the consultation period. You are limited and cherry-picking consultation event attendees. Your LP has no detail on numbers, affordable housing, protection of the green belt, infrastructure, schools, roads, traffic movements, hospitals or civic amenities. You have a single landowner and could fulfil your entire housing target in one foul swoop (despite questions raised over the numbers of housing required which I believe has been miscalculated by Hertsmere).

Cllr Cohen has told me personally that this is the ‘preferred’ option and asked ‘what else can we do?

Quite frankly that is not our problem. By asking that question you are shifting attention away from the issue. We oppose this ‘done deal’ and will continue to oppose it until likely completion.

 

Yours Sincerely

Brett Ellis,

Campaign for Colney,

London Colney.