Have your say in development plan that threatens village

Dacorum has recently published details of its new local plan, part of which will have far-reaching consequences for Piccotts End.

Michael Nidd, our residents’ association secretary, is urging everyone who wishes to make their feelings known during the consultation process to do so before the closing date of February 28th.

He says: ‘The rules of the planning system require that Dacorum take account of all comments and incorporate those they consider necessary in what’s termed the “deposit” version of the Local Plan – it’s this “deposit” version that will be considered by the Planning Inspectorate in a public examination.  Therefore it is very important for the consultation version to be studied as thoroughly as possible.

‘The biggest local dangers are the areas referred to as North Hemel Phase 1: the land to the north of Dodds Lane, and North Hemel Phase 2 – the remaining swathe of land which wraps around the whole of Grovehill and almost joins Hemel Hempstead to Redbourn.

‘The view above, looking NW from Dodds Lane, is one that the Plan suggests will be replaced by a Council depot and recycling centre, a 40mph road intended to become a Northern Bypass linking Leighton Buzzard Road to Redbourn and beyond, and about 1500 dwellings.

‘The schematic below, adapted from one in the Hemel Garden Communities Charter, shows the full scope of the proposals.

‘The consultation version can be viewed at http://www.dacorum.gov.uk/localplan, or via Dacorum’s consultation portal: https://www.dacorum.gov.uk/kse/event/35755.

‘Our advice is to avoid use of the consultation portal as it embodies a series of questionnaires which tend to drive responses in the way the Council wishes, and precludes asking enough, if any, of one’s own questions.  And responses should be very much “in your own words” – councils use data analysis to detect the presence of cut-and-paste boiler-plate text in responses and, where they can, treat such objections as “just one”.

‘Choose just a few of those which follow, dig into the details, then use your own words in framing your objections to the Dacorum draft plan.  Responses should go via email to strategic.planning@dacorum.gov.uk or by post to Strategic Planning, Dacorum Borough Council, The Forum, Marlowes, Hemel Hempstead HP1 1DN

There is a bewildering depth of documents which show the “evidence base” for the plan itself. perhaps the most revealing are the range of Topics papers – we’d recommend study of those on Green Belt, Transport and Housing in particular as they reveal the ways in which Dacorum has been urged to declare itself an area for accelerated growth.

‘This has greatly contributed to the huge increases in housing numbers that appear in the plan: numbers which in no way represent housing needs in Dacorum itself, to the substantial loss of “green-field” sites which were removed from our Green Belt in the 2013 Local Plan process, and now yet further depredation of our Green Belt.

‘Just one major issue: that of the estimated housing numbers required, which relies on the out-dated household growth numbers estimated in 2014 whereas the Office of Government statistics gives a much lower growth and thus far lower estimates of future need.  Another is that the Plan appears to be based on what is commonly described as the “mutant algorithm”, one of whose effects is to greatly focus development in the south-east of the UK.

Among the valid grounds for objection are, in no particular order:

* The draft includes reference to removing, in advance of the existence of a Local Plan for the period beyond 2038 (the expiry date of the draft Plan) tracts of land from Green Belt for which no base evidential data exists: the area described as North Hemel Phase 2 is one such.  Green Belt is precious, and once it’s gone it’s gone forever; with no data to support its removal, reference to it in this Plan should be removed.

*An allocation dating from two previous Plans has disappeared: h/h111 – Henry Wells Square, in the centre of Grovehill.  Dacorum owns the land and at one time had intended to redevelop its current somewhat decrepit and inefficient layout and in the process gaining upwards of 200 dwellings but this somehow escaped inclusion in the Grovehill Neighbourhood Plan which is described as “made” in the draft Dacorum plan.

*There seems little real evidence in the Topic paper on Transport for the Plan-shown creation of a 40mph road linking Leighton Buzzard Road to Redbourn Road.

*The suggestion that the Council depot at Cupids Green (on the edge of the industrial area and backing onto a household waste centre) should be developed for housing and for a new centre to be incorporated in the first phase of the now-greenfield development at North Hemel appears perverse.

* The North Hemel development itself is a prime example of urban sprawl, and one which is a significant distance from the town centre, and about as far removed from the railway station and the key transport link of the M1 as it could be – an unsustainable location.

*Much of the evidence base is an out-of-date set of consultants’ reports and though reference to CoVid appears in the text of the Plan,  these reports and any conclusions drawn from them pre-date CoVid and therefore take no account of the fundamental shifts caused by the CoVid epidemic: e,g, high levels of working from home rather than travelling to an office; many fewer visits to shops etc., all of which have reduced demand for commercial and office property.

*The Plan focuses on accelerated growth in Hertfordshire, and the south-east in general, and therefore seems not to be a good fit to what is said to be national policy of “levelling-up”.

*The  draft plan is silent on the subject of climate change and the provisions to reduce its effects.

*The plan virtually ignores the effects of development levels on water supply.  We are told that proposals are being developed for alternative sources of water  but none of these will be in place before 2030 at the earliest.