SRB Hearing Statement 6 March 2018

This is the presentation made by SRB at the Local Plan Hearing on 6 March 2018

I am here today to represent Save Rural Baldock which is a group which was formed to raise awareness of the local plan process amongst the residents of Baldock and Bygrave. It has campaigned for a fair and reasonable local housing plan.

During the last two public consultations on the Local Plan, we ran a publicity campaign which included an active facebook page, local advertising, leaflet drops to all Baldock residents, a march around the town in January 2014 attended by some 500 people and a petition submitted as part of the 2014 consultation which attracted over 3000 signatures.

SRB has itself submitted representations to both public consultations. We have also submitted a statement to support the points that we would like to make today.

Specifically addressing the questions raised for this session,

10.1 We do not believe that the housing allocations for Baldock are deliverable.

  1. We acknowledge that HCC have made the land available, but
  2. Safe and appropriate access has not been demonstrated, and
  3. The scale of the proposed building within Baldock is not deliverable.

 

The key issue here is the traffic.

Whitehorse Street Junction

There is much talk of the pinch point junction where Whitehorse Street, B656, joins the A507. This junction is already an issue. There are no substantial suggestions about how the junction can be improved over and above some minor adjustments to the junction itself which may help but will not address the fundamental problem. All vehicular access between the BA1 site and the town centre must either pass through this junction (from the North or East) or use the Southern link road, which goes through the new southern residential housing area, to access the Southern part of the town.

 

New Link Roads

Neither the Northern link road nor the Southern link road included in the Local Plan is going to alleviate the serious traffic congestion that will result from building on the scale that is proposed.

The roads are being suggested to serve two purposes which are incompatible.

  • As access roads for local residents
  • As bypasses to divert through-traffic away from the town centre

These roads pass right through the middle of the new residential areas.

They cannot serve both these purposes without jeopardising the safety and health of residents living nearby. The recent planning application from HCC has sought to resolve the issue but has actually illustrated the difficulty of designing a workable solution.

SRB believes that, at this point in time, there is no demonstrable solution.

Walking and cycling

There has been an over-emphasis on the assumption that residents will walk or cycle to the town centre. This is a commendable aspiration but not a practical solution to the issue and cannot be dictated.

Access to the station

I am sure one of the attractive features of building so many houses in Baldock is the availability of the train station. Again, whilst it is great to encourage more walking and cycling to the station, even parts of the BA1 site will be far enough away from the station to prompt less mobile people to take to their cars. This will increase yet further the pressures on North Road (A507) approaching the town. The station approach road junction with station road (A507) is already suffering the impact of the recently added housing on the corner of Icknield Way East and Station road.  The station itself and its access would require huge improvements to cope with the probable increase in commuter traffic.

10.1 conclusion

In conclusion, a detailed study of the local traffic implications of developing BA1 should be completed before the land can be assessed as deliverable.

 

10.2 The proposed housing allocations are not justified in terms of the likely impacts of the development.

In addition to the traffic issues that will be created throughout the town, the air quality is a serious concern. Baldock sits in a “bowl” and any additional pollution that is generated is likely to sit in the bowl and not disperse. We are concerned that proper testing has not been carried out. (We note that there is another opportunity for representation on air quality)

10.3 Building this number of houses in Baldock is not an appropriate option.

The extent of the BA1 site has been increased significantly in order to “mop up” housing allocations that have not been considered appropriate elsewhere in the region.  Over the last three Local Plan Proposals the allocation for BA1 has risen hugely (419 to 2,800) suggesting NHDC’s desperation to increase its house-building. Baldock is not the ideal place for this extent of housing as it is a distance away from the local employment areas around Stevenage and Hitchin. It will put additional stress on local roads as people travel to and from their place of work.

Given the difficulties of delivering the housing within Baldock, we believe that BA1 is not deliverable in the plan period and that

  • locations nearer to the centres of employment should be revisited and
  • the plans for a new settlement should be expedited in preference to trying to deliver such a large scale development in Baldock.
  • NHDC should consider whether meeting the full OAN is practical or indeed necessary.

NHDC themselves acknowledge, in paragraph 84 of the commentary prepared for this Matter 10 hearing statement for Baldock that

“The Plan recognises that, in the longer-term, continual incremental additions to existing settlements may not be the best solution (LP1, paragraph 4.100, p.50). It is presently anticipated that alternative options for accommodating growth in future plan periods are likely to first necessitate exploration of a new settlement approach and the operation of the Duty to Co-operate rather than pursuing further expansion of settlements located within the Metropolitan Green Belt. However, each settlement will need to be assessed for further expansion capacity to inform this process. “

10.4 Green Belt / 10.5 Settlement boundary

SRB are very concerned about the removal of such large amounts of Green Belt surrounding the town. We support recent efforts to highlight the issue. The Green Belt has protected and enhanced the life of Baldock as a historic market town for centuries and taking it away will destroy the town as it exists.  However this debate is wider than issues affecting Baldock itself. We do not wish to make any additional points during this session.

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