Councillor David Levett – Latest Position Statement

Thank to all of you who have sent emails and I am in the process of replying to them all, please note correct email address for me at the end of this post, the NHDC one a lot of people have been using is out of date, the emails do usually get forwarded but can take a while.
In the meantime here is the latest position statement:

North Hertfordshire District Council Draft Local Plan Housing Numbers
Statement on current position in relation to Baldock.

There has been much speculation in the last few days with regard to the number of new dwellings to be included in the Local Plan, particularly in regard to Baldock much of which is speculation based on out of date or inaccurate information.

The Local Plan is still in preparation and a first draft version, known as a Preferred Options Paper, is scheduled to be published in December after it has been agreed by Council on 27th November. This is the version that will be open for public consultation during December 2014 and January 2015. Following that consultation a final draft will be prepared for public consultation and submission for examination by the planning inspectorate later next year.
At the moment there is no consultation document and no firm proposals for any site in Baldock or anywhere else in North Hertfordshire.

North Herts District Council is currently reviewing all the sites contained in the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) last updated in March 2014 t allocate sites that sustainable, viable, and deliverable to meet the housing needs for North Hertfordshire for the period 2011 to 2013. The total number of dwellings required to meet this need is around 12,100.

At present, indications are that the number of dwellings identified for sites around Baldock (including a large new development north of the town, Blackhorse Farm), is substantially less than those figures currently being quoted in the press and elsewhere.

It is important to remember that North Hertfordshire District Council is not building any houses anywhere in the district. The Local Plan identifies areas of land that are the preferred sites from the SHLAA, (which were the sites put forward by developers and land owners and which meet the test of being sustainable, viable, and deliverable) and will only be built on if and when they are brought forward for and gain planning permission. Included in the Draft Local Plan will be a policy which ensures that all the major sites will be subject to a “Master Plan” which will required to ensure that these sites will deliver the infrastructure required to support them such as roads, schools, shops, recreation facilities and transport links. In addition further policies within the local plan specify the amount of affordable housing, parking and density of dwellings on any particular site. All of the requirements of these policies must be taken into account as part of any planning application.

North Hertfordshire District Council has an obligation under the current legislation to provide for projected growth within its area. The Local Plan is our chance to provide for that need on our terms and get the best solution for the whole of the District. Without it we run the risk of having sites imposed on us with no say in where they go, the number of dwellings or the infrastructure that will be needed.

We need new homes to meet the needs of our families and for the future economic prosperity of North Hertfordshire, it is essential we have a Local Plan for local people and we have our say in what is included in it that is the best for them. It must include homes that are affordable for our families, the schools to educate them and all the infrastructure to support them but only on terms that are acceptable to our residents and when the preferred options paper is published for consultation we encourage everyone to respond, all the comments will be considered before the final version of the Local Plan is prepared for approval and adoption.

Cllr David Levett
Portfolio Holder for Planning and Enterprise
North Hertfordshire District Council
david@dlevett.co.uk
29th September 2014

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5 Responses to Councillor David Levett – Latest Position Statement

  1. Mark Goddard says:

    Please find copy of a letter sent via email to the councillors of North Herts

    Dear Sirs,

    I am writing to you all in response to the 4500 houses that have been proposed for Baldock, to make you aware of my strong views against this unfair proposal.

    I am not opposed to some increase in housing in & around Baldock, we should all take our fair share of the housing burden that the country currently has. However, this increase in housing should be for the people and demand of those in Baldock. There are some major problems within and around the Town which would currently cause ‘pinch points’ that would make such a large proposed development, very difficult for the current infrastructure to cope with.

    It does look as though Baldock has been given a disproportionate number of houses to ‘fill the North Herts Quota’ even when the North Herts own review of the site concluded that ‘There is unlikely to be a housing need within the existing settlements in this area to justify a development of this scale’ (http://www.north-herts.gov.uk/2._matrix_for_north_baldock.pdf). It would seem that, even though the North Herts own review deems this proposed development would be out of proportion for the Town of Baldock, the proposition has still been made.

    This decision makes a mockery of any review or decision the local council makes, and frankly reduces further, the confidence in local government, which is at an all-time low . However, if it can make a decision that is opposed to it’s own review findings it means that it opens the door very wide for anyone wishing to make a legal challenge.

    The pinch points referred to earlier are many and I will make a note of some of the major ones below:

    1. Road Communications (local) – The current road network cannot support the level of traffic currently going through Baldock. The North Herts review, glosses over this important issue which would mean gridlock. Currently there is a queue of traffic for up to half a mile along the Great North Road evry single morning trying to get into the Town. The proposed development will mean this will be even longer and cars trying to leave the proposed development will be gridlocked for the whole of morning and evening rush hour.
    2. Road Communications (regional) – The A1 at Junction 9 & 10 is only a dual carriageway. This artery to the south and north is already blocked daily. It does not have the capacity for extra cars.
    3. Rail communications – Baldock is a main commuter Town. Currently the rail system is at capacity. Assuming that most of the 4500 adults will commute either by car or rail to work, as there are limited employment opportunities within the locale , this will place further strain on the rail system. Currently if you travel from Baldock station during morning or evening rush hours you are lucky to get a seat. Current levels of rail stock or Baldock station, and local road infrastructure will not support the proposed numbers of housing and people who will need to commute.
    4. Schooling – The Knights Templar School in Baldock is of a high quality, and stands out as the best in the area. With the proposed number of houses, this would not and could not be sustainable as it now stands. Having met with headmaster Tim Litchfield this week, the fear is that the school will lose it’s ‘community feel’ if it gets too big. There are ways of increasing the size of the school if a modest and proportionate number of houses were built. The other fear is that a second senior school is built. Other Towns where this exists, usually results in a winner and a loser. One school rises whilst the other gets the less able students and teachers. The resulting 2 tier educational system is not what we want for the children of Baldock.
    5. Employment – The Town does not have the opportunity for local employment for the number of adults requiring work that will be housed within the proposed development. This will mean that the unemployment figures will increase and/or that the burden on the rail and road systems will be stretched to breaking point (see points 1,2,3 above).
    6. The ‘Market Town’ of Baldock – Baldock has been a market Town for many years. It has taken its fair share of housing, as can be seen by the Clothall Common development. The Town’s identity, community feel and overall infrastructure will be changed for good, and not the better, if 4500 homes are built within the locale. This may mean nothing to those of you who don’t live here, have nothing in common with the Town or have any sense of history for Baldock. However, as someone who was born in the Town this would be the death knoll on many levels for the Town as we know it.

    I am one of many, many local residents that will be affected by the proposed development, and all I am asking is that the Town take its ‘fair share’ of housing, this share should be proportionate with the needs of the Town. The rest of the ‘quota’ needs to be distributed amongst the rest of the Towns in our leafy (at present) part of Hertfordshire.

    I hope that the council ‘see’s sense’ and does the correct and fair thing by spreading this quota around North Herts. It would be a tragic shame if more tax payer money is wasted by the council on a defence of a proposal that is not needed in Baldock, not fair for Baldock, and not reasonable at any level, when it has an opportunity to make a fair decision for North Herts & the Town of Baldock now.

    Regards
    Mark

  2. Jennie Vranjkovic says:

    I would like to thank Councillor David Levett, Portfolio Holder for Planning and Enterprise, NHDC, for his helpful comments on the website (and local news paper). Councillor Levett pointed out that the number of new dwellings being quoted for North Herts and Baldock are “out of date or inaccurate”. That is of great comfort. But Councillor Levett refuses to provide any figures at all to counter this ‘speculation’, which is based on the most up to date figures available from Councillor Levett (NHDC) himself!
    For clarity, the numbers that are in the public domain (put there by NHDC) are as follows:
    •12,100 homes for North Hertfordshire’s own needs over the period 2011 – 2031.
    •2,100 homes already built, or with planning permission already granted.
    •10,000 homes to find, in order to meet North Hertfordshire’s own needs.
    •4,500 homes to be built around Baldock.
    I thank NHDC for providing these figures as part of their Local Plan and accept that they will have been rounded up/down, as expedience demands – but why oh why, if they are, as Councillor Levett suggests, “out of date, or inaccurate”, will he not provide us with the most up to date and accurate figures? Is it because they are even higher than has been suggested on the NHDC website?
    Lift the veil of secrecy which surrounds these figures; have the courage and faith in the electorate to give us open government – our local MP, Sir Oliver Heald is concerned about what is going on and publicly criticising the allocation of 45% (yes, that’s according to Councillor Levett’s own figures) of new builds being located in Baldock. This just isn’t fair!

  3. Alan Gordon says:

    I would like to thank David Levett for his detailed response. I hope it means that there is an understanding of the very deep levels of concern we in Baldock have about the risk of over development.

    I too notice that the number has risen from 10,500 new homes to 12,100. I agree it is probably best not to dwell on it

    The key matter is proportionality – not just at the end of the process or after the vote on the 27th November, but all the way through. The concern I have is that when the proposals are published they may be significantly skewed toward development around Baldock. North Hertfordshire has always taken a balanced approach to development, spreading it proportionately across the towns and villages in this area. If a decision was taken to allow significantly more sites to be considered around Baldock than around other areas, this would be major change in policy, and may bias the process from the outset.

    We in Baldock do not feel confident that the overall proportions of development are likely to change much as a result of the consultation process, so it is important that councilors are not asked to vote on proposals that are already skewed towards development around Baldock.

  4. Lisa B says:

    I’m sure I speak for many others when I back Mr Davis’ well-written response. There is nothing specifically I can add to this, other than to echo, whole-heartedly, his reply. Baldock is a rural town. We have no desire to see it turned into a very much larger one.

  5. Paul Davis says:

    Sir,
    Spoken like a politician.

    I think up until now we had all been under the impression it was 10,500 new homes, 45% of which were to be allocated to Baldock and 40% of this figure was to be affordable housing. These are figures I seem to remember were discussed at the recent meeting. Now you say “No, the true figure is 12,100 homes”

    Scary! the number grows!

    Is this a case of Give them a higher figure and when we reduce it back down to 10500 they will give a sigh of relief? Not going to dwell on this.

    Local homes for local people? So why on NHDC’s own web site does it speak of the need to relieve the housing problems of Luton? A relatively small town with big inner city issues. I quote the Council
    This report also notes that the Local Plan will need to consider making an allowance for unmet needs for housing from elsewhere in housing market areas which overlap North Hertfordshire. Of the housing market areas which overlap North Hertfordshire the only one which at present may need North Hertfordshire to take further growth is the Luton housing market area. The Local Plan will therefore need to consider whether it is reasonable to make an allowance in North Hertfordshire for the needs of Luton. Planning guidance suggests that if possible this should be located in the housing market area from which it arose, therefore any allowance the Local Plan does make for Luton’s needs is likely to be in the west of the district.

    Also there is already an M.O. of London councils reducing the cost of their own liabilities by re homing problem families outside of the expensive London area in other cities like Birmingham. How attractive will new housing developments closer to home look to them?

    This proposed over development of our beautiful rural market town is enough to influence me to register a protest vote elsewhere, in the hope the new councillors/MPs will reverse/reduce dramatically these decisions being made now. Having spoken to other people on these proposals I do not think I am alone in this feeling.

    I suspect NHDC has badly misjudged the levels of feeling and resistance about this issue. No one is Obliged to pander to what are only government guidelines, this is not law and thus cast in stone. Do we need to provide a solution to other area’s problems?

    This issue is not about elected officials doing what they feel is right. This issue is about elected officials reflecting the majority feelings and wants of the people who put them there.

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