Meeting Of The Cabinet 24th November 2014

We attended the Cabinet meeting on the 24th November and Christine read out the statement below.



Good evening, members of the Cabinet/ Ladies and Gentlemen,

The little town of Baldock has been shaken and stirred.  Shaken perhaps by the way the council have pressed on with such a flawed housing plan.  Stirred into action, knowing that we must work hard to convince councillors of the need to refuse this Draft Plan as it stands.

It is time for the Council to listen because the community are not going to take the desecration of Baldock lying down.

The part of the plan I am particularly concerned about is the proposed OVERDEVELOPMENT of Baldock.   Baldock is an attractive quiet market town with population of around 10,500 and has been singled out to undergo a transformation by wholly unnatural means to a population of about 183% of its current number, that’s nearly double.  Worse still this is to be managed, so we are told, by the brutal removal of the Green Belt to the north of the town to accommodate 2,800 houses.

There are three aspects of this proposal to which I would like to draw your attention tonight…

First, the effect of this proposal on the town of Baldock

We do new need housing.

Baldock is a vibrant town. We are a well-adjusted community with good community spirit.  We are keen to welcome new people to the town to enable it to grow organically maintaining its identity and contributing to the diversity of North Hertfordshire’s landscape.  We want to build on what we already have.

However , when I told people I would be speaking here tonight they asked me to tell you about the dire effects they believe this huge influx would have on their town.  Roads, schools, doctors’ appointments, congestion, rail travel will all be adversely affected. But you will know all this from residents’ letters.

And over 2,500 people have signed our petition in agreement with this.

The building of the large edge of town development on Blackhorse Farm would spoil the character of the whole town.  It would not necessarily enhance or add prosperity.

Secondly, the removal of the Green Belt.

This not just any old Green Belt.  This is prime agricultural land, grade 2, tended to by several families of farmers for generations.  This is good farmland where British crops are grown for the British market and which could alone sustain the population of Baldock for a year if need be. At least seven families will have to face an uncompromising change in their livelihoods and lifestyles and those of their descendants.

This is not just any Green Belt.  It is part of an ancient expanse known as the Baldock Bowl, which includes a henge on the opposite hill in Norton and dates back to the Stone Age.  Archaeological information as yet unexcavated is still held in the land, including probably Roman and Mediaeval material.  This knowledge and inspiration will be lost if it is built upon.

This is not just any Green Belt.  It is a haven for wildlife from orchids and other protected wildflowers to 8 out of the RSPB’s top ten “most wanted” farmland birds, ie in decline.  Grey partridge, skylark, corn bunting, lapwing, yellow wagtail, linnet, yellowhammer and reed bunting are all in serious decline and have played an important part in our delicate local ecosystem for hundreds of years.

This is not just any old Green Belt.  It is what Eric Pickles and Brandon Lewis have championed saying “Councils and local people can now decide where development should – and shouldn’t – go.”

Only today The Times Newspaper has highlighted a report from Campaign for Rural England which points out there is sufficient Brownfield land to build at least 1,000,000 houses in this country.

You cannot ignore these facts.

Thirdly, let us consider the planning process itself

Is there a definite five year plan?  And if so which of the building sites in the draft plan for Baldock are in it?  The reassessment of housing needs next year means we probably don’t need to even touch the Green Belt to build the five year needs.

Why is the council so set on large developments like the Blackhorse Farm sites instead of spreading them more equitably around the county?  It cannot be fair to expect Baldock to take 30% of the total county’s new housing?

Why are the county council so set on taking on the burden of accommodating the needs of Luton when the National Planning Policy Framework clearly states that it should be for mutual benefit (NPPF 178)

Is this development all about money?  An estimated £174 million for our Green Belt plus CIL Levy plus New Housing Funding?  Will that be used to build the necessary infrastructure?  Perhaps.  But Great Ashby didn’t get it and are suffering the consequences.

So what is the deal here?

And that’s the truth of it.  We don’t want to lose our green belt to the detriment of our green lungs or our agricultural heritage or our health and leisure pursuits, or our ecosystems and our joy or anything else because we don’t believe this is a necessary development.  Over 2,500 people have already signed to agree with this.

We believe this is the council taking an easy option to tick boxes.

We ask you to be courageous and creative and reject this housing plan.


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