27th November Statement

Statement read out at the meeting on the 27th November by Adrienne Waterfield

 

Good evening, members of the Council,  Ladies and Gentlemen,

We know that you have an important job tonight.

The pressure is on to produce a housing plan for North Hertfordshire that is going to work .

On Monday, the Cabinet recommended that you approve this preferred options paper to go to public consultation, because you need to let the public have their say.

But, by passing it on to the public you, councillors, are saying that you believe this to be the best plan that the council can come up with and you are committing it to a long, formal, expensive process.

Is this really your best plan for the whole of North Hertfordshire, including Baldock?

Let’s consider the plan for a moment….

There are two very concerning constraints that have governed the choices that have been made …

Firstly, in order to be able to demonstrate that the plan is financially viable, options have been chosen that will work now, providing profits for local land owners, developers and supporting services. But this is to the detriment of longer term sustainability considerations.

And secondly, long term plans are being made on very large, potentially inaccurate population estimates that, for purposes of this plan, have been set in stone,.. but they may well change next year, before you get to the end of this process.

Please be very careful about going forward with this plan.

Look at Great Ashby…It’s a disaster…The infrastructure that was promised has not all materialized. Where are the Doctors surgeries and schools? Children are having to travel to Baldock to school every day.

We are told that turnover of housing stock is 25%…a far cry from the more normal 7 or 8 %. People are moving out.

None of us want that here. We do need to do better.

The planning process itself, is a slippery slope.

We fully understand that agreeing to put this proposal to public consultation is not approving the local plan, or granting development rights and that you are not building the houses, but it is starting to showcase possibilities which are blatantly unfair, not properly thought out and harder to change. Frankly, we had hoped for a better starting point.

Councillor Levett has said that by having a preferred options stage and putting the plans forward for public consultation, he is supporting the right for local residents to have their say, and yet we have only been given 7 weeks in which to submit comments and objections ..starting just one week before Christmas. Whilst legally, this is all that is necessary, it is not very long and the timing could not be worse. This is all the more surprising given the emphasis that is currently being placed on this public consultation.

At the very least, we hope that you will hold a public meeting before or during the consultation period. Or even better, hold some public forums where key issues can be properly debated and ideas shared.

There have already been many constructive suggestions made to the council, (which I understand will be discarded) and you have witnessed the strength of feeling that there is against these plans, not just from Baldock but also from the wider community, who can see the long term problems that these proposals could cause.

Councillor Levett has said that, during the consultation period, he and the rest of the planning team, will listen to and act on what they are told.

We will say…

– Reconsider the use of brownfield sites. We may not have enough brownfield sites to meet all our housing needs but the question is…have we and the neighbouring areas that we are co-operating with, used all the ones that do exist?

We will say…

– Construct the plan to concentrate on what is needed – a five year plan – without trying to solve all the issues for the subsequent years. We may just be able to save some of our increasingly precious agricultural land and heritage that way.

We will say…

– Work with Luton Borough Council to try to help them solve their own housing issues..they have brownfield sites (Baldock is not taking on Luton’s housing needs directly but we are being asked to take more than our fair share of North Hertfordshire’s housing, partly because other potential sites have been allocated to Luton.)

We will say…

– If we must, for financial viability reasons, build large settlements, on prime agricultural land, let’s get it right. Let’s build them so that they can have proper access to the town they are supposed to become a part of….. or, more likely, accept that it is not practical and build a separate settlement. There will certainly be a few suggestions during the consultation period.

They really will need to listen to us.

They will be inundated with more objections, more suggestions and more, constructive debate.

Members of the council, if the only way for you to be able to consider local residents’ suggestions, is to approve this preferred options paper, then so be it.

But you really should not need to have a public consultation, in order to work out that this plan is badly flawed and unfair

 

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