Presentation to the Council meeting 27th November By the Baldock Society

Baldock Society chairman, Chris Gomm, gave a presentation at the meeting on the 27th November.

1. Dear Madam Chairman, Councillors, Ladies and Gentlemen, First of all we would like to thank the Council for allowing us to address you today.

2. The Baldock Society was formed in the 1970’s as a Civic Society and has been in regular correspondence with NHDC for over 40 years. We are not a newly formed group and this is the first time we have felt it necessary to address the Full Council, such is the strength of feeling within our Membership.

3. We think these proposals are seriously flawed, and wrong not just for Baldock, but for the whole district. We will respond fully if they go out to consultation, but we think there are strong reasons why you should not be issuing these proposals in their current form:

i. First, there is nothing in the papers before you that assesses the feasibility of the major sites at Baldock – or indeed elsewhere – in transport terms. Just saying that a transport assessment is required, as most of the site assessments do, simply isn’t good enough. We don’t think the proposals for Baldock would be workable in transport terms, even with a second railway crossing. The draft plan itself acknowledges that a second crossing would take only “some” of the traffic from this new development away from Station Road and the historic centre.

ii. Second, because the right work hasn’t been done, the papers fail to show that the proposals would be deliverable over the life of the plan. This is a serious failing and means the proposals would not stand up at examination.

iii. Third, we question the justification for the spatial choices that have been made, and in particular the omission of Stevenage West as a housing site. Most of the district is part of one housing market area – as your own evidence shows – so we need to get away from the false distinction between North Hertfordshire and Stevenage needs. Development on the scale proposed at Baldock would not be in a central location to meet those needs. We should not be sacrificing the future of Baldock simply to delay development around Stevenage.

iv. Finally, it goes without saying that these proposals would be hugely damaging to the character of Baldock, in terms of traffic, landscape and heritage impacts, and the social fabric of the town. For example, there has always been a single secondary school in Baldock which has served the town and surrounding villages over the last 75 years. It has acted as a unifying force, especially after the building of the Clothall Common estate when the single school helped to assimilate this new development into the life of the town. A new school serving a major urban extension on the edge of Baldock would change that dynamic considerably, and make it harder to integrate such large-scale growth in the same way.

4. Overall, our view is that these proposals are not simply unjust, but unjustified, and we object to them in the strongest possible terms.

5. We are not opposed to new development, but we do object to proposals that are poorly thought-through, which lack any sense of vision, and on which the Council has failed to engage effectively with local people. Despite the thousands of pages of supporting material, you do not have the evidence to show that they are the right solution for the district, or even deliverable. Put simply, they do not provide the basis for a sound plan, so we respectfully ask that you do not approve the proposals for consultation this evening. 

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