District Plan for Bengeo
In May the Molewood Residents’ Association wrote to East Herts District Council objecting to their Draft District Plan. The Plan has been created to detail how East Herts would cope with housing demands up to the year 2031. It has been proposed that 3,242 new homes be built in and around Hertford, 150 of which are to be placed on the site of Bengeo Nursery and neighbouring fields.
In response to the letter, a brief email from the Planning Policy Team states:
“We are intending on taking a report to our Members via the District Planning Executive Panel on the 17th July containing a summary (headlines) of the consultation responses. We will take a more in-depth report in September. As you can imagine we have thousands of responses to analyse and this will take some time to work out what changes will be required to the emerging Plan as a result of the consultation.”
“You will receive an update via the District Plan Bulletin which we send to those on our database around the time of the Panels. All Panel papers are available 5 working days prior to the meetings, and these meetings are open to the public to attend. The meetings are also webcast so you can watch them live or at any time.”
The MRA had placed a banner on the Sacombe Road roundabout to highlight the issues with the District Plan. However at the request of the chair of the Town Council’s allotment committee we have since removed it. The process for agreeing and building the homes detailed in the Plan will be a long one, and the banner is being stored ready for the next stage in the campaign!
The letter sent to East Herts District Council can be read below:
Draft East Herts District Plan (Preferred Options) Consultation
I wish to comment on behalf of the members of the Molewood Residents’ Association on proposal HERT4 North of Hertford. The association represents residents of the 1960s Leach Homes estate as well as The Avenue, Lodge Close, The Drive, The Orchard and Buckwells Field.
It is the view of the association that Bengeo cannot take any more new houses. As it stands the proposal is unacceptable in absolute terms by impinging on the Green Belt. It would lead to development of a site with inadequate and dangerous access by road. Other key infrastructure, in particular schools and the road network to the south, would be inadequate to cope with this proposal. It would threaten farmland and hedgerows which provide valuable support to Waterford Heath.
Infrastructure: schools, roads, medical facilities and drains
1. Current infrastructure in the area is not adequate to support further development,
2. There is considerable pressure on school places in the immediate locality, and any new development would add to this.
3. Sacombe Road is a narrow road which is unsuitable for significant volumes of traffic. The road is already at capacity, if not over it. The proposed allocation is considered to be contrary to EHDC LP 2007, policy, TR1. The road is already difficult to pass along safely for road users of any kind due to the additional traffic and parking associated with the Buckwells Field (Fairview Serenity development). This situation becomes dangerous twice a day during term time as parents of children at Bengeo Primary School seek to deliver and collect their offspring.
4. Traffic generated by the new homes proposed on the site would place additional unacceptable pressure on the B158 Port Hill. Congestion in the morning rush hour from there to the Old Cross junction is bad at times under current loadings. This causes drivers to use the Bengeo rat run leading south from the site via The Wick and The Avenue and emerging at Hertford North via Beane Road. Residents of the proposed housing would be barred (in theory, at least) from using this route by the existing area-wide Access Only restrictions.
5. The 333 bus runs along The Avenue every 30 minutes during the rush hours. During the off-peak period the 333 route serves Molewood and Revels Road alternately, providing an hourly service from the Molewood shops or Greyhound pub. This would be inadequate to cope with further development to the north of the settlement.
6. Bengeo sits on a hill some 35m above Hertford with its schools, shops and railway stations. Connecting roads are on short steep gradients and provide a significant barrier to cycle and, to a lesser degree, pedestrian access.
7. Bengeo has no medical facilities other than the vets on The Avenue. It has no doctor, dentist or pharmacy. The extra houses proposed by EHDC for the town, wherever they are built, will place undue strain on existing medical facilities.
8. Living on a hill means we have no fear of floods but water pressure is not always what it should be. Adding 150 homes to the supply is likely to stretch it to breaking point. We understand too that other services are at maximum capacity.
Location: Green Belt, Conservation Area and gravel pit
1. The Green Belt around Hertford is precious as are its green fingers. The land proposed for HERT4 is our connection to the countryside. It supports the valuable habitat at Waterford Heath.
2. The allocation would not be fitting for the landscape character area in which it sits. The development would be contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework 2012 (NPPF) in respect of development within the Green Belt, in that no exceptional circumstances have, in our view, been demonstrated. In addition, it would be contrary to East Herts District Council (EHDC) Local Plan Second Review 2007 (EHDC LP 2007), policies: GBC1, GBC2, GBC3, and GBC14.
3. The allocation site is outside the Hertford settlement boundary and within emerging policy the site was classed as a fail as a suitable area for additional housing for reasons of infrastructure and inadequate access as a result, in particular, of the already pressured Sacombe Road. In decision-making the NPPF is clear that planning law requires that applications for planning permission must be determined in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. The development would not be in accordance with the EHDC LP 2007, policy HE1. Furthermore the development would form a segregated community due to its location and would not form a sustainable development as set out in the NPPF: Sustainable Communities, and is contrary to EHDC LP 2007, policy: SD1.
4. The proposal is also contrary to EHDC LP 2007, policy ENV23, as the resultant development would give rise to light pollution in the Green Belt.
5. The development would be contrary to EHDC LP 2007 policy in respect of development next to a Conservation Area, which extends as far as including the allotments immediately next to the proposed developed area.
6. Bengeo sits on a hill some 35m above Hertford. Connecting roads are on short steep gradients and provide a significant barrier to cycle and, to a lesser degree, pedestrian access.
7. The development would be very close to Rickneys Quarry (preferred area 2) which is an identified site within the Hertfordshire County Council Minerals Local Plan 2002-2016, Minerals Policy 3.
Ecology and landscape
1. Were development to take place control of density and layout would be critical to protect existing green infrastructure and the valuable habitat that supports the nearby Waterford Heath. Excessive density would lead to houses around the edge of the site being too close to the site perimeter and existing mature trees and hedges. These existing trees and vegetation form a natural screen around the perimeter of the site; they offer the opportunity to screen any new housing from the surrounding countryside, and therefore need full consideration in the design.
2. In order to protect these valuable natural features we ask that all development (buildings, roads, garages, sheds, driveways) is kept away from the canopies of trees – the tree canopy is a very rough estimate of the root area and usually an under-estimate and so this is a minimum requirement. A development-free width of at least 8m along the whole boundary of the site would protect existing trees and allow some growth room to semi-mature trees, as well as space for more landscape tree planting.
We believe that the development suggested as HERT4 in the Draft District Plan – Preferred Options Consultation document is not deliverable, accessible or sustainable and would therefore be contrary to the District Council’s own policy tests. It appears from the evidence provided and from our own local knowledge that the sites west of Hertford are better provided with the school places, passenger transport services and road links needed.