The Hunsdon, Eastwick and Gilston Neighbourhood Plan Group (NPG) has issued its response to the further revised planning application for Villages 1-6 ref: 3/19/1045/OUT .
The NPG has objected to the revised application and does not believe it should be approved as currently submitted, stating:
The national priorities that led to the site allocation in the Local Plan and discussed extensively at the Examination in Public five years ago have fundamentally changed. There would now be a presumption against the release of land from the Green Belt and housing targets would be required to take into account local constraints and concerns.
The changes introduced by the applicant’s Viability Assessment (VA), even after East Herts Council’s commendable efforts in renegotiation, result in such a poor outcome – on affordable housing, social infrastructure, sustainable transport, diversion of land value capture to roadbuilding, concerning parameter plans, and lack of healthcare provision – that the current development concept should be rejected and rethought.
In the event that the officers’ report recommends approval of the application, we urge the inclusion of the additional conditions below to ensure “the right type of development in the right place” as advocated by the Government through Michael Gove, Secretary of State for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
- Strategic Landscape Master Plan: Should be prepared before the start of development or approval of first Village Master Plan.
- Parameter Plans: Should be improved as the current plans are not based on detailed assessment and could result in an inappropriate form of development
- Advance Planting: Planting of green corridors and buffers should take place in the first planting season immediately following the approval of the Strategic Landscape Master Plan.
- Active travel: A network of walking and cycling routes connecting key destinations should be agreed in advance of the occupation of the first houses.
- Design Codes: An overarching code should be submitted and approved prior to the start of development and approval of individual Village Master Plans.
- Mitigation of Traffic Impacts: Development and first occupation units will not be permitted until a detailed assessment of the cumulative impacts of traffic on existing communities and adequate mitigation measures are made.
- Other necessary infrastructure: burial grounds, flood mitigation, community facilities, sport and play facilities, support for local communities to deliver priority projects.
The latest response should be read in conjunction with the previous representations submitted by the NPG, including to the General outline planning application (January 2021, the detailed planning application for the two crossings (February 2022) and the viability appraisal for the Gilston project (September 2022).
The NPG also notes the expectations set out by Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in his letters to Council Leaders and MPs (1st and 5th December 2022), and expects the officer’s report to the DMC to reflect the Government’s guidance that sensitivity to local concerns, local character and beauty should be overriding factors guiding the planning process.
Additionally, the NPG has broadly welcomed the Gilston Area Stewardship and Governance Strategy document and supports the concept of a single community body incorporated as a registered charity in perpetuity for the Gilston Area Development, though we express disappointment that a number of our suggestions following previous drafts were not included in this version.
Principally, the document leaves far too much detail to the s106 agreement which the Council is negotiating privately with the developers and will be presented as a “done deal on completion”.
We also have concerns regarding the membership of the board of trustees of the charity, a failure to acknowledge the early delivery of community ownership, and the imposition of full council tax charges on new residents despite the District Council refusing to adopt some services.