BRAG AGM Monday 26th November

BRAG AGM Monday 26th November
Place: Court House, Church Lane, Berkhamsted
Time: 8pm

 

 

MINUTES OF BERKHAMSTED RESIDENTS ACTION GROUP

1ST ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

held on

MONDAY 26TH NOVEMBER

At

THE COURT HOUSE, BERKHAMSTED

 

 

 

 

 

1/11 Apologies for absence

Apologies for absence were received

 

2/11 Chairman’s Report

Antony Harbidge presented his report covering the following points (the Minutes have been expanded to cover some of the questions raised):

 

Setting Up BRAG:

Dacorum Borough Council is in the process of developing the Strategic Plan for housing development in the borough through to 2031.  The public and interested parties were invited to respond to the proposed Core Strategy.

 

BRAG was established by a group of concerned individuals following the limited consultation by Grand Union investments [GUI] on the South Berkhamsted Concept.  This is a plan to build 1000 houses (subsequently reduced to 800) on land stretching from behind Upper Hall Park, Thomas Coram and Ashlyns Schools across to Chesham Road.  It also includes plans to build behind Hanburys on Shootersway – next to Haslam Field. [Note: GUI is not a limited company, it is the name being used for a joint-venture between Patron Capital and Provincial & City Investments]

 

Berkhamsted Town Council and Dacorum Borough Council had both rejected GUI’s proposals and they were not included in the Core Strategy proposed by DBC.  However, GUI made it clear at their ‘consultation’ that they would appeal to the Inspector at the Examination stage of the process.

 

The concerned individuals initially approached the other campaign group in Berkhamsted, Save Your Berkhamsted Residents Association [SYBRA], to join with them in fighting the GUI proposals.  However, SYBRA decided that it would not be possible to submit objections to the South Berkhamsted Concept as the site was not included in the Core Strategy.

 

As a result, BRAG was formed as a separate entity and, at the first committee meeting, BRAG’s aims were expanded to include the protection of all green belt land around Berkhamsted.  BRAG objected to DBC’s proposal to remove the Hanburys site from the green belt, as well as the other green belt sites put forward by the developers during the course of the Examination process including a site on Ivy House Lane and one at Northchurch.

 

Note: Since the inclusion of the Hanburys site in the Core Strategy, Old Orchard next door has asked to be included, plus the fields behind those two houses, plus GUI’s site 1.  At the Examination we discovered that Berkhamsted School had also submitted plans for Haslam Field to be included. This would result in over 200 additional houses on that section of Shootersway and would set a precedent for building all along the by-pass on the top of the ridge.

 

Actions taken to fight proposals to build on green belt (including GUI):

BRAG delivered over 1000 leaflets to houses in the area asking householders to send an email to GUI objecting to the South Berkhamsted Concept.  This met with great success and generated over 500 emails. GUI were obliged to include objections in their submission and over 300 were appended.

 

BRAG submitted a detailed response to DBC’s Core Strategy website, addressing all the questions relating to Berkhamsted including the green belt, traffic, congestion and parking, the lack of infrastructure, schooling and the topography of the town.  BRAG found a way to address the issues presented by the South Berkhamsted Concept (in spite of being constrained by the exclusion of GUI from the Core Strategy) and stressed our objection to DBC’s plan to remove the Hanburys site from the green belt and build houses on the ridge top adjacent to Shootersway. (A copy of BRAG’s response to the Core Strategy consultation was sent to BRAG’s email list.)

 

As a result of this submission, BRAG was invited to attend the Examination of the Core Strategy by the Inspector, David Hogger, which took place at Dacorum Civic Centre from

9 – 18 October 2012.  BRAG was invited to attend on all the issues we had sought and was the only residents group present for most of the hearings. Prior to the Examination BRAG submitted additional statements in response to the specific questions posed by the Inspector. These included letters from professionals commenting on the ill-considered nature of the proposed village centre.

 

Three members of the committee attended the hearings – Antony Harbidge, Peter Brown and Sarah Lightfoot.  It was particularly useful to be present at the hearings looking at issues borough wide and to be able to counter GUI’s arguments from the beginning of the inquiry – particularly those relating to the number of houses needed.  BRAG was also able to emphasise our opposition to DBC’s inclusion of the Hanburys site in the Core Strategy.  We were able to point out the likely ‘domino effect’ if a part of the green belt is released and the destruction of the quality of life that will ensue.  BRAG also put forward reasoned objections to the other green belt sites around the town that had been put forward by developers.

 

At the session on Accessibility (traffic, parking etc.), BRAG was the only participant apart from DBC and the Herts CC traffic representative and we were therefore able to put forward some focused arguments.  At the session specifically on Berkhamsted there was strong support from Berkhamsted Town Council and many of the points put forward by SYBRA, who attended that session, emphasised those BRAG was making.  There was therefore a united front from the residents’ groups, the town and borough councils.  The Council for the Protection of Rural England also put forward sound arguments on the protection of the Green Belt.

 

The closing statement by DBC’s legal representative covered the main decisions to be made.  (A copy of this statement was appended to Antony’s email following the hearings that was sent to the BRAG’s email list.)

 

At the close of the hearings, the Inspector commended DBC’s Strategic Planning team on their work. We strongly endorsed this – DBC stood their ground extremely well.  The Inspector also commended BRAG on our attendance and contribution.

 

Following the Examination, DBC addressed a number of specific queries from the Inspector that had arisen during the hearings.  BRAG was invited to contribute to the informal consultation on these responses and has submitted a number of written points emphasising the key issues.

 

BRAG is now waiting to hear whether the Inspector has found the Core Strategy to be sound, or whether there are major areas that fall short.  If the latter, he will negotiate with DBC to find a solution.  Any major changes to the Core Strategy will be put out for further consultation.  Therefore, in the (hopefully unlikely) case that Berkhamsted is found to be severely deficient in proposed numbers of houses, any proposal to accept GUI’s plan will be consulted on once more.

 

BRAG Publicity

A number of households joined BRAG as a result of the first round of leaflets.  Further deliveries of leaflets have been made, including over 2000 delivered just before the start of the hearings.  The Chairman offered his thanks to all those who had delivered the leaflets.  Membership has also expanded though word of mouth.

 

The BRAG website was launched, although it was hacked shortly before the hearings and further work is now needed on it. Members can join through paypal.  A Facebook page was also established.

 

Antony Harbidge and Hugh Siegle attended the surgery of David Gauke MP and gained his support in objecting to GUI.  Antony Harbidge represented BRAG on the DEETV video about the GUI development.  David Gauke also appeared on this video.  Following emails from a number of BRAG members, Mr Gauke put a link to the video on his own website and the Chairman thanked those members who had written to press their MP to do this.

 

Antony Harbidge gave an hour’s interview to a journalist from the Berkhamsted Gazette prior to the hearings. Unfortunately their coverage of the Core Strategy Examination was very limited, although Antony was quoted in their brief article.

 

Antony Harbidge and Sarah Lightfoot met the Principal of Berkhamsted Group of Schools to ask for the school’s support.  The school said that it would give consideration to our request, but we were unable to get any further commitment from them.  At that meeting we asked about Haslam Field and were told that it had been endowed to the school and could not be built on.  We were therefore surprised to find that it was one of the areas put forward for development at the hearings.

 

3/11 Consider and approve BRAG’s accounts

Peter Brown presented the annual accounts.  He explained that all administration costs were being met by funds supplied by the committee members (Admin Fund).  Member subscriptions and donations were being used solely for the fighting fund.  The major item of expenditure had been the payment of fees to the Planning Consultant who provided the committee with the necessary knowledge prior to their response to the Core Strategy consultation. This was funded initially through a loan from the Chairman and this had now been repaid.

 

Peter explained that the Committee was not asking for a further subscription from current members at this time.  BRAG will seek to expand the current membership.

 

Ted Hatley proposed approval of the accounts, seconded by Linda Briscoe.  They were approved unanimously.

 

4/11 To receive any nominations for Officer/Committee Members

The Chairman thanked Peter Block and Ray Dann who were standing down from the Committee.

 

The following were nominated as officers:

Chair:                        Antony Harbidge

Treasurer:            Peter Brown

Secretary:            Sarah Lightfoot

 

Nominations for the Committee:

Hugh Siegle, Helen Kington, Jenny Parr, Nicola Everitt, Monica Gibilaro

 

5/11 Election of Officers and Committee

Those nominated were elected en bloc to the committee.

 

6/11 Future Developments

There was a discussion on the action BRAG should take if the decision of the Inspector was not in our favour.  It was agreed that BRAG should await the Inspector’s Report before making any commitments.   Even if the planning applications are turned down at this stage, developers are likely to re-apply through the normal planning process over the coming years.

 

The meeting agreed with the proposal that BRAG should concentrate on expanding its membership and its communication with the wider community in Berkhamsted.   A suggestion was made that a map of all the green belt locations in Berkhamsted and Northchurch put forward by developers for building should be produced by BRAG and circulated with a leaflet explaining the issues and the action BRAG is taking.  A number of members at the meeting volunteered to deliver leaflets.

Action: The Committee to produce this leaflet early in the New Year and Sarah Lightfoot to co-ordinate distribution with the volunteers.

 

7/11 AOB

The Members present at the meeting thanked the Committee for their work.

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