Comment On Growth Options

Please remember the Public Meeting at the Civic Centre  tonight (7.30pm)

BRAG’s AGM is on Monday 27th November at The Court House (8pm) and BRAG will be publishing its draft response to Dacorum’s New Local Plan Issues & Options Consultation following that meeting. However, in the meantime, I would like to pick up on a point regarding the “Growth Options” offered in that consultation paper.

Having attended the Berkhamsted Citizens meeting and sat outside the DBC exhibition for 7 hours on Friday, it has become crystal clear that by and large Berkhamsted residents are an exceptionally fair collection of people who not only want to be seen to be doing the right thing, but also have a strong wish to actually do the right thing. This sense of ‘fair play’ is likely to prove a big obstacle when it comes to responding to the Issues & Options consultation given the way the 7 options are being presented.

In short, BRAG has found that many people look at the options and in Option 1B (incorrectly) see no development at all in Berkhamsted which goes against their sense of fair play and want to do their bit. But this reaction is wrong and is simply a reaction to the way DBC have decided to present things.

It needs to be stressed that the options presented ignore the urban capacity development and any development/green belt release that has preceded this consultation. It is imperative that we all understand that over the past 10 years  Berkhamsted has contributed considerably more than its fair share of new housing stock in Dacorum.

The current Core Strategy covers the 25 year period 2006 to 2031 and the technical appendix to the latest “Authority Monitoring Report & Progress on the Dacorum Development Programme” reveals that in the first 5 years (2006-11) of the plan Berkhamsted delivered 10 years worth of new housing stock and by 2016 the rate of development had exceeded Core Strategy targets by a massive 34%.

And all this without any improvements in infrastructure.

Compare this to the rest of the Borough. Tring have done their bit (5% above target rate), while small villages and countryside locations have also hit targets.

However, this is in stark contrast to Hemel Hempstead, which is where the Inspector agreed was the correct place to focus development. Development in Hemel has been at a pretty constant rate over the first 10 years of the Core Strategy, unfortunately at rate some 21% below the target figure.

So, all the shortfall that DBC claim we need to pick up in the new plan comes from failure to concentrate on the Hemel developments.

As the Planning Inspector stated in his Core Strategy report, development in Berkhamsted “has to be balanced against the need to protect the town’s historic character and setting”  and excessive growth in Berkhamsted proposed in all but one of the options on the table does not do this. Rather than being made to feel guilty, residents should be proud to help “protect the town’s historic character and setting” for future generations and feel very proud for the contribution the town has already made to the housing needs of Dacorum. Berkhamsted should most definitely not be punished because the town has developed at a faster rate than required by the plan.

Just like a pint pot, once it is full it is full and adding extra just makes for one almighty mess.

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