Letter To Berkhamsted Councillors On SPEOS Committee

Re: Dacorum Local Plan 2020-2038

Dear Councillors,

We are writing to you as a member of the Strategic Planning and Environment OSC in advance of your
meeting on 23 September 2020.

There are a number of major concerns listed below arising from the draft consultation paper you will be
considering under item 6 of your agenda, but overall we have to express grave concern and
disappointment at the complete change of direction and approach to strategic planning that this document
represents.

We worked closely with the Borough planning team on the preparation of the 2013 Local Plan/Core
Strategy helping to defend the environment, the Green Belt and the character of Berkhamsted. The
decision by the Assistant Director: Planning , Development and Regeneration and the Strategic Planning
Manager to in effect scrap the current approved Local Plan rather than review it as required by the
Planning Inspector has set the clock back 8 or 9 years and opened the floodgates to massive new
development. Many of the aspirations set in the current Plan have disappeared.

Our concerns include but are not limited to the specific points below:

• The target for Berkhamsted of 2236 dwellings is an increase in size of 24% and will increase the
population by 5000+
• No response or analysis of the responses to 2017 Consultation is provided, while developer claims
and proposals appear to have been fully adopted
• The proposal for South Berkhamsted is a rehash of 2011 proposals which were in part shown to be
uneconomic and rejected. The “exceptional circumstances” requiring this to be removed from the
Green Belt seem to be entirely driven by a Central Government algorithm and are unchallenged
• Despite the proposed mass loss of Green Belt, a net gain in bio-diversity is claimed – this is not
demonstrated
• The proposed density for the South Berkhamsted land is a hefty 68% greater than the proposed
Garden Community, despite the sensitive ridge top location and access limitations
• The Garden Community initiative enjoys additional funding from Central Government, but the
draft Plan sacrifices a historic town that has acute infrastructure issues in favour of securing future
housing numbers outside the plan timescale (4,000 dwellings on HH02)
• There appears to be no input from St Albans – the document does suggest that Hemel will expand
a further circa 5000 dwellings via the St Albans plan and that there is a duty to co-operate, but with
no mention of any of those dwellings counting to Dacorum’s housing targets despite the fact that
the pressure on infrastructure will be clearly forced on Hemel/Dacorum
• The Consultation is programmed for 8 weeks including the Christmas period. As well as being at
the most difficult time of year, in today’s climate it offers an inadequate timescale either for the
Council to thoroughly scrutinise/challenge the draft prior to publication, or for the
community/stakeholders to properly respond through the consultation. The Consultation should
be re-scheduled.

The above points/concerns are by no means exhaustive, but hopefully they will help you as you represent
your Town while considering this draft plan.

We all appreciate that the UK has a housing problem, specifically an affordable housing problem. However,
overdeveloping Berkhamsted is not even part of an answer to the issues.

For example at Bearroc Park Taylor Wimpey (now believed to be the owners of South Berkhamsted land)
are offering a two bedroom house, “ideal for first time buyers” at £463,500. Their pricing at £673 per
square foot compared to £558 for their most popular unit is for discussion elsewhere, but the point is such
a buyer requiring an 80% mortgage would need savings of at least £95,000 and an income circa £90,000pa.

There are Help-to-Buy initiatives where the Government offer interest free loan to first time buyers with a
5% deposit but this “ideal” first time buyer property is well out of the price bracket for those schemes.

In short, developing on Green Belt surrounding Berkhamsted is not going to contribute one bit to providing
“affordable” housing stock. When you look at the latest price list for the Bearroc Park it is all too easy to
understand why the developers are keen.

Green Belt and open spaces are precious – a fact that has been dramatically reinforced over the last 6
months. Such precious assets should not be given up when developers are the only ones who will profit at
the expense of the existing community.

In producing this Draft Local Plan, Dacorum Planning have simply enabled the developers and ignored the
community it works for. It is up to you, our Councillors, to hold them to account.

From the committee of BRAG (Berkhamsted Residents Action Group)

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