Housing and infrastructure in Harpenden 2018



May 25. Shock news. Even more homes could be built by Central Beds on land by Thrales End Lane, following a ‘Call for Sites’.

The Call for Sites was an opportunity for agents, landowners and developers to submit land which they believe could be developed to meet future demand for homes and jobs. The full list of sites that were put forward is now available to view by parish.

Only an estimated 4-6% of the land that has been submitted will need to be allocated to deliver the new homes that are needed.The key land owned by Legal & General is shown on the image below, outlined in orange.

Cen Beds will be holding public events over the summer, where you can find out more about the Local Plan. In addition there will be a consultation on the site assessment criteria from 30 June – 29 July. Once approved, the criteria will be used to shortlist the sites.

Keep in touch for more information.

I have just spoken to  our head of housing and we do not intend to sell any land. Both St Albans and Central Bedfordshire have called for potential land for housing to be identified and we have submitted numerous sites for consideration. The Central Beds process detailed below confirms that only 4-6% of the land submitted for consideration will be suitable for housing and therefore it is far too early to consider any kind of detailed statement. Local authorities are under a duty to co-operate with each other in any Local Plan process and we expect Central Beds and St Albans to do this. L&G PR DEPT

June 6. Legal & General do not intend to sell any land.

I spoke to the PR dept about the ‘Call for Sites’ information by Cen Beds (see below) Ron Taylor. Editor.


Feb 4. 1,000 Affordable Homes for Harpenden and Redbourn

Rothamsted Research, working with Lawes Agricultural Trust (LAT), are suggesting the fields to the north east of Redbourn, between the A5183 and Harpenden Lane/Dunstable Road for development as part of the St Albans district council (SADC) new Local Plan (LP).

Who will benefit:

LAT chief executive, Peter Oxley, said: “As one of the largest employers in the area, we are acutely aware of the shortage of affordable housing, not only for our own staff, but also for key workers locally, such as teachers and nurses.”

Director and chief executive of Rothamsted Research, Achim Dobermann said “Income from this development, through the LAT, would allow Rothamsted Research to do more of its strategic research on the future of farming in the UK and worldwide.”

The Redbourn High Street could be revitalised with so many new potential customers just a short walk away.

Feb 4. The right homes in the right places.

Two of the designated sites (A & D) for house building are in north Harpenden, both of which will need considerable supportive infrastructure particularly in road transport improvement.

However there are actually several other sites in other parts of Harpenden that are smaller and in some cases have much better existing road transport facilities. AND they are NOT close to adjacent boundaries of adjoining Councils.

These are the sites that were considered for Harpenden’s new secondary school before site F was agreed.


2017/16 REPORTS

The SLP rejection. What does it mean for you?

The last week has seen a dramatic turn of events which have left the Plan in limbo

whilst SADC Planning and Council Leader Julian Daly try to solve the problem of the Plan’s rejection by the Planning Inspectorate’s David Hogger.

Why the problem?

On Aug 28 David Hogger wrote to SADC saying “I would remind the Council about my

initial pre-hearing concerns regarding the soundness of the SLP”

On Oct 26 a ‘Hearing’ in St Albans presided over by David Hogger heard representations by stakeholders who had major concerns about the details of SADC’s proposals in the SLP. Given the high numbers of negative feed back David Hogger requested written submissions. These were sent to SADC for comment.

On Nov 22 SADC responded to these submissions and effectively refuted all the complaints.

On Nov 28 David Hogger responded to SADC ruling that St Albans District Council’s draft SLP did not meet the requirements of planning law and planning practice saying it had failed to adequately identify, address and seek cooperation on key cross boundary planning issues with adjoining councils such as Dacorum Borough Council and Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council...”it is with regret that I must conclude that the Duty to Co-operate has not been met.”  “It does mean that the Council should give detailed and rigorous consideration to strategic cross-boundary matters and priorities and draw robust conclusions with regards to whether or not any of those priorities could be delivered in a sustainable way within the District, bearing in mind the environmental and other

constraints that exist.” And concluding “Any necessary consultation should be undertaken and a revised Plan re-submitted as soon as possible”


Inspectors letter to the Council PDF.pdf

w/e Dec 9 Local Comments

The Herts Advertiser Dec 1:

The Harpenden Green Belt Association E mail Dec 6

“To fall at the first fence in Mr Hogger’s examination is a truly embarrassing setback for your Council. It is anybody’s guess as to what the Council will do next.”

St Albans MP Anne Main

said: “I am very disappointed that the SLP has stalled. This puts the district in a vulnerable position. Without the plan progressing on to the next stage, we can’t know if the housing totals are acceptable. This could have a significant knock-on effect on where is best to build in St Albans.”

She urged: “I hope that the council can move forward rapidly to resolve the outstanding issues to get the plan back on track.”

Redbourn Parish council chairman, Cllr David Mitchell,

said: “The whole thing is an utter mess. The draft SLP may have failed the duty to cooperate issue, but it’s clear the government inspector also has serious doubts about the soundness of the plan.”

Council Leader Julian Daly told the Herts Advertiser

He was not sure what course of action the council would take in response to the inspector’s recommendations. However, he said one option was that developers involved in the SLP consultation might consider taking legal action over the inspector’s conclusions, as their proposed schemes would now face delays as a result. He added: “They could call for a judicial review – it’s a possibility.” Cllr Daly admitted there was a risk that, should the plan ultimately struggle to be formally adopted, the document could be “taken over by the government” for


What’s the problem with Duty to Co-operate?

Some of the adjoining Councils have large numbers of homes to build and consider that SADC should co-operate with them on where they should be built. It could mean that even more homes than originally planned could be built in our region.


Feb 4. The view from a local Developer

Jarvis Homes.

Q.1. Would it be preferable to have an approved Local Plan going forward to 2036?

  1. A.YES. The current plan was adopted in 1994, the data the policies are based on were put together a few years before, so at the moment decisions are being made on information relevant over 25 years ago, and it is now the oldest plan in the country. Consequently although some of the policies remain relevant many are out of date and do not reflect current policy and thinking. When adopted it was envisaged that the plan would reviewed and updated every 5 years, 10 at most, 24 years later ….

     We live in an every changing world and as such there is a desperate need for a plan which maps out the future for the next 20 years and gets regularly reviewed and covers all aspects to achieve sustainable development to accommodate the predicted growth.

   Without an  up to date plan, the District is suffering as a result of historic out of date policies which are open to challenge, and are not in a position to put the relevant infrastructure in place to accommodate the additional development. In addition they are missing out on S106 contribution, (both financial and affordable housing), as well as CIL payments.

Q.2.Why has it taken so long for SADC to devise a viable plan?

  1. A.The inspector will decide whether or not the proposed plan is sound and there will be a lot of debate on this point. Up until recently there hasn’t been any pressure to have a revised plan in place, as government planning policies , particularly protecting the green belt, were being upheld. This lack of pressure and political indecision has resulted in no plan being adopted.

Q.3.Key opponents of the last Strategic Plan (submitted Spring 2017 and rejected) are voicing repeated claims about NOT building on Green Belt; the need assessments for new homes being flawed AND the lack of infrastructure to support new build. Are they being fair?

  1. A.Taking the last point first, a sound plan should ensure that there is sufficient infrastructure planned to support the projected growth , if it doesn’t then the plan should be found unsound. To a large extent the question on whether the assessment is flawed or not is irrelevant. The mechanism for calculating the number of homes will come into affect in later this year and hence whether it is right or wrong won’t make a lot difference as it will be what it will be, and we will have to live with the number. Bearing in mind the likely level, circa 915 units per annum, then a substantial number of green belt sites will have to be allocated. As mentioned on numerous occasions it would have been better to be proactive and taking control of the situation , even if unpalatable at the time, rather than saying either no to any development in the green belt or only a few. The other discussion point is where these houses go and whether it should be in a few strategic sites or whether a more holistic approach is required.

Q.4.Government ministers have said that a failure to devise a suitable plan will result in a Government imposed Plan which they would administer. Is this feasible or is it a threat?

A. In theory yes, I suspect that if sufficient progress isn’t  made then the government would look to make and example of a Local Authority, but would prefer not to go down this route. From SADC’s perspective would you want to run the risk.



•We accept that the housing stock needs to be increased but we urge SADC to question the basis on which the number of new homes required in the District by 2036 has been calculated because we believe it to be an overestimate

•Harpenden must be fully protected against any negative effects new housing developments may have, particularly in the areas of transport, education and health

•We fully support Harpenden's draft Neighbourhood Plan and seek to ensure that nothing in the District Plan runs counter to its principles

•The District Plan needs to recognise that to address Harpenden's housing imbalance the town's priorities are for affordable housing, small flats, small/medium family homes and homes for those who wish to downsize

•Priority should be given to developments that provide a maximum number of housing units whilst minimising the use of green space

•The character and identity of the town must not be threatened by urban sprawl that would bring closer the threat of coalescence with neighbouring settlements.


We refer to the consultation document dated January 2018 entitled St Albans City and District Local Plan 2020-2036 Have Your Say.  The Society, has through its monthly newsletter, encouraged all members to take part in the consultation either on line or by returning the document completed, though this response is the view of the Committee. Clearly we all recognise the background in that the Council has, in the past, been unable to develop and implement the Local Plan and the pressure now being upon the Council to get a new plan through meeting all its obligations and in the knowledge of government strategy to increase housing stock significantly in the south-east of England.  So we acknowledge this is not an easy task for you as a Council. The Society wishes to comment at this early stage of consultation though we anticipate there will be further opportunity for residents and community groups to comment as the Local Plan develops.

Querying the Assumptions and Methodology

Already there has been criticism of a number of the assumptions that lie behind the questions in the Consultation Document particularly comments by local members of CPRE and other residents on why the government has arrived at the figure of 40,000 new homes County wide of which the St Albans District figure is said to be 15,000.  The point has been made that the latest population growth figures from the Office of National Statistics have reduced their UK population projection by 2 million and that’s prior to any impact of Brexit, particularly in the south-east. Also there has been comment on the very generalised and unspecific nature of some of the questions although we accept that it is very difficult to construct such consultations which give both the public opportunity to comment but in a structured manner. 

Comments on the Questions

We wish to reinforce the point about the way the housing demand figure has been calculated.  However, we are realistic in knowing that whatever is the finally agreed figure new housing it will mean an increase in housing stock for the St Albans District and for Harpenden.  We are anxious that the character of the town is protected and any new housing has the right infrastructure and any negative implications of new development are reduced as much as possible. 

This can be achieved by having local planning policies in place that require developers to provide infrastructure and mitigate the impact of their development on the rest of the town.  The Committee was impressed by the policies set out in the draft Harpenden Neighbourhood Plan which has been sent to you and for independent examination prior to it going to local referendum later on this year and we will give support.  We are anxious that nothing in the Local Plan being developed St Albans district wide runs counter to the realistic and welcome planning policies being suggested in the draft Neighbourhood Plan. 

In relation to the specific questions –yes, of course, we wish to see homes built in the right place, for them to be the right kind of homes, for local jobs to be provided, the Green Belt to be protected and our historic buildings, wildlife sites and areas of natural beauty preserved all with an appropriate level of infrastructure.  To try and rank these things, however, is almost impossible and becomes a circular exercise. Homes have to be built in the right place and we need an appropriate mix of homes. 

The Society has been struck by the argument set out in a letter in the Herts Advertiser on 9 January 2018 by Rick Sanderson which points out that setting a planning framework which allows developers to build in defined areas of a district like St Albans will not achieve any of the objectives set out in your question set on building the right kind of homes.  Harpenden is a classic example where the demand for high quality 4/5 bedroom family homes is significant as it enables people often from London to enjoy good schools and a town with a good quality of life all within easy commuting distance of London.  Developers make substantial sums for each unit from these developments whilst the margin on the much smaller premises advocated by your questions –affordable housing, first time buyer flats, small/medium sized family homes and homes for those wishing to downsize is far smaller.  The sentiments underpinning the questions are all necessary and proper objectives for a community to set in its plan but as the letter so clearly points out they are not achievable by the present set of planning policies as developers will simply not play ball in terms of building the right kind of housing stock in our district. A different approach is needed.

In protecting the character of our communities we feel the policies that are being set out in the Harpenden Neighbourhood Plan are sensible and will go some way to prevent developments that damage our community.  Developments need to be structured in such a way that the developer or developers can meet the cost of mitigating damage to our Green Spaces and to our historic buildings, wildlife and areas of natural beauty and as importantly fund the infrastructure required eg schools, doctors, shops, and decent transport and parking. 

Consideration needs to be given to denser structures which do not consume so much green space whilst developments that are quite tightly drawn and have the necessary infrastructure can reduce travel, costs of maintenance and can develop a community feel more quickly than sprawling estates and ribbon development.  We want to ensure that the openness and character of the land between settlements is maintained in order to prevent adjacent settlements from merging into one enormous conurbation, which would totally change the character of the town and threaten its identity. Harpenden is particularly vulnerable where its northern boundary meets the south Luton boundary; not only is this a county boundary, Luton is under pressure to build a great many more homes and at any time may seek to build right up to its southern boundary.

Intention to Comment further

These are our initial comments but as stated earlier we will wish to comment in some detail as the Plan is developed.

Philip Waters

Chair, on behalf of the Harpenden Society Committee

19 February 2018.


They are focussing on the issues raised in the  SADC ‘HAVE YOUR SAY’ questionnaire. These comments are taken from the HGBA Jan 18 Newsletter which can be read in full on their web site.

‘Large-scale development on Green Belt generates the money and land that provides new infrastructure like roads, schools, shops and parks’ is breath-taking in its simplicity. Developers have never been known for their bountiful generosity and they have no role in funding our existing chronic infrastructural needs.  

Central government funding and Hertfordshire County Council funding can no longer be counted on for planning purposes because the public purse has been cut and cut again.

There’s a question on infrastructure which asks us all to rate the kinds of infrastructure we need as more or less important. But don’t we need all of these types of infrastructure, to support both new and existing residents? Why should we be asked whether it is more important to have schools or GP facilities – don’t we need both?

For those of you who want to sample the flaws in the planning system which will impact all of us, you can read a short and recent article by Rick Sanderson who is experienced in local planning matters. See the link in the newsletter. In his first paragraph, he says ‘we are being forced into planning for far more houses than are actually needed in the vain hope that the housing market will provide these dwellings and that house prices will come down’

HGBA has repeatedly made clear that we consider that there are serious flaws in the Green Belt Review. We will be telling SADC that ‘the way we feel about this approach to identifying potential land for building in the Green Belt’ is very unhappy indeed

Note that building on the eight Green Belt sites that SADC has depicted on the back of its questionnaire will not meet the housing targets. Building on these sites would mean 500 homes at ‘North West Harpenden’ and 770 at ‘North East Harpenden’, in addition to the new homes which SADC will build within the town.

The questionnaire says that SADC wishes to provide accommodation of the type that local people need.  In the case of Harpenden, buyers from London who are selling up in London, can outbid local people and are doing so. For developers, this is a dream situation. They have the excuse of more and more building ‘for local people’ but, it will not be local people who are the majority of buyers.


Feb 13. How Redbourn Parish Council have responded to The Local Plan Questionnaire...‘Have Your Say’

Feb19. How HARPENDEN TOWN Council have responded to The Local Plan Questionnaire...‘Have Your Say’

FEB 20.Hertfordshire County Council offers Radlett airfield site for new homes as part of The Local Plan.

David Williams, Leader of Hertfordshire County Council, said: “We’ve always said that we’d prefer the Radlett airfield site to remain as Green Belt and that we’d rather not sell it, but we recognise that we need to build 90,000 new homes in the county over the next 15 years and some 13,700 of those will need to be in the St Albans district.

“That’s why it makes sense for us to offer up this land, which we own, as a possible site for a Garden Village with 2,000 new homes and the infrastructure to support them. We know that developers are interested in this idea and we feel it could be an alternative to using the land for a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange.”

“Along with the other land we’re putting forward, this will make a significant contribution towards providing the new homes that our county will need to support a growing population and an increase in local jobs.”