News for 2024 + looking back 2023

 

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Oct 16.2023.   The Luton Airport Expansion to increase passengers from 18 million to 19 million pa has now been approved.


The Secretaries of State for Transport and for Levelling up, Housing and Communities have granted the called-in planning decision to permit Luton Airport 1 million more passengers and a bigger noise footprint  The Inspectors who conducted the Inquiry in 2022 observed that local people had lost trust in the planning system, and there is now a condition that the Noise Management Plan is followed.

In addition, Luton Airport cannot expand beyond 18 million passengers until it produces:

* a strategy to reduce its long term noise footprint

* a Transport Plan

  1. *a Carbon Reduction Strategy


The Government published a 177 page document detailing the Inspectors review with their decisions on why they gave approval.

Below are some highlights.


The Inspectors acknowledge there was strong opposition across all aspects of the proposal from the Hertfordshire Councils, from many Parish Councils and from individuals and organisations like LADACAN and The Harpenden Society, but did not appear to attach weight to it in the planning balance – they seemed over-reliant on just the evidence presented during the Inquiry.


Traffic issues appeared to carry little weight as no evidence was provided to prove the Airport’s assertion that 85% of passengers driving to the Airport would use the M1, yet the Inspectors decided to go along with that even though motorists coming from areas to the East would be more likely to avoid the M25 due to its likelihood of traffic jams and to shorten their journeys. Little consideration being given to the single approach road to the current Terminal.


The Inspectors agreed that the expansion of capacity would add to carbon emissions, but believed the government’s Jet Zero aspiration that aviation emissions (one of the hardest sectors to decarbonise) will be reduced – an aspiration without clear pathways and made less likely to succeed given Rishi Sunak’s relaxation of the drive towards net zero.


LADACAN and the Harpenden Society showed that the Airport’s forecasts of which planes would be in the Luton fleet in future years did not stand up to scrutiny, but the Inspectors felt they could not accept our findings because we had not spoken to the airlines – even though airlines are clear commercial beneficiaries of the application.


LADACAN showed that there were errors in the data feeding the Airport’s noise contour model, which would have affected the assessment, but the Inspectors felt unable to accept this because we did not have an alternative model – even though it’s impossible to set one up without full access to all the relevant data which the Airport keeps to itself.


You can read a more detailed report from LADACAN on their web site:

https://ladacan.org/government-calls-in-luton-airport-expansion-plan/


AND the Government decision report19mppa decision document

THE HARPENDEN TRUST TAKES ON THE SOUTHDOWN METHODIST HALLS 


The Harpenden Trust is delighted to

announce the acquisition of the

Methodist Church Halls lease in

Southdown, Harpenden. The

Harpenden Trust has been in

talks with the Trustees of the

Southdown Methodist Church

Halls for the past several months

regarding entering into this new

lease with both parties committed

to keeping the halls as a community

asset. 


Covering over 7,300sqft, the halls sit above the Southdown Co-op supermarket and by securing a long lease, the Harpenden Trust has ensured this valuable resource remains available to the Harpenden community for many more years to come. The combination of the Southdown Methodist Church Halls (at No.130 Southdown Road) and the existing Harpenden Trust Centre (at No.90 Southdown Road) means that the Harpenden Trust now has a total of five large halls for hire, ranging in size from 300sqft up to 1,560sqft, available to local residents and community groups. 


The halls will also continue to host and support the increasingly wide range of Harpenden Trust activities. Other office space in the new building will also be made available to local charities and organisations seeking to benefit our community by having a greater local Harpenden presence. Existing hirers at the No.130 Southdown Road halls include various local Girl Guiding groups, Zumba, Ballet, Marquetry, Pilates, Line Dancing, Badminton and Jado Kuin Do groups – and the Trust looks forward to welcoming many more local community focused groups over future months and years. 


Richard Nichols, Chairman of The Harpenden Trust commented: “We are really thrilled to have secured this site for the benefit of our local community for many years to come - enabling local groups and community organisations access to a fabulous building with excellent facilities, whilst significantly extending the Trust’s existing Southdown footprint. Importantly this also provides the Trust with the additional space required to support both our existing and our planned future community initiatives.” 


The enlarged undertaking also prompts a small reorganisation within the Harpenden Trust with the formation of a new “Properties Team” to manage the significantly increased capacity. Alison Neville and her Halls Booking team will take overall responsibility for all bookings across both properties. Sue Grant takes on the role of Facilities Team Leader overseeing the day to day operations with a newly formed small facilities team, whilst Colin Ratcliffe takes on the role of Property Development Officer overseeing a programme of works to improve the existing condition of the building. Julia Pryor will be managing a new team of volunteers to ensure all visitors to the new site receive a very warm welcome. The Properties Team will initially report into Mike Gosling at a Harpenden Trust Board level, as Dennis Andrews has decided this is the appropriate moment to step back as the Trust’s Head of Property. 


Richard Nichols added “We would like to thank Dennis for his huge contribution to the Harpenden Trust in both Property and Company Secretary roles over many years – and we’re delighted that Dennis has agreed to remain a Trust volunteer in a consultancy capacity to support the new enlarged Properties Team.” 


Alison Neville, Head of the expanded Bookings Team at The Harpenden Trust commented: “Given the high demand for hall space at The Trust Centre I am delighted that by extending our hall portfolio we will now be able to accommodate more groups, clubs and organisations bringing a wider variety of activities to the local community. I have been working with the existing hirers at No.130 to ensure that their groups, clubs and classes had continuous hire following the acquisition. We look forward to welcoming new hirers to the halls from mid-February - so, if you are looking for a venue for your activity, whether it be on a regular basis or an ad-hoc event, please do get in contact.”   

Jan 26. Cessation of work on the Harpenden Public Halls development was confirmed by St Albans District Council on Monday Jan 23.


A meeting of the Regeneration & Business Committee chaired by Cllr Robert Donald confirmed that an accurate valuation of the site would be sought so consideration of a sale of the site to a private developer, in line with planning policy could be discussed and actioned at a future meeting.


The public expectation of a ‘grand design’ concept with much needed homes had been raised back in 2018 with public consultations and meetings, focus group charettes, followed by defined proposals and architectural design concepts. At that time the financial return on the investment was deemed positive.


However the eagerly awaited planning application in early December raised considerable concerns by local residents, adjoining property owners, local groups and even Harpenden Town Council putting the viability in doubt and raising financial risks that the original income forecasts would not now be met.


Council development officers would address the concerns going forward and keep the public informed of progress and the ultimate decision of the sale or otherwise.


Cllr Brian Ellis (District & Town Councillor for Harpenden South )

‘This is an expensive mess. The District Council has spent a very substantial sum on costs only to decide to withdraw its planning application and sell the site. It is very surprising that the Council's development team did not produce a design that could be approved by the Council's planning team. The substantial costs incurred have been for nothing.’


Brian attended the meeting on Jan 24 and reports:

The agreed recommendation (with a late amendment in italics) was:


"Cease work on the Harpenden Public Hall and Spicer Street projects and agree that the officers pursue the option of the disposal of both sites at market rates following consultation with relevant interested parties. In the case of Harpenden Public Halls, the intention would be to try and gain assurances from prospective purchasers that they will provide in line with planning policy the requisite number of affordable homes/apartments that could be managed by a Housing Association in conjunction with Mencap."

Jan 27. 2023 Cllr Brian Ellis (District & Town Councillor for Harpenden South ) gives his concerns about the Harpenden Halls situation.

Jan 31. Harpenden’s new Skateboard arena Background. Harpenden Town Council and local charity Playground Action Rothamsted Committee (PARC) are continuing their successful relationship with the redevelopment of Rothamsted Skatepark. The partnership has announced the successful bid by Betongpark Ltd, one of Europe’s industry leaders, following public consultation and a recent tender process for design and build of the Skateboard Park. The new Skateboard Park will have a similar footprint to the existing site but, with modernisation and increased accessibility, it promises to be an outstanding free local facility available to all regardless of age or ability.


We are currently hoping to deliver the new skatepark by Summer 2024. The Skatepark will cost in the region of £250,000; the Town Council has committed £100K to the project and the remainder will be raised by PARC through fundraising initiatives. but this is dependent on reaching our funding target.


In conjunction with the online survey, the Town Council is hosting an engagement session, in person, at the current Skatepark on Monday 13th February 3-6pm. By organising a consultation event within the Park, it is hoped that the survey is accessible to a diverse range of Park users where people can view the plans, ask questions and give their comments. The survey will close at midnight on 19th February.

The new Skateboard Park will have a similar footprint to the existing site but, with modernisation and increased accessibility, it promises to be an outstanding free local facility available to all regardless of age or ability.

The vision for the Skatepark’s future is based on the following key principles:

1.It should be broadly of the same footprint as the current skatepark.

2.All features on the skatepark should be either at or above ground level.

3.It will be an inviting and inclusive space that includes good wheelchair access

4.There will be features for all ages from young children up to adults.

5.It will accommodate beginners who need to build confidence and provide a challenge for the more experienced.

6.It will have features that are suitable for different users including skateboards, BMX bikes, WCMX (adapted wheelchairs), scooters and roller skates (traditional and in-line).

7.It will be made from concrete which requires very little maintenance over its lifetime.

The Skatepark will cost in the region of £250,000; the Town Council has committed £100K to the project and the remainder will be raised by PARC through fundraising initiatives. Completion of the project is expected in 2024, but this is dependent on reaching funding targets.


Information about PARC:

PARC is a registered charity (No. 1179147) established in July 2018 by a group of Harpenden parents and grandparents. PARC was initially formed to raise £250 000 to redesign and replace the Town’s flagship playpark, situated in Rothamsted Park. PARC raised £110 000 through their fundraising efforts and with the support of Harpenden Town Council, who pledged a further £150 000, the play area was completed and opened to the public in July 2021.



FEB. 7.  A heart felt message sent from Ukraine to YWAM in Harpenden.

March 8. How can you reconcile Luton’s objective to be a healthy, fair and sustainable town, which is carbon-neutral by 2040 with their proposed Airport expansion to 32 million passenger per year by the same time?


A key element is their current Local Cycling and

Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) Consultation

which wants half of all of journeys in the town to

be cycled or walked by 2033.


I asked Luton Council chief Executive Robin Porter for an explanation:

Active Travel forms a key component in encouraging people to travel as sustainably as possible whenever they can.


Luton’s campaign is encouraging residents to make local journeys by walking or cycling as much as possible.


It can further be noted that active and sustainable travel to and from our airport are being positively planned for within the Surface Access strategy and Travel Plan that are among the documents that have been submitted to the Planning Inspectorate.


This is alongside the Green Controlled Growth framework which for the first time within the UK aviation sector seeks to achieve guarantees for neighbours about all the major environment impacts associated with any airport expansion, by setting independently-monitored limits for carbon, air quality, noise, and surface access. Ultimately, if any of these limits were to be breached, growth of the airport would have to be stopped.


Luton Rising is proposing that this process is written into law, and looks forward to these ground-breaking proposals being examined in due course.’

A Development Consent Order (DCO) application was made on Feb 27 for the expansion of London Luton Airport from its current permitted cap of 18 million passengers per annum (mppa) up to 32 mppa, including: new terminal capacity; earthworks to create an extension to the current airfield platform; new airside and landside facilities; enhancement of the surface access network; extension of the Luton DART; landscaping and ecological improvements; and further infrastructure enhancements and initiatives to support the target of achieving zero-emission ground operations by 2040.


The submission documents include a full Needs Case, Environmental Statement, Traffic Assessment and Green Controlled Growth strategy that seeks to set binding and independently-monitored environmental limits for carbon, air quality, noise, and surface access – how people get to and from the airport.


Also included are improved noise insulation plans, and a consultation report which outlines how all comments received have been considered and responded to.


Submission of the application marks the start of the ‘acceptance’ stage of the DCO process. There will follow a 28-day period for the Planning Inspectorate, on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport, to decide whether or not the application meets the standards required to be accepted for examination, or if further documentation is needed. THIS SHOULD BE ACTIONED BY MARCH 28TH.

During the 28 day period affected local authorities concerned over any technicalities relating to the quality of the consultations can make their concerns known. No public comments are allowed.


NEXT STEPS

If the DCO application is accepted, all relevant documents will be published on the Planning Inspectorate’s website.

An Examining Authority including up to five Planning Inspectors will be appointed, and members of the public will be able to register to make a representation. Full public examination is not expected to begin before at least the late summer.

March. Bim Afolami MP, Member of Parliament for Hitchin & Harpenden, has begun a fresh bid to stop plans to expand London Luton Airport.

Following the submission of a Development Consent Order which aims to nearly double the airport’s capacity to 32 million passengers per annum.

Mr Afolami has consistently campaigned against any expansion of the airport and secured a call-in by the Government of plans to expand to 19 million passengers last year. That decision is currently being considered by the independent Planning Inspectorate.

Bim Afolami MP said,

“The expansion of London Luton Airport would increase noise and air pollution for surrounding communities in Hitchin, Harpenden and the villages. It would also place an excessive strain on local transport networks – leaving our rural roads and train system under real pressure.

“Thousands of you have already backed my campaign to prevent the expansion of the Airport. Together with local campaign groups we have mobilised real community support – and I know that we can protect our area from the threat of this expansion. I have asked the Secretary of State for an urgent meeting to discuss these plans and I will be presenting him with our community’s petition, showing the strength of local feeling against expansion.

“If you haven’t done already, please do sign my petition at the link below and together let’s stop this expansion.”

You can sign Bim’s petition at www.bimafolami.co.uk/stop-luton-expansion.


Cllr. David Barnard, County Councillor for Hitchin Rural said,

“This is an expansion proposal which will mean noisy night flights, and freight movements 24/7.

“There is already great pressure on our country lanes, without the massive increase in passengers, workers, delivery and supply vehicles, and more!

“Our countryside will be polluted by exhaust fumes, both from the aircraft and land vehicles, and light pollution from the new terminal and ancillary buildings.

“The delicate water aquifer is unlikely to be adequate to cater for the doubling in demand.

“Luton’s Gain…. Hertfordshire’s Pain.”


Cllr. Claire Strong, North Herts Conservative Leader and District Councillor for Hitchwood, Offa & Hoo said,

“Many residents neighbouring the airport are concerned that the consultation for further expansion was inadequate and hasn't taken into account the concerns raised and the effects this will have on their lives and the lives or their children and grandchildren. I would urge the public to continue to campaign by sending their objections while we await the results of the call-in for the last expansion. Luton Rising is not working in the best interests of the environment but for profits for Luton Council.”


March 22. An eco-friendly hamlet with

its own mini green belt proposed for

south Harpenden.


Outline Planning application with SADC for

land south of Cross Lane, Harpenden

by Lansdown.


The initial pre - application process for a 30 self build scheme was reviewed with residents and interested parties from Harpenden in September 2022.

Following this process some key changes have been made:

*Now 31 self-build and affordable homes comprising 19 custom and self-build plots (60%) and 12 conventional shared ownership units (40%).

*Density increased by reducing the net developable area and providing a larger number of smaller plots alongside a small number of large plots.

*Layout revised to provide a more informal and organic layout, moving away from conventional suburban housing estate and street design, responding to the site’s context as the threshold between town and countryside.

*Increased biodiversity greening along the field boundaries and provision of a traditional orchard and meadow as public open green spaces in the north-eastern zone of the site.

*Affordable self-build home ownership model replaced with 12 conventional shared ownership homes to secure affordable housing on the site in perpetuity.

*The proposals will have minimal impact on the openness and strategic purposes of the wider Green Belt. The detailed and well-considered Design Code will ensure a high quality, contextual scheme which responds appropriately to its setting and delivers a well-designed, cohesive development.

*Through Building with Nature and Passivhaus accreditation, the proposals will achieve an exemplar scheme which is an asset to Harpenden whilst at the same time providing serviced self-build plots and affordable homes to help meet local need.


The two images show the plot locations with the green infrastructure and the location within existing roads.


*Additionally several letters of support from local residents/potential buyers of individual homes on the development have been received and submitted with the application.

You can read all the documents on the SADC Planning web site using application reference number 5/2023/0317.



July 4.  Local Plan confirms Government policy of 15,000 homes say Chris White, SADC Council Chair of Planning Policy. Don’t believe the unfounded myths.


St Albans City and District Council is moving forward with its Local Plan, preparing for its Regulation 18 public consultation later this summer.

 

The focus of the Planning Policy and Climate Committee meeting on Monday 26 June was the green belt review, site selection matters, and providing Councillors with the proper context to make confident decisions on the Local Plan.

 

Councillor Chris White, Chair of the Planning Policy and Climate Committee said: “I would like to thank members of the Committee for their careful consideration of the complex matters involved, and their questions, comments, and suggestions. At the next meeting on Monday 10 July officers will provide additional information having considered their feedback so far.

“At this meeting Councillors will consider proposals to go forward for the Local Plan Regulation 18 consultation. Subject to the Committee’s approval, the public consultation on the draft Local Plan will run from 12 July to 25 September. 

 

“This will be a ten-and-a-half-week period of consultation, considerably longer than the minimum period of 6 weeks. This is to allow both for the school summer holiday period and a programme of exhibitions and surgeries to be held across the District in early September after the school holiday period ends.

 

“People who live and work in the District, community groups and businesses are all encouraged to give their views. We want to hear from as many people and organisations as possible. The feedback received will help shape the final proposals.

 

“I have noticed that there are a few myths starting to circulate about the Local Plan, and I would like to repeat what I said at Monday’s meeting to ensure people understand the facts.

 

“The first myth is that some people are saying we can simply ignore Government policy requiring us to allow for 15,000 houses to be built in the District over the next 17 years. That is not the case. 

 

“I challenged this requirement in a letter to the Secretary of State, arguing the figure should be much lower. However, the Ministerial response made it clear that the Government’s policy stands. Specifically, the Government sets out the requirement to calculate local housing need using 2014 national household growth projections.  We will, of course, keep the situation under review.

 

“The second myth circulating is the suggestion that sustainability and efforts to tackle climate change are not at the heart of our Local Plan. This is simply wrong. 

 

“The draft Local Plan states its first objective is to address climate change and this is a thread running throughout the Plan because of its importance.” 

 

Feb 13. Planning Inspectorate announce completion of their  examination of Luton Airport plan to increase passengers to 32 Million pa.

NEXT STAGE.

The Inspectorate will submit findings, conclusions and recommendations to the Secretary of State by May 10th. THEN await GOVERNMENT decision.

Ambulance Community First Responders (CFR) demonstrate how they save lives to Harpenden residents on Jan 31.

As part of the Harpenden Society Public Meeting at Katherine Warington School their team had a working display at the main reception so all visitors could see what a fantastic service they offer ahead of the Ambulance arrival.


Each CFR needs specialist equipment to administer  help to patients. It costs £3,500 a kit.

Currently Harpenden CFR’s borrow kits from St Albans.


To ensure the continued activity and expansion of the service in Harpenden they need to raise £10,000 to purchase 2 kits and have extra funds to scale up.


A number of generous guests made donations on the night. Much appreciated.


The attendance at this Society event marks the start of an ongoing campaign to raise more funds to ensure their emergency services can continue.

The prospective Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate - Victoria Collins for Harpenden is seen offering her support. (second left in main photo)

March 2024. Government takes control of SADC planning.---

Planning applications for non major developments can now be made direct to the Planning Inspectorate OR still follow the SADC slow lane.


NB. THIS DOES NOT APPLY TO HOUSEHOLDER APPLICATIONS or retrospective applications.

READ the letter from the Minister here.

March 16. FREE PARKING in Harpenden could end along with many other proposals from St Albans Council just announced.


Read the details below and be ready to submit your thoughts when requested by SADC

Statement on On-Street Car Parking Review

March 6. 

Chris Traill, Strategic Director for Community and Place Delivery for St Albans City and District Council, said: “We are carrying out a review of on-street car parking across the District. 

 

“One issue we are looking at is whether it is sustainable to continue to allow free parking in bays given the high level of demand and the resulting pressure on spaces. 


Government advice is that on-street parking charges

should be set higher than car parks to encourage the use of car parks to reduce congestion and emissions as well as improve safety. 


“Charges may deter motorists from taking up spaces for long periods, help cover the costs of our parking services and encourage active travel such as walking and cycling. 


“We are also looking at the provision of disabled parking in our main high streets and whether there needs to be improvement, focusing not simply on the number of bays but on having the right number in the right location. 


“When we have drawn up our proposals, there will be a public consultation when residents, businesses, community groups and other organisations can give their views. 


“All feedback will be considered before the proposals are finalised and any decisions are made. 

 

“Finally, we will also be looking at requests for residents in various parts of the District for Controlled Parking Zones to be introduced. 


“These follow concerns that it has become difficult for residents and their visitors to park in some streets and that restrictions are needed. 


“There is a process that is carried out before a Controlled Parking Zone is introduced including intensive public consultations. 


“These are community-led initiatives and will only happen if there is a consensus about the need for change among residents and other stakeholders.”  ENDS

The Harpenden Society responds:

The Harpenden Society has reviewed the situation and issued the following comment:

The loss of free parking in the centre of Harpenden with the potential damage to local business and further congested side roads needs to be carefully examined.


The Harpenden Society have been aware of the overall transport issues in Harpenden for some considerable time and commissioned the University of Hertfordshire last summer to produce a report that looked at all the road transport issues that the town faces, including parking. Published in the Autumn it was seen as a guide for the creation of a Transport Forum partnering with HTC and town politicians to investigate further and take actions.


Society Chair Jeff Phillips said, “We need to understand the statement from SADC more fully, consider the consequences and make recommendations. These can then be submitted for inclusion in the public consultation which will give all residents the chance to air their views.”

Left. FREE parking already removed from Amenbury Lane Car Park.



Right. FREE on street parking could end.

April 16. Harpenden resident complains to SADC Leader Chris White about proposed loss of  FREE parking

She received this response from SADC’ s Parking Infrastructure Manger

SO the informal public consultation is already scheduled to start on May 7th.

AND the comments within the letter on the tough economic climate suggest an already formed policy decision.

It also suggests no consideration within the overall Transport issues.


AND HTC seem to have made no comments to protect parking from being a cash generating vehicle,

rather than it being an incentive to visit the Town Centre.


WE AWAIT THE PUBLIC CONSULTATION

May 17. UPDATE

Free parking to end in Harpenden despite public consultation


The new leader of SADC, Paul de Kort., has set in motion a plan to raise funds to help reduce the City’s financial deficit.

Free car parks in Redbourn, Park Street and London Colney, and one and two hour bays across Harpenden town centre will all incur charges later this year.


Additionally, senior citizens parking permits will now be means-tested, so only pensioners on benefits are likely to qualify.

This is all revenue which has already been included in SADC’s budget for 2024-2025, alongside increases to the existing parking tariff structure which have already been introduced.

A consultation on the plans is due to commence next month, but council leader Cllr Paul de Kort said it was not a matter of whether they go ahead or not, it was a necessary evil to balance the budget.

AND There will be no U-turn over controversial plans to eliminate free parking bays across the district, the new leader of SADC has confirmed.


Harpenden retailers and opposition politicians alike have said scrapping free parking in the town will have a detrimental effect on trade, but Paul doesn’t agree.

“OK, cards on the table, I hear this is going to destroy the High Street, but I don’t buy it. I mean, put that in the context of I don’t want to do it because of what I’ve previously said, but if people say we’re going to ruin the High Street, I don’t see it


NB. Whilst Paul de Kort has made these pronouncements he is still to be confirmed officially as the new Council Leader , which is scheduled to take place on May 22 at the full Council meeting.

Expect a full press release following this event.

Transport Update

Statement made  on May 24. 2024  by Mr Mark Harper

Secretary of State for Transport. Conservative


This statement confirms that it is necessary to extend the deadlines for decisions on the following application made under the Planning Act 2008:

London Luton Airport Expansion Development Consent Order for the proposed development by Luton London Airport Limited for the construction of a new passenger terminal and aircraft stands at London Luton Airport, to allow passenger capacity to increase from 18 million per annum to 32 million. The Secretary of State received the Examining Authority’s report on 10 May 2024 and the current deadline for a decision is 10 August 2024.


Under section 107(1) of the Planning Act 2008, the Secretary of State must make his decision within 3 months of receipt of the Examining Authority’s report unless exercising the power under section 107(3) to extend the deadline and make a Statement to the Houses of Parliament announcing the new deadline. The new deadline for all the above applications is 4 October 2024. This is due to the General Election and to allow appropriate time for any new Secretary of State to consider the applications. The Department will however endeavour to issue decisions ahead of the deadlines above wherever possible.

The decision to set new deadlines is without prejudice to the decisions on whether to give development consent for the above application.