Response to the Village 7 planning application

Planning Dept.
East Herts Council
Pegs Lane
SG13 8 EQ

31st January 2020

Response to the Village 7 planning application

This representation relates to: Application Ref. No: 3/19/2124/OUT
Gilston Village 7 Land Off Church Lane A414 Hunsdon and Eastwick Hertfordshire (Link to Planning Application).

We feel it necessary to express overall objection to the outline planning application for Village 7 of the Gilston Area as submitted.

Aspiration for a development of exceptional quality

The Gilston Area development required the removal of the Green Belt designation- the largest in East Hertfordshire and one of the largest in the country.  In these circumstances, the community has the right to expect an ‘exceptional development’ in line with the aspirations of Policy GA1, the vision of the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town (HGGT) and the emerging neighbourhood plan.

In our opinion:

  • The applicants have failed to demonstrate that the proposals constitute development of exceptional quality. This development is heavily flawed in its layout, design, density and building heights. It resembles a hard-edged urban suburb, rather than the garden village concept expected by local residents.
  • The proposal fails to provide leadership, vision, development for the benefit of the community or long term stewardship of future community assets as required in Policy GA of the Garden City principles.
  • The plan is not set within a cohesive landscape reflecting the character of local villages, the development is completely unlike any of the nearby villages of Hunsdon, Stanstead Abbotts or Roydon, with 5 storey apartment blocks included as a significant part of the development.

Integrated development

The Gilston Area local development Plan of seven villages does not specifically preclude the application of individual villages, yet it describes a development in its entirety, with collective facilities, associated infrastructure and landscape improvements. Village 7 as a standalone development will contribute to housing targets but will not necessarily deliver transport improvements or a secondary school to serve its own needs.

In our opinion:

  • Village 7 should only be considered as part of the overall development.
  • Both applications for Villages 1 to 6 and for Village 7 should be considered and discussed by the planning authority as one.
  • Village 7 should not be allowed to proceed by only paying a contribution to infrastructure improvements, rather than directly delivering external road improvements and cycle links to the railway stations. The developers should deliver these improvements  as part of the overall project.
  • Development of Village 7 should be linked to secondary school places becoming available as part of Village 1-6. Paying a contribution is not enough if the secondary school in Village 1-6 is delayed and Village 7 is built first because there are no available schools, either nursery, primary or secondary.

Appropriateness of the transport proposal

The transport proposals include a signalised junction between Church Lane and the A414 and the re-routing of Church Lane through the Village Centre in a ‘dog leg’, to keep speeds low and allow the centre to benefit from passing trade. In a standalone scenario, Church Lane will be the only main entrance / exit for the development. With Village 6 there will be another route.

In our opinion:

  • The ‘dog leg’ has been very poorly thought through and will not solve issues of speeding traffic from the A414.
  • There is no integrated traffic plan for Village 7 to join with the other 6 villages or as a standalone development so it will remain isolated even if “joined up”.
  • In a standalone scenario, buses in and out from Church Lane will be impractical and won’t work and operators will reduce the frequency so the new residents will use their cars instead.
  • Additional traffic and safety in Church Lane, Hunsdon should be studied, especially for pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders attempting to use this road. Road safety is already an issue with pedestrians already finding it difficult to cross from the Dunstan Church carpark to the Church
  • Delay for the existing residents of Hunsdon should be considered, in view of the anticipated queue of around 20-25 cars existing on the A414 at peak hour.
  • Financial contributions to improvements off site are not enough because there will be no mechanism to deliver the improvements.
  • The current plan assumes that 60% of trips will be made by walking, cycling and buses, which is in no way realistic with the commitments made. With the current design, almost 100% of journeys will be by private car. The plan will not allow residents to link with sustainable transport, for example, the path across the A414 does not allow for bikes to reach Roydon Station. Moreover, there is no spare capacity on the rail network during the commuter periods.

Appropriateness of the development approach

The details of the development in the master plan drawing are illustrative only, but the parameter plan for height and density is very detailed and, in a way, allows the development to proceed only very closely to what has been drawn.

In our opinion, the following proposals for approval are not consistent with the concept of ‘village’:

  • 13m tall buildings (3 floors) as lowest range and 5 floors (19m) at the centre
  • 4 floor apartment block at each ‘entrance’
  • A village centre in between 4-5 storey blocks of flats with ground floor shops / offices
  • The proposed street grid – not formally fixed, but the parameter plans implicitly fix it
  • 6-8m tall street lighting and floodlighting of sport pitches, the light pollution will blight the area, especially the idea of siting numerous floodlit sports pitches underneath the power-pylons. The CPRE has published numerous papers on light pollution and effort should be expended in the planning phase in order to avoid problems later on: The light pollution from this high-rise development will affect a significant number of local properties including a number of historic and listed properties.

The Village 7 site will destroy historic parkland, known previously as Ponds Park, at the Western End of Village 7, adjacent to Lords Wood and Death Valley. It will therefore harm the setting of various heritage assets including King Henry VIII’s Pike Ponds, which were recently added to the scheduled monuments list by Historic England (Entry 145790), the Grade 1 listed churches St Dunstans Church in Hunsdon and St James’ Church in Stansteadbury, Grade 1 listed Hunsdon House, Grade 2* listed Olives Farmhouse and numerous Grade 2 listed properties. The destruction of the setting around Heritage assets will result in the loss of an irreplaceable resource that will reduce the overall attractiveness of East Herts as an area to live and work.

None of this historic parkland should be built on. Instead this irreplaceable historic area should be donated to the local community and kept as common / recreational land, as has been suggested for some of the land currently below power lines and around the airfield. Also, this formation of set-aside parkland must be formalised at the start of the development rather than is currently suggested, once all properties have been sold. Many of the original concepts in the framework plan have been ignored and this slow changing of the rules to allow for the maximising of fast profits may continue if unchecked.

The adjacent farmland around Olives and Coldharbour Farms is to be developed as a 20-year gravel quarry site. This will have the effect of producing a brown field zone linking Stanstead Abbotts in Hertfordshire with Harlow in Essex via the ribbon development of these 7 villages north of the A414. It is this type of ribbon development that the Green Belt was supposed to prevent. Suburban sprawl across county boundaries also contravenes specific national planning policies.

Even more fundamentally, the sustainability plan associated with the district plan concedes that East Herts does not have sufficient water resource for this development and calls for a new water supply strategy which does not exist.

This proposed development should be cancelled forthwith.

Yours faithfully,

Nicholas & Alison Cox
Stanstead Abbotts