The Brookmans Park Residents Association would like to comment on the proposed housing allocation and proposed sites for development within the Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council Local Plan
The Housing Target
The target of 12,500 new dwellings seems to us to be far too high. It is a projected estimate, over a long period of time, which cannot be validated. In addition, it is excessively high when compared with neighbouring boroughs and would appear to have been skewed by recent significant development already completed on the airfield site in Hatfield. We believe that the council should re-assess the targets in line with the available brownfield sites, and also take into account the latest Government initiative in turning unwanted office space into residential dwellings.
The need to provide both 12,500 dwellings and 12,000 jobs in an area already heavily populated and with significant pressure on existing infrastructure, does not seem to be logical; if both houses and jobs are needed then these could be sited in less heavily populated parts of the country, where brownfield sites are more abundant, and where regeneration is required.
We commend the council on finding brownfield sites capable of taking 5,000 new dwellings and we urge them to start building new homes on the brownfield sites in the area, before anywhere else whilst the target figures are re-assessed. We cannot see that the council has identified any brownfield sites in Brookmans Park.
Green Belt sites
We object to the proposal to develop any Green Belt land in the district. Welwyn Hatfield is an already heavily populated district and the Green Belt provides local communities with valuable recreational and visual amenities, as well as preventing coalescence. In the Government’s Press Release on 6th October 2014 it was stated that “Councils must protect our precious Green Belt land”. Any housing proposals must take into account the constraints of the Green Belt and at present no exceptional circumstances exist to outweigh harm to Green Belt land.
On the council maps of Green Belt land, it looks as if Brookmans Park has more Green Belt surrounding it than is the case. The maps do not take into account the fact that much of it has already been developed. For example the RVC car park and playing fields, the Brookmans Park transmitting site, Queenswood School, Swanley Bar Lane, Swanley Bar Crescent, Boltons Farm, Reeves Cottages and houses at Hawkshead Lane and Water End are all shown as Green Belt.
The Green Belt between Brookmans Park and Little Heath, and again between Brookmans Park and Welham Green, is very narrow. We need this to be preserved if the villages are not to coalesce. Some of it is agricultural land and we firmly believe that this should be maintained as such.
The overall impact on the Borough’s infrastructure of an additional 12,500 dwellings and 12,000 jobs as not been fully assessed and the budgets and plans to deal with this are not in place.
We would also raise concerns that the existing local infrastructure in Brookmans Park would not be suitable for large developments, particularly as we understand that the council is not going to undertake surveys of the individual sites until they are chosen. This seems to be rather ‘cart before the horse’.
In Brookmans Park, some of our sites are very susceptible to surface water flooding, and large developments there would exacerbate the problem.
We have a railway station in Brookmans Park, but unfortunately it is not supported by the fast train service. This results in some residents driving to Potters Bar or Hatfield for the fast trains. A large development here would mean many more cars on the roads going to the other two stations.
Our bus service is very poor – just one bus an hour.
Brookmans Park has an attractive village centre, with two small greens, which is essential to the character of the village. We already have problems with parking, and a large development would mean more cars in the centre and perhaps the loss of one or both greens to accommodate the cars.
Individual sites in Brookmans Park
We agree with the council on the designation of the Brookmans Park sites, and the resulting exclusion from the main body of the plan. As well as the reasons already identified by the council for not including them in the plan, we attach a detailed list of additional planning reasons for not permitting development, for each individual site.
Supporting the call for a new Garden City
We commend and support the council’s decision to write to the Government, putting the case for a new Garden City in non-Green Belt land. We strongly believe that this would be the best way forward.