Open letter to:
John Dean, Leader of the Council
Chris Conway, Director (Strategy and Development)
On behalf of the Garden Village Preservation Society and the residents of Hatfield Garden Village
In early December 2012 we discovered that Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council had put forward a proposal to build over 2,000 homes on the Green Belt land surrounding Hatfield Garden Village, an increase of approximately 200%.The proposal would increase the population by between 6000-8000 people.
Over the past six weeks or so we have created the Garden Village Preservation Society, formed a committee, held various residents’ meetings, started fund-raising and set up a website, Facebook page, blog, forum and Twitter account. We have done this to inform the local community of the council’s intentions, share relevant information and unite the residents in what we expect to be a long battle to fight the proposals.
As the council have failed to keep us informed of a proposal which will have a detrimental effect on our way of life (and I include the presentation on the 15th January in this failure, at which the planning department personnel were unable to answer most of the questions raised by the residents who attended), I am now formally requesting a response to the following questions:
1) Hatfield Garden Village has already been expanded by over 200% in the past 10 years. Do you think it’s reasonable to expect the residents to suffer a further, even larger expansion?
2) When the previous expansion was presented we were promised major improvements in the local infrastructure. This included a new town centre, a training hospital and a community centre, none of which has happened. As any resident will tell you, our local resources are stretched to the limit. Why can’t the council guarantee each element of the required infrastructure?
3) Between 2003 and 2009 the WHBC Capital Commitments showed £7,164,000 was spent on WGC whilst only £284,000 was spent on Hatfield. How can this disparity be justified?
4) According to our MP, Grant Shapps, the council has been approached by Lafarge on a number of occasions with regard to the area known as WGC5 and its potential for housing. Mr Shapps has been told by Lafarge that the concerns that were originally expressed by the council have now been addressed and the area is now suitable for house building. I understand that this location is suitable for approximately 4,000 new homes. Will the council now reconsider their decision regarding WGC5?
5) The current proposals show two main sites for development: Panshanger and Hatfield Garden Village. The size of these developments would have a serious impact on the local communities and their infrastructure. It has been suggested that the developments should be spread more evenly throughout the borough. Whilst we understand that the cost implications for this approach could be restrictive, we wonder if the location of the councillors’ own properties had some influence on the current proposals? (Our research has shown that none of the 48 borough councillors lives within any of the proposed areas.)
6) According to the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England’s report, Housing the Future, the government has been using a set of data, to calculate future housing requirements, that is out of date and contains immigration anomalies. The government is also using predictions as opposed to forecasts (the latter being far more accurate, being based on a larger data set). The CPRE states that the government is using a system of “predict and provide” as opposed to “plan, monitor and manage”. This all suggests a knee-jerk reaction to what could be wildly inaccurate information and a set of predictions which could become self-fulfilling. How has the council calculated the requirement for housing in the borough over the next sixteen years?
7) According to most recent forecasts from the Office for National Statistics, the population in the UK is set to grow by 14% between now and 2029. If 7,200 new homes are built in the borough in the same period (using an average of three people per home), we are looking at a population increase of approximately 19%. Why are we expected to take more than our fair share of the increase?
8) According to Mr Shapps, the new accommodation at the University will see a net increase of 1,500 residences, thereby releasing the same number of residences for private rental in the borough. Mr Shapps told us that this new accommodation has not been taken into account when calculating the requirement for new homes. Why not?
9) How much land in the borough is currently being held by building companies that they will not build on as it is uneconomical to do so?
10) There are over 600 empty houses in the borough. What is the council doing to encourage landlords to make these available?
11) The National Planning Policy Framework states that “Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances.” In addition to this, the government (including the last two housing ministers) have categorically stated that no homes would be build on Green Belt land. Why do your proposals contain sites (including the Garden Village) that are on Green Belt land?
The residents of Hatfield Garden Village would appreciate your responses to the above questions.
Chairman, Garden Village Preservation Society