Emotions are running high over plans by St Albans Council to build 2,500 new homes and extend the industrial estate on the edge of Hemel Hempstead.
Residents are voicing concern that Dacorum public services and infrastructure will be put under too much strain because the development is closer to Hemel than it is to St Albans.
They are urging locals to attend exhibitions at Redbourn Village Hall (Fri 23 June, 4-8pm) and Leverstock Green Village Hall (Saturday 24 June, 10am-2pm) and put their questions to the developers (St Albans District Council and Crown Estate).
The plan will mean 2,500 new houses built in two separate estates on land between Woodhall Farm and Leverstock Green with the industrial estate extended between Buncefield and the M1.
By any standards this is a major development which will have a mix of accommodation along with three schools, two new parks, shops, and a health centre. One campaigner said "St Albans Council's strategic plan is to build at least 6,104 new homes over the next 14 years. By contrast Dacorum's is planning for 10,000 new homes by 2030 with many of them earmarked for Maylands. Combine them together over an invisible district border and you can see where the problems begin for local services".
Labour’s spokesperson for Hemel Hempstead, Mandi Tattershall, who is a housing professional, said “It’s important to establish the facts and we will be supporting local residents to get to the bottom of the plans”.
Mandi says that during the recent General Election housing came up time and again. “People are concerned on three fronts” she said. “First that there’s not enough housing for young people and families, secondly that when houses are built they’re unaffordable, and thirdly that the Council passes badly-planned applications that our town's infrastructure can’t support and which damage the green belt in places like Pouchen End”.
Residents say that while there are extensive plans, nothing is yet set in stone and want to put a number of questions to the developers including:
- Is this plan supported by Dacorum Borough Council and Herts County Council? What services will DBC have to provide and will SADC repay the cost of them?
- Is the loss of so much Green Belt really for 'exceptional circumstances' (as per government policy)?
- Will the housing needs of Hemel, as well as St Albans, be met, including the level of affordable and social housing?
- No details yet on building quality or materials, nor on what the proposed density of development means in real terms.
- Will the timing of new transport provisions fully take account of already overcrowded roads? What new links will be in place before construction starts? Additional access to the M1 for HGVs etc from the new industrial area needs to be provided before the new traffic hits the roads (currently delayed to Phase 2 and to be part-funded by the eventual occupying businesses).
- Will public transport links between the different new areas and Hemel be put in place promptly and be adequately funded as HCC's record in this area is poor (subsidies by the developers need to be in place as the developments are occupied)?
- Air quality and pollution need to be addressed in more detail not only around housing but especially along the busy main roads, the M1 and around the new schools. Can current pollution monitoring data along the M1 (for the past 6 months) be made available? Projected figures for when the developments are complete are being worked on as well and should be made available to the public.
- Are other amenities eg shops, medical facilities, adequate and in the correct places?
- Is it wise to build more so close to Buncefield and what further protection will be provided for the properties and the motorway?
- Why does this development not include a new hospital?
While the details are currently unclear, residents have been made aware that the development will comprise: up to 40% 'affordable' dwellings; a range of sizes (57% 3-beds, less than 30% 1- and 2- bed dwellings, a high proportion being flats, and the rest (approx 15%) 4- and 5-bed houses. Additionally over the two areas there will be 3 schools, shops, health centre, 2 park/sports facilities, plus a new industrial area which in part runs between the M1 and Buncefield.