“Polo Fields” Application

The Polo Fields Development – UPDATE 3rd May 2022

Just Want the highlights? – Go to our Current Application Info page for a shortened summary

 

Developer attempts to manipulate the Council !   

 

As many of you will know, an application was submitted in November 2021 for the building of Addison Park – 330 “affordable homes” on the polo fields on the north side of Chiswell Green Lane, the site of St Stephen’s Green Farm. The land owner is former boxer, Steve Collins. 

 

Due process was followed with very little publicity or public awareness but nonetheless 359 objections had been received on the application before the planning officer wrote his summary report and recommended refusal on 18th March.

 

The application was allocated to the Planning Referrals Committee as the agent acting on behalf of the land owner had declared a family connection to the Council. 

 

The application was due to have been discussed on 28th March but was de-listed a couple of days beforehand. 

 

We now know that this is because the Addison Park team saw the planning officer’s report recommending refusal and launched an offensive on the Council, essentially trying to manipulate the Council into approving the application. 

 

The tenets of their new offensive are: 

  • The Council does not understand or appreciate the need for homes for key workers and that a special case should be made for homes for key workers to override the protection of the Green Belt
  • The Council has approved other major developments on the Green Belt so why not this (implied more deserving) one?

 

The Council is in an impossible position: 

  • there is no Local Plan to determine what may be built and where 
  • the Government imposes housing targets on all Councils and has a tendency to approve major developments which are referred to them on appeal where the Council has not met its housing target and cannot show how it will do so
  • if the Council refuses permission to build and permission is granted by the Government on appeal, the costs are awarded against the Council – six figure sums for each application 
  • developers know that this is the situation and are taking advantage of it to push through totally inappropriate developments 

 

The Council’s planning application guidelines say that comments received after the official closing date for comments but before the case planning officer has compiled their report will also be taken into consideration. 

 

The additional information submitted for this application should not have been permitted, but the documents are so challenging that the Council could not ignore or dis-allow them. 

 

The Keep Chiswell Green team has been liaising with the Planning Department.   We were gearing up to mount a mass objection campaign, but we have received notification that the planning department is now expecting further additional information from the applicant over the coming weeks after which there will be a further formal consultation period including the opportunity to comment again.  

 

Please watch this space;  we will need as many local residents as possible to object again.
359 last time needs to be over 1,000 next time !  

What’s the deadline for objections ? 

 

The blunt answer is ‘We don’t know’. 

 

The offensive launched by the Addison Park team appears to have been received by the Council after the planning officer’s report had been written. These additional documents now appear on the planning portal under this application (5/2021/3194) but the planning officer’s report no longer appears. 

 

This implies that the planning officer will be preparing a new report to take account of the additional documents submitted by the Addison Park team. 

The Council’s planning application guidelines say that comments received after the official closing date for comments but before the case planning officer has compiled their report will also be taken into consideration. 

The additional information submitted for this application should not have been permitted, but the documents are so challenging that the Council could not ignore or dis-allow them. 

But where is our democratic opportunity to comment on these later documents ? 

 

Well, any comments received by the Council before the revised planning officer’s report is written should be taken into consideration. 

Reports are generally written 10-14 days before the application is due to be discussed at the committee meeting. The next Referrals Committee Meeting is scheduled for 9th May, but with the local elections on 5th May and potential changes to the committee members as a result, the date on which this application will be scheduled again for decision is uncertain. A rough estimate of when comments will no longer be considered is therefore also uncertain, but it could be between 25th and 28th April. 

PLEASE COMMENT AGAIN AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

EACH MEMBER OF YOUR FAMILY MAY SUBMIT A SEPARATE COMMENT

WE NEED AS MANY LOCAL RESIDENTS AS POSSIBLE TO COMMENT AGAIN NOW – TO OBJECT TO THIS DEVELOPMENT (even if you have done so before)

OBJECT AGAIN TODAY

Ideas for Objections : 

  • a development of 330 houses / 800 new residents is a disproportionate addition to the village and will have a material impact on the character of the community
  • an increase in the local population of over 30% will change the community from a village to a town
  • this site sits at a high point in the local area and will be disproportionately visible as well as out of character with the other types of properties typical in this village
  • the infrastructure cannot accommodate an increase in population : 

 

        1. It already takes up to 50 mins to get through by phone to the only GP’s surgery in the area to ask for an appointment, pre-bookable appointments are few and almost impossible to get, same day appointments are often offered at 6pm as the appointment schedule fills up so fast and doctors have to work overtime to see patients at the end of the day, staff turnover at the surgery is high and it is difficult to establish a relationship with one doctor as many also work part time.
        2. All local dental surgeries are closed to new NHS patients, and any opportunities which do arise to get onto an NHS dental register disappear within days
        3. The local primary schools are nearly at maximum capacity and the secondary schools are over-subscribed
        4. Public transport in the area is limited to a bus service offering 4 buses an hour.
        5. Herts Council already recognises Watford Road as the worst congested B-road in Hertfordshire; queues of up to 90 mins are common heading south to access M25 and M1, traffic queues heading towards St Albans exist from 7.30-9.30 on school days and causes all accessible side roads to be used as ‘rat-runs’ where speeding is a significant problem
        6. Any problems on M25, M1 and A414 already push significant volumes of traffic onto A405 and Watford Road. This will only worsen with the anticipated Rail Freight Terminal
        7. the increased pollution and impact from the increase in traffic will materially and detrimentally impact historic buildings along the route into St Albans, including the listed Three Hammers public house, King Harry public house, St Stephen’s Church and certain nearby houses, and the many buildings of historic importance on Holywell Hill, including St Albans Abbey itself
        8. the existing utility providers are already struggling to provide consistent services in this area with frequent reports of power cuts, lack of service through internet providers, and reduced water pressure
        9. the local sewage pipes are old and no longer fit for purpose resulting in tons of raw sewage being dumped into local rivers regularly throughout the year; these systems are too costly and too imposing to be undertaken for many years to come and an increase in the local population could stretch this already pressurised system to breaking point

 

  • 330 homes for key workers in one place is not a balanced addition to the local area
  • consideration should be given to the age profile of the existing population and therefore the fact that a supply of housing will naturally become available in the area in the next 10-15 years
  • the Council should insist that all planning permissions already granted are progressing to completion before any Green Belt is sacrificed
  • all brownfield sites should be given priority and utilised before Green Belt is considered
  • housing does not constitute ‘very exceptional circumstances’ to justify sacrificing the Green Belt
  • the Green Belt west of Watford Road satisfies the purposes for which the Green Belt was designated : 

 

        1. separation of settlements (Chiswell Green to Bedmond, Kings Langley, Hemel, Garston etc)
        2. to prevent urban sprawl
        3. to provide opportunities for leisure and sport – both of critical importance for physical and mental health
        4. to provide opportunities for forestry – critical in protecting biodiversity and air quality, also critical for health
        5. to provide opportunities for agriculture – of increasing importance when we need to reduce our reliance on importing food from overseas and reduce food miles
        6. to protect the wide range of animals and birds to be found on this area of Green Belt including bats, badgers, foxes, deer, the UK’s smallest birds – the firecrest and the goldcrest, and greater and lesser spotted woodpeckers amongst others
        7. to keep the land open, and this section of Green Belt is critical to maintaining the openness of the land between Chiswell Green and neighbouring settlements
        8. to protect the setting and special character of historic St Albans of which so much is protected by the “Conservation Area” designation
        9. this section of Green Belt was not considered amongst any of the potential sites named under the Council’s review of potential sites
        10. once the Green Belt is built on for housing developments, it is gone for good; what legacy are we leaving for future generations ?

 

  • the housing targets set by central government for St Albans are outdated and do not consider demographic changes caused by Brexit, Covid-19, and a declining birth rate which predicts a decreasing population and therefore a reducing future housing need
  • these outdated targets are the subject of investigation at central government level (as raised by local MP Daisy Cooper) and no major developments, and particularly not developments on the Green Belt, should be given approval before this investigation has been fully completed
  • the applicant has submitted an opinion from a QC who uses inaccurate information with regard to the granting of planning permission for Sewell Park which is actually still subject to judicial review as potentially inappropriately granted
  • the applicant in this case is overtly bullying the Council into approving the application; we need to stand up to bullying developers who manipulate situations to line their own pockets to the cost of the environment, wildlife, and human health and amenity.

 

An important point in permitting development on the Green Belt is whether the benefit of the development would outweigh the harm caused.  In summary, the points above would seem to indicate that the benefit does not outweigh the harm in this case.  

 

PLEASE COMMENT AGAIN AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

EACH MEMBER OF YOUR FAMILY MAY SUBMIT A SEPARATE COMMENT

WE NEED AS MANY LOCAL RESIDENTS AS POSSIBLE TO COMMENT AGAIN NOW – TO OBJECT TO THIS DEVELOPMENT (even if you have done so before).

How can you help?

Go to the council planning website and lodge an objection to application number 5/2021/3194 TODAY using some of our suggestions from our full summary