Harpenden neighbours condemn plans for builders merchant next to residential properties

The proposed site of the builders merchant in Southdown Industrial Estate, Harpenden.

The proposed site of the builders merchant in Southdown Industrial Estate, Harpenden. - Credit: Submitted

Residents have called for action to prevent a major industrial development in the heart of Harpenden.

Plans by Coal Pensions Properties Limited to redevelop Southdown Industrial Estate include round-the-clock HGV movements, substantial warehousing and a service yard, despite the site abutting residential properties.

A decision on the proposals was delayed due to the local council elections, but is now due for consideration by the planning referrals committee on June 6.

Julie Smith, who lives in nearby Meadow Walk, said: "This will be a horrendous development for Harpenden and in particular Southdown, the industrial estate and the residents living all around the area. 

"Small industrial units, such as exist now and operate in normal working hours, Monday to Friday, are welcome but an outdoor builders merchant with long opening hours, HGVs and fork lift trucks plus an acoustic barrier due to the excessive noise that will be generated is totally inappropriate.

"The current application has conditions which allow outdoor activity from HGVs loading and unloading to take place between 7am and 9pm Monday to Friday, and slightly less at weekends. The industrial unit is small and already crammed with cars and not suitable for HGV traffic.

"The noise and disruption to residents and the local area which is already busy with traffic and has two schools close by will be dreadful. And for those few of us who back onto this area - we will never be able to enjoy our gardens again."

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Neighbour Ken Muir said: "This development is set to bring a large number of HGV trucks and articulated vehicles through the already busy heart of Southdown, including at times when children are walking or cycling to and from school. The implications for road safety in the area are too horrible to contemplate.

"I believe this will also cause a huge amount of disruption to the local area in the form of noise pollution from 7 in the morning 'til 9 in the evening. The 'sticking plaster' of a noise reduction barrier at the bottom of gardens adjacent to the development is simply unacceptable to the people who will find their gardens directly adjacent to the rumblings and emissions of heavy trucks.

"I have asked my recently-elected Lib Dem councillors, Fiona Gaskell and Gill Haynes - who both campaigned on the basis of improving road safety locally - to reject it once and for good at the planning committee on June 6."

James Stephen of Piggotshill Lane added: "My local community was not made aware of this application, and there is a great deal of anger about it in Harpenden as it appears to have deliberately been kept quiet

"It is still totally inappropriate for all of the reasons it was rejected last time, including, but not limited to: it will cause far too much traffic and we already have large lorries unable to manage the mini-roundabout at the bottom of Piggotsshill Lane, causing traffic jams which can last for 15 to 20 minutes on a regular and frequent basis; it is of no benefit to the local community; noise and pollution will both be increased in the area; the location is totally inappropriate for this type of development and it should be out of town."

Harpenden MP Bim Afolami has already objected to the plans, telling SADC: "I have no objection to the principle of this site being re-developed in a way that is compatible with the community and function of the local area. Any such development should not come at the expense of neighbouring residents or the wider Harpenden community who have expressed their strong opposition to this unsuitable proposal.

“Redevelopment sympathetic to Southdown with low-impact activities for the site would be more appropriate.”

Fiona Gaskell, councillor for Harpenden West, said: “All three Harpenden West councillors are already working together to listen to the significant concerns of many residents about this development. Any planning decision will be made in accordance with planning legislation and we will do our best to ensure their concerns are fully heard during this process.”

You can see the plans by visiting the council's planning portal and searching for 5/2021/2376