Have your say on new vision for Harpenden’s future

Harpenden high street

Harpenden high street - Credit: Archant

A far-reaching vision which will set out the future development of Harpenden over the next 20 years has been unveiled this week.

Harpenden high street

Harpenden high street - Credit: Archant

The town council’s Draft Neighbourhood Plan aims to establish proactive guidelines for development in Harpenden, with an emphasis on starter homes and affordable housing.

It comes in the wake of the district council’s failed Local Plan, and aims to curtail excessive development while a replacement plan is devised.

It also sets out key policies on supporting infrastructure such as parking, road improvements, health services and community facilities, and strives to protect key employment sites, open spaces and other important community assets. Ensuring the town has accessible, thriving and flexible retail areas and a sustainable transport network are also included.

Key locations identified for residential development offer provision for 128 homes, including 41 on the Pan Autos workplace and 40 at Jewsons, both in Grove Road, Southdown, and 24 on the former Westfield Allotments site (all affordable housing). Other sites include land in Noke Shot, Marlborough Park, Longfield Road and at 63 High Street.

Harpenden high street

Harpenden high street - Credit: Archant

Additionally, the redevelopment of Harpenden Memorial Hospital and the new cultural venue in Rothamsted Park may free up land at the former site and Harpenden Public Halls.

Limitations on the plan’s remit prevent it from identifying the release of Green Belt land or setting targets for growth, both of which come under the jurisdiction of the district council, but specific policies on infrastructure included would hopefully reduce the impact of any Green Belt development approved by the district.

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Cllr Brian Ellis, chairman of the Neighbourhood Plan steering group, explained the strategy behind the document: “We exist in challenging times. There is a pressing need for new housing nationally but the infrastructure needed to mitigate its impact on existing residents is hard to come by.

“There are examples recently of where local residents in Harpenden have campaigned against a development only to see it granted planning permission, sometimes through an appeal.

Harpenden Town sign. Photo: DANNY LOO

Harpenden Town sign. Photo: DANNY LOO - Credit: Archant

“There are no signs of this cycle coming to an end, with the district council deemed to have not cooperated with other local planning authorities during the preparation of its Local Plan, it has had to start that process again and is now looking at a much higher government advised housing target of around 15,500 new homes in the district to 2036.

“Until it adopts a new Local Plan that allocates sites to meet that need – currently estimated for 2019 – we are at risk of “speculative” planning applications from developers taking advantage of the lack of a strategy, some of which may seek to deliver a very large number of homes.

“The policies contained in the document will be vital to ensure new development in our area is appropriate to the needs of our community. We are seeking to ensure that important employment land is protected and not lost to housing, the design of new buildings is both sustainable and attractive, shopping areas are vibrant and functional, travel is easier and more environmentally friendly and that housing is targeted as much as possible to urban and brownfield land rather than our precious Green Belt.”

The town council is running a number of presentation evenings and drop-in sessions on the plan over the next few weeks.

Presentations are taking place on November 2 from 7.15-9pm at Park Hall in Leyton Road. Drop-in events are being held between 4-8pm at St Mary’s Church Hall in Luton Road on November 6, Harpenden Town Hall in Leyton Road on November 7, Southdown Methodist Church on November 8, and Batford Memorial Hall on November 13.