St Albans council urges Hertsmere to rethink plans for Bowmans Cross

The proposed site of Bowmans Cross garden village.

The proposed site of Bowmans Cross garden village. - Credit: Colney Heath Parish Council

A garden village of 6,000 homes to the south-east of St Albans district would be in breach of the Government’s Green Belt policy, councillors have warned.

The Bowmans Cross development would not only “coalesce” with both Colney Heath and London Colney, but would have “poor access” to jobs, essential facilities and transport unless huge sums were invested in new infrastructure.

It has been included in Hertsmere Borough Council's draft Local Plan, which identifies land for future housing, commercial and infrastructure development over the next 15 years.

Members of St Albans district council's Local Plan Advisory Group have agreed to send a letter to HBC outlining its response to their draft LP.

An approximate outline of where the Bowmans Cross development would be built.

An approximate outline of where the Bowmans Cross development would be built. - Credit: Google

This includes the creation of the garden village close to Junction 22 of the M25, a few hundred metres from both London Colney and Colney Heath.

Council leader and chair of the group, Cllr Chris White, explained: “Our letter raises a number of highly significant issues with Hertsmere’s proposed LP which has caused a lot of alarm in our district. We feel it needs a rethink.

“In particular, we have concerns with Bowmans Cross which would be sited on our border with Hertsmere and effectively swallow up both Colney Heath and London Colney into one sprawl.

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“The Green Belt is there to provide space between communities, keeping them separate so they retain their own individual identities. Hertsmere’s Local Plan appears to be in breach of that.

“We will be interested to see their response to these concerns and our observation that there are alternative development sites within Hertsmere that would seem more appropriate.”

The letter, from SADC’s spatial planning manager Chris Briggs, says the council “generally supports development of sites around existing HBC settlements” with good employment opportunities, facilities and rail links.

It has “raised significant concerns” about Bowmans Cross, however, since it was first put forward as a potential development site in 2017.

The proposed site of Bowmans Cross garden village.

The proposed site of Bowmans Cross garden village. - Credit: Colney Heath Parish Council

“SADC has seen no evidence to date that the fundamental problems that the location of Bowmans Cross provides for this scale of potential development can be successfully overcome,” the letter states.

In contrast to options for developing existing settlements, there would be “poor access” to a wide range “of employment opportunities, facilities and poor rail access”.

The locations of Borehamwood and Elstree, Potters Bar, Bushey and Radlett best meet the LP’s strategic objective of encouraging “sustainable patterns of local travel behaviour”.

The investment required  to deliver similarly sustainable transport infrastructure at Bowmans Cross would need to be “truly transformational”.

This is reflected, the letter says, in Bowmans Cross’s very low scores in accessibility and transport assessments.

“There has to date been no acknowledgement in the evidence of the significant existing traffic issues in the area, which need to be fully recognised and addressed,” the letter says.

“The observation has been made that, unless there are transformational improvements, traffic is likely to grind to a halt at peak periods.”

Bowmans Cross would also involve the “considerable narrowing of the Green Belt” that keeps local communities separate and distinct.

The HBC proposals would “coalesce the new settlement with Colney Heath and be very close to effectively coalesce the new settlement with London Colney, which would be clearly contrary to national Green Belt policy”.

Cllr White added: “Hertsmere is at an early stage in preparing its Local Plan which we know from our own experiences is a complex and challenging undertaking.

“One essential requirement is that the Local Plan must evolve from the feedback that is received from consultations with the communities that will be affected.

“In that regard, I trust any concerns raised by ourselves, parish councils and residents will not be ignored, but taken into account and acted upon.

“We look forward to continuing to collaborate with Hertsmere on their LP, particularly as the proposed Bowmans Cross village is on the outer edge of their area, closer to existing settlements in our district rather than in theirs.”

Hertsmere portfolio holder for planning, Cllr Dr Harvey Cohen, said: "Our draft plan is entirely in line with current government planning policy on Green Belt and that it sets out how the proposed new settlement in Bowmans Cross would be delivered with all necessary infrastructure over 20 to 30 years and a clear buffer of land retained as open space to prevent merging of communities."