New Local Plan consultation: Can St Albans district cope with demands of 15,000 new homes?
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Will water and electricity supplies be able to deal with the explosion of new housing proposed for St Albans district over the next 20 years?
That was the question posed by St Albans district council when considering its new Local Plan (LP), which includes wide reaching plans to build 15,000 new homes in the district by 2036 - a 25 per cent up lift on existing homes.
Although some development would take place in built-up areas, the majority of homes would be on Green Belt land.
Portfolio holder for planning at SADC, Cllr Mary Maynard, has reassured people that essential infrastructure can keep up with the increased demand: “One of the main concerns that residents have with growth is infrastructure and I recognise that this could be a real issue.
“We have talked extensively about improving roads and delivering more schools to meet growth but infrastructure for water, power, electricity and IT is just as important.”
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She said there is “no point” developing without access to IT facilities because “that is what drives jobs and we understand this”.
Adding: “Reports have been commissioned to look at the long term implications of growth in the district and the county and so far we have heard no showstoppers - reports indicate that they would be able to cope with the level of expansion proposed, not just across the district but in the whole of Hertfordshire.”
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She said the reports will be refreshed in the future, but no big changes to that conclusion are expected.
The review currently says: “Growth over the plan in the district will increase demand on both electricity and gas distribution infrastructure. Much of the planned growth can be accommodated with the existing infrastructure provision.”
An Affinity Water spokesperson said: “We plan for the long term to ensure we have enough resources for all our customers now and in the future while maintaining our levels of service.
“Every five years, we update our Water Resources Management Plan which forecasts supply and demand for the next 25 years. We are currently reviewing all the different options available to us and will be consulting with our customers on this in the near future.”
A spokesperson from the energy distribution company said: “UK Power Networks is one of a number of service providers which will be liaising closely with the local authorities in south west Hertfordshire so it is kept updated on growth and infrastructure needs across the area to ensure future customer needs are met.
“Each year the company invests £500 million on improving and maintaining its networks.
“During the eight years to 2023 £4.5 billion is to be invested across the company’s distribution area to replace equipment, upgrade the network and secure power supplies.”
More than 1,000 people have commented on the plans since January 9 when the LP consultation opened, exceeding expectations.
Around 60,000 leaflets were posted through doors, a five-minute video outlining the LP objectives was circulated, and numerous exhibitions have been running across the district.
There has already been greater engagement in two weeks than the last Strategic Local Plan (SLP) had in the whole six week consultation.
SADC had to scrap the former SLP after it was thrown out by the High Court in July 2017 because of a failure of cooperate with neighbouring councils.