Local Plan Consultation – our response

St Albans has the dubious distinction of having the oldest Local Plan in the country so it is good to know that the Council is preparing a new Plan. The current draft was out for Regulation 18 Consultation with a closing date for comments of 25th September 2023.

Thank you to those members who came to the meeting we held to discuss our draft response and we have submitted a response on behalf of the Civic Society, we also worked with the City Centre Resident’s Associations (CCRA), on their submission. Overall we acknowledge that this is a well researched plan, but are disappointed in that it seems to lack ambition. The Plan is designed to last until 2041 so we would expect a clear picture of what St Albans will be like by then, however this is not evident.
We reluctantly accept, both that there is no alternative to using the Standard method for calculating housing need and that this means inevitable incursion into the green Belt, 81%of the District is Green Belt. However, we expect that once updated figures are available the current figure of 15000 new homes, will be significantly reduced with consequent greater protection of the Green Belt.

Our main concerns relate to the lack of ambition, particularly in relation to the City Centre where, although the draft plan refers to a City Centre Vision, such a vision is absent. Why no reference to urban tree planting or provision of water fountains in the centre? Imprecise and subjective language will not provide clarity on what is expected of developers. Our full response is available here.

There is a long way to go before the Plan is finalised. After considering all the responses to the consultation a revised draft will be subject to further consultation next summer and then there will be a public examination and, if all goes to plan, the new Local Plan will be adopted by December 2025. So there will be further opportunities to have our say, but there remains a concern about the period until then when we have to rely on the outdated 1994 Plan.

 

Local Plan Consultation – the current version (2023)

The Council has revealed its long awaited new Local Plan to replace the current one which dates back to 1994 making it one of the oldest in the country. We have set up a working group to formulate our response. If you would like to help with that work then please reply to this email and indicate any particular skills or knowledge that you would bring to the group.  We welcome any feedback or comments on aspects of the Local Plan which you consider need attention.
 

We will be holding a meeting for our members to discuss our response.  The date is to be confirmed but probably in early September. We are also liaising with the Residents Associations and various pressure groups around the city who are interested in specific areas such as Save North St Albans Green Belt/CLASH and Keep Chiswell Green.  We hope to bring all the groups together to share ideas, concerns and see where we can co-ordinate our responses.  Please let us know if you are involved in any groups that are discussing responding to the Plan so we can include them in that meeting.

You can find full details of the Local Plan on the council website here  or go direct to the individual documents listed below:

The closing date for comments to the Council is 25 September.

 
The Council has arranged exhibitions about the Plan including these dates:
  • Monday 11 September, 2pm – 8pm at the Civic Centre
  • Tuesday 12 September, 2pm – 8pm at Marshalswick Community Centre

You can read a short article about the launch of the Plan on the St Albans Times website here 

Local Plan Consultation – the 2018 version

The Society responded to the St Albans District Council Local Plan consultation concerning the future development of the City from 2020 to 2036. In our response we recognise the importance of a new Local Plan (LP) which is needed, in order to update the previous LP, drafted in 1994. This is, not only to ensure that the authority’s LP is compatible with latest edition of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), published in July 2018, but also that the District Council will not have to relinquish its control, over planning in the district, to Government, because there has been a failure to produce an approved, up-to-date Plan. In October 2018 we made our response is available here and references the Council consultation document

Earlier in 2018 there was another consultation which closed on 21 February 2018. The Society’s Response to that is shown below and addresses the questions raised in the Local Plan – Have Your Say form produced by the Council.

 

ST ALBANS CITY & DISTRICT LOCAL PLAN 2020-2036 CONSULTATION  – Response from St Albans Civic Society

The Society is responding to this exercise. In working through the consultation leaflet, the Society has found it difficult to use the various rankings and emoticons. While understanding the attempt to reach as wide an audience as possible, it was felt the format tends to trivialise what are very important decisions and give the impression – which obviously was not intended – that this is nothing more than a tick-box exercise.Having said that:

Q1 – All of these priorities are important and, in the Society’s view, all six should therefore merit a 1. All of these ‘priorities’ should form part of a comprehensive local plan.
Q2 – 1, 1, 5, 5, 5 – The plan identifies one Green Belt site which is for low-density, low skilled employment; this is the Strategic Rail Freight Interchange at Park Street. The Society presently believes that this should be for housing in order to minimise the overall loss of Green Belt land, and at the same time remove the threat to our essential rail services.
Q3 – no comment
Q4 – All these kinds of home are important, but the question has to be asked, how is the plan going to achieve anything as detailed as this? The existing affordable housing policy appears to be manifestly failing, so how will the plan do any better?
Q5 – no comment
Q6 – This is somewhat hypothetical. The Society believes the Council has been too slow to react to the Government’s relaxation of the rules of permitted development that allow offices to convert to housing. There has been a dramatic loss of local employment. Why should more Green Belt land be sacrificed to recreate lost offices in urban areas?
Q7 – All five things are important and merit a 1. The Society’s view is that the Council should ensure that developers build on existing permissions; discourage any landbanking; utilise existing empty homes; and introduce council tax charges to encourage action on the foregoing.
Q8 – This goes without saying. The constraints of historic buildings etc mean that it is simply not realistic to plan for a continued expansion of housing around the city without providing adequate services and infrastructure in the Green Belt. In the historic city centre, particularly around the Cathedral, there needs to be far more emphasis and consideration for the local environment which is being increasingly eroded by large lorries, school coaches and delivery vehicles. Such concerns are likely to deepen with the, hoped for, increase in tourism, following the development of the New Museum and the Cathedral’s Visitor Centre.
Q9 – There was no assessment of the implications of necessary infrastructure for the current proposals – highways, education, medical, other services. These would need further land in the Green Belt.

The Society, therefore, does feel that as it stands this plan lacks overall credibility.

Tim Boatswain
Chairman St Albans Civic Society

Consultation on National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

The revised NPPF was out for consultation in 2018 and St Albans Civic Society submitted our response available here, airing our concerns.   Read more

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Do you know of a project that might deserve recognition in the Society’s Awards? These can be for new developments, large or small, but could be for a small extension, restored windows on a period property, or a rebuilt wall. Its not just about buildings either. Remember the Society’s Awards cover things that enhance the quality of St Albans environment or amenities and the Trevelyan Award is presented for a conservation project.

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