The Built Environment group is established to ensure that development plans meet the objectives of the Society. The local agreed planning policy guidance document forms the basis for much of our work.
The Group are concerned about the growth of Harpenden. We look very carefully at plans to demolish existing properties and to build one or more as replacements. In-filling is generally opposed, as are significant extensions to existing buildings, particularly if they are not in keeping with the scale and style of neighbouring properties.
For more information about the Built Environment Group contact the group leader.
The Built Environment Group examine all major applications for sites in Harpenden (town and rural parish) every week and where necessary makes recommendations to the planning authority at St Albans.
It is a part of the Society's service to the community which we believe is much valued. In addition to examination of the weekly plans lists, we welcome comments from members who may have an interest in a particular proposal. We will consider such comments and views when formulating our own response to a particular application.
Membership of the group is open to members of the Society. It is obviously desirable that anyone joining the Group should have an interest in architecture and the built environment, but that interest can be entirely amateur.
Objection to application at 6 High Street Harpenden - 15th March 2023
The Harpenden Society has concerns regarding some aspects of the new proposals to create a large capacity pub/restaurant.
We were supportive of the Councils opinion that the original conservatory style second floor roof extension was inappropriate for the Conservation Area. The revised design may be less visually obtrusive but we still consider it will have an adverse impact on adjoining residential occupiers.
Harpenden is poorly served by the limited range of retailers and shoppers are forced to travel by car to surrounding towns to buy basic commodities and household items. As the subject premises are now owned by a restaurant chain, the market has not been tested to see if another retailer can be found. This is an important landmark site at the entrance into the Town Centre and the provision of yet another pub/restaurant will create little benefit in the way of day time shopper activity. This unit previously formed part of the Prime Retail Frontage.
If this application is approved, it will require regular servicing by large delivery and waste vehicles who will use the rear access via Leyton Road. Already the vehicles serving, Pizza Express, Café Nero and The George create significant traffic chaos when they park, usually directly opposite the junction with Amenbury Lane, reducing traffic to a single flow. Passing traffic frequently has to mount the kerb to drive passed the parked lorries. This junction is the main access to the Amenbury Lane car park which is now very busy following the opening of the new sports centre and EMC, the continued uncontrolled lorry parking is creating a significant traffic and safety hazard, including for cyclists and pedestrians.
If the Council are minded to approve this application, then we urge that Conditions are imposed to control and regulate parking for delivery and waste lorries. A robust traffic management scheme must also be put in place during the development process.
For these reasons the Society Object to the application.
The owners of 6 High Street have now lodged an appeal against the Council's decision to refuse consent, which considered the second floor extension would be too obtrusive in the Conservation Area.
Objection for proposed development in North West Harpenden by L & G - 15th March 2023
The Harpenden Society has serious concerns about the adverse impact this proposed development will have on the Town.
We note that the applicants believe there is a “critical” need and demand for new housing in the town, but offer no evidence to support this claim. The Society is no doubt aware that many people may desire to live in the town to enjoy the commons, parks and attractive High Street, not forgetting the well-regarded schools, but all these attributes will be put under threat if such a large development is allowed to take place.
The development would mean the loss of good agricultural food producing land in the Green Belt. Both national and local planning policies are opposed to the loss of Green Belt.
The additional traffic generated will add significant pressures on an already over-crowded road system, which daily results in long tail backs of crawling traffic, adding to pollution and environmental damage.
The tail backs will increase as traffic from the new development emerges onto the main Luton Road. It is likley residents will try to find shortcuts by using Ambrose Lane and the narrow residential streets of Victorian housing where due to the lack of off-street parking, the useable road width is reduced to a single lane.
Already existing residents experience delays obtaining access to doctors and other health care providers, which will be increased by a large influx of new residents.
Car parking in the town is already congested. No doubt some people may be able to cycle to the centre or station but the planned cycle routes are a naïve concept that will be difficult to physically provide and lack separation from cars to ensure a safe journey.
The Society is not against well-conceived residential development but it is essential that the infrastructure of the town is capable of absorbing such a large development and that measures are taken to prevent the town becoming grid-locked and polluted.
Accordingly we object to the application.
Comments by Harpenden Society regarding proposed development at Land to the South of Cross Lane, Harpenden Planning reference, No: - 5/2023/0317
It is evident that the applicants have given much consideration to the layout and design of the proposed development with the inclusion of a range of environmentally efficient house types and sizes together with the intention to include 40% affordable housing some of which will be offered on a shared ownership basis. The provision of new public open space is also noted.
However, whilst the scheme may in itself have merit, the location within the Green Belt is contrary to national and local planning policies. The loss of productive agricultural farmland is also of significant concern when we need to protect our food supply. There are no over-riding reasons to allow erosion of the Green Belt.
The applicants have stated that there is “clear, evidenced, need in the District for new housing generally and self-build housing in particular.” The fact there have been 658 registrations on the Councils website does not prove there is a critical need but rather a desire for many people to live/relocate to the area to enjoy the many attributes the town has to offer, which will be compromised if this and other Green Belt development is approved.
Access to and from the site would be by single width roads across the common, causing erosion of the verges and posing a safety risk for pedestrians as there are no pavements and the area is poorly lit at night. The section of Cross Lane near the proposed site entrance forms part of a Conservation Area and should be protected against damage from intensified use. The principal routes from the site to the A1081 would involve crossing the golf course. There are also riding stables nearby and horses frequently use the adjoining road network.
The nearest Infant/Junior School is The Grove in Southdown. It is not within walking distance nor are there any bus services nearby. Car users will need to travel down Cravells Road which is already a “rat-run”. The top section of Cravells Road is effectively a single width road, due to parked vehicles. The alternative would be to try and access the A1081 and execute a right-hand turn which is a hazardous manoeuvre during peak times. Senior schooling is much further afield and will result in an increase in cross town car journeys.
For these reasons The Harpenden Society wishes to Object to the application.
Built Environment - Looking back
The number of planning applications for residential extension and alteration continues albeit at a lower volume than last year, probably due to the increase costs households are now facing plus the increase in mortgage interest rates. However, the economic cold wind does not seem to have reduced the number of new cafes opening up or dissuaded the owners of 6 High Street (former M & Co) from applying for consent to create a 200 plus seater pub/restaurant with a roof top pavilion. We await the Councils decision to their application.
The Society does have concern that the District Council is not upholding the Policies of the adopted Neighbourhood Plan by granting consent for homes in the Conservation Area to be demolished. This could put at risk many homes that make a positive contribution to the character of the town.
A new Care Home is currently under construction in Coldharbour Lane (below) on the site of the former Chelford Fabrics premises after a successful planning appeal against the District Councils refusal. Another Care Home is also proposed for the former Pan-Auto garage site in Grove Road, even though the applicants had previously obtained consent for a residential flat development which included affordable housing. The size and huge scale of the proposed building has resulted in many objections being lodged, and at the time of writing, we are awaiting the Council’s decision.
Another application which attracted many objections from the public was the redevelopment of the part of Southdown Industrial Estate to build new commercial premises and a Builders Merchant’s Trade Centre. Concerns about HGV traffic movement and noise were the principal issues. The Council have granted consent but they have imposed restrictions on vehicle movement times and require noise reduction measures to be incorporated.
The town now faces new challenges from planned large and medium sized residential schemes which could add up to approx. 850 new homes. The largest of these is the Legal & General scheme on the North West side of the town where they want to build 550 new homes. Wimpey want to construct about 220 new homes on the Eastern outskirts near Pipers Lane, while smaller schemes are planned for 31 homes on the edge of Harpenden Common at Cross Lane and 40 homes next to Aldwickbury Golf Club.
All the sites are in the Green Belt and would result in the loss of valuable farmland. If they are given the go-ahead, they will have a significant impact on the town due to the lack of adequate infrastructure and supporting services, and not forgetting the increase in traffic pollution and pressure on schooling. Three of the planned developments are currently being considered by the Council.
After many years of deliberation, the District Council have decided to withdraw their planning application to develop the Public Halls site at Southdown Road (above) due to lack of funding. Instead of developing the site themselves they are now proposing to sell the site in the open market. This is an important site as it occupies a very prominent location overlooking the Common and also next to some of the oldest historic buildings in the town. The Society will be keeping a watching brief on the anticipated application.
It is clear that the town will be facing significant challenges over the next year. The Society has made representations against the erosion of the Green Belt but it remains to be seen how the District Council will re-act. Whilst the Society will support well-conceived development in the right place, it will continue to lobby against inappropriate schemes that have the potential to impact on the many desirable features of the town.