Mark: Have your say, shape our community

Have your say, shape our community

What are we to make of the draft District Plan, on which East Herts Council are currently consulting? After all - once adopted – the Plan will shape Bishop’s Stortford and other towns and villages. Indeed, it will be the legal framework against which all development will be judged for the next 16 years.

We need more homes people can afford

First, we need more homes and homes which people can afford. Too many of our teachers, nurses and police officers simply can’t afford to live in the area they serve. Nor can many other families on lower incomes. That can’t be right. So, I support more homes being built – but East Herts must enforce the rules about ensuring enough homes are truly affordable.

Better rail and roads

Secondly, this growth must be matched by investment in our infrastructure and in our public services. We all know that our roads and railways struggle at peak times. It’s why I’ve campaigned hard for more investment in trains, stations and tracks for our railways and am supporting improvements to our road network. We’re making progress but where larger schemes are planned we need to be confident about the local road network.

Better services are vital

This extends to our public services. Developers can and should contribute but our public agencies must lead the way.  We already need more school places and I have lobbied NHS England locally to ensure we get bigger and better GP practices. The draft Plan must reflect these clear needs.

Reuse brownfield land

Third we need to reuse land and buildings better, not always focus on new development on greenfield sites. We need to ensure that our existing buildings and developed land is put to the best possible use. Brownfield land must be prioritised and we should be bolder when it comes to housing densities in built up areas.

10,000 homes on Green Belt is wrong

Fourth, I don’t agree with the proposal for 10,000 houses on Green Belt land at Gilston. The area around Gilston could consider taking a smaller number, perhaps 2000-3000, but that development should be led by local people through the Neighbourhood Plan process. Local people in the area could then decide where those homes went, and the public services and infrastructure they wanted alongside. Indeed, that might avoid the need for the development to involve so much Green Belt land. So, policy GA1 needs changing.

However there is a dilemma here. We need to get an adopted District Plan and soon.  Without one the whole district will be far more vulnerable to speculative development. That is in no one’s interest. So my approach will be to try and improve the plan, not destroy it.

There are many other issues and I will respond to those in due course. However, my last comment is to encourage everyone to have their say. Whatever your views it’s vital that you take time to look through the plan and have your say. It will shape our communities for the next generation.

You can find a link to the District Plan consultation web page here