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East Herts Green Party Comment on Ware North and East Development Plan

The Green Belt was established in 1955 to stop urban sprawl, but the Conservatives are allowing increasing development in Hertfordshire’s green belt as part of their plan to suburbanise the London to Cambridge corridor. Green Party policies on the green belt are clear and unambiguous. The Green Party strongly supports the provision of green belts to contain urban sprawl, to maintain the separation of settlements, to protect prime agricultural land around settlements, to encourage urban regeneration and compact towns and cities.

The farmland and woods, hills, streams and meadows to the north of Ware are a beautiful part of our green and pleasant land, and are a resource for us all, but are under assault from greedy developers who prefer the high profits of building on Green Belt to the hard work of sensitive development of towns. Generations of Ware residents have enjoyed walks across these fields, have played there as kids, and watched crops grow and wildlife thrive as the seasons came and went. Now that’s all under threat from this assault by corporations and the privileged few, putting profit over our environment, people and the places they love.

Ware is one of England’s great historical market towns. We are proud of it. We want to be proud of its future development too.

The development should not go ahead.

The Green Party opposed the movement of the Green Belt boundary to the north and east of Ware. The Green Belt provides a vital ‘lung’ for Ware in an area of poor air quality. Ware is a small town, and its character should be preserved. Its infrastructure is unable to cope with a large development which will significantly increase the town’s population. As such we continue to argue that the development should not go ahead.

There is an opportunity cost to building Ware North and East (WNE), the price will be paid in lost agricultural production, lost biodiversity and the lost amenity of informal recreation. Farmers need support from national and local government to produce food for this country, support they are not getting and the paving over of prime farming land for WNE is a sad reflection of that lack of support.

There is no proven local need for the project. We challenge the basis on which the District Plan was made, as it fails to meet local needs. The average price of a new house in East Herts is over £500,000 (significantly higher than neighbouring counties) and with high prices and local demand low new houses go to commuters from outside the district, traditionally London but increasingly Cambridge and elsewhere.  With public transport links so poor developments such as WNE drain life from the towns they are built next to, and contribute to road congestion, overburdening services, poor air quality and climate change.

However, since the District Plan includes this development, and the masterplan has been approved, we recognise that it is likely that the development will go ahead against the wishes of local residents. The building of over 1000 houses on the edge of Ware will have a huge and largely negative impact on the town and the surrounding area. East Herts Green Party is unable to prevent this happening because the Conservative Party at every level from national government down to Town and District Councils has decided not to listen to the people of Ware and East Herts, and to impose an inappropriate level of construction on green field sites, including destruction of our precious Green Belt.

It is therefore vital that as much as possible is done to mitigate the negative consequences of the Ware North and East building programme, and to ensure that the plans have the least possible impact on existing communities and the environment. The East Herts Green Party feels an obligation to put forward proposals to achieve this, and not just give free rein to supporters of WNE.

The Recent Consultation

We strongly object to the outright refusal of Ptarmigan/JTP to hold a weekend consultation day, preventing working Ware citizens in particular from viewing their latest plan. This despite the urging of members of the Neighbourhood Planning Forum and Town Councillors that they should do so. Ptarmigan/JTP’s ridiculous assertion that no venue could be found for a weekend consultation is taken as sign that they have no interest in genuine consultation with as many Ware people as possible at this point. We are unimpressed by the weak plan they presented which has progressed barely at all from that presented at the first consultation in 2019, and lacks much of the detail needed to move to the next planning stage.

The only conclusion we can draw is that Ptarmigan/JTP wish to force a fait accompli onto Ware. This is unacceptable.

The Scale of Development

There is no evidence that the infrastructure in the area can support the building of 1000 houses, let alone the possibility of 1500. In several years of planning, the developers Ptarmigan/JTP have come up with no ideas at all that mitigate the demands that will be placed on Ware as a result of the new construction, and in particular questions of traffic congestion and the health, air quality and climate consequences resulting from putting thousands of new cars into and already overcrowded area remain unanswered.

Train services are also inadequate to manage a major new influx of passengers at peak times, and there is no foreseeable way to increase capacity to meet this new demand. The distance to be travelled from WNE to Ware station will encourage most people to take to cars, producing further problems, unless proper integrated public transport provision is made (see below)

The East Herts Green Party therefore insists that the maximum size of the development should be the minimum allowed in the District Plan at 1000 houses, and that East Herts Council should include this maximum figure in granting planning permission. We also insist that this development becomes a model development fit to be built in the age of climate crisis.

The Cowfields

The Cowfields have been spared the construction of housing to be maintained as a community asset. This is good but not sufficient. They cannot be transformed into a neatly trimmed and largely biologically sterile park but should be maintained as a nature reserve which is used only once a year as the site of town fireworks, and otherwise for informal recreation including dog walking and sledging.

Current berry bushes must be maintained for foraging by citizens of Ware, and site management be as currently down, to maintain pollination sources for insects, the diversity of flowers, other plants and wildlife.

The proposed cycling/walking path to Wodson Park should take the route of the road to the Round House and through the prosed new build there, not through the Cowfields as it would damage the current ecosystem and pattern of use.

Standards of Housing

Housing, and indeed all new build, in Ware North and East must be sustainable. Houses should be built with green energy production facilities included on every building – solar panels with electric heat pumps in place of gas boilers. All buildings should be insulated to Passivhaus standard as a minimum. The impact on what are already scarce water resources in the region needs to be factored into planning, with grey water use technology included in all houses. Houses need electric car charging points with proper off-road parking spaces to prevent dangerous street crowding. There must be extensive provision for social housing, as well as for genuinely affordable private homes both types of housing built to the same environmental standard as housing for sale.

The Secondary School

We object to the placing of the secondary school close to the A10 with the objective of transporting children from Bengeo as part of its catchment area. The secondary school should be placed towards the middle of the new development where the maximum number of pupils will be able to walk and cycle to school. No provision should be made for parent parking on site, and roads near the site should be double yellow lined to prevent parking.

Hertford councillors have not been officially consulted on the plan to draw pupils from Hertford to Ware and those asked do not approve.

Community Services

Firstly, the new community should be just that, a community. It will need facilities to make it a self-sustained neighbourhood. This is essential to minimise the need for car journeys which would otherwise contribute to poor air quality, wider climate degradation and the choking of already overcrowded local roads.

Provision in the plan for small neighbourhoods with shops/services is good. These should be walkable and cyclable for all.

Provision is made in the plane for secondary and primary schools. Centres in WNE should include provision for a wide range of services all of which are seriously overstretched in East Herts, including medical and dental facilities as those in Ware are overcrowded, with registration at NHS dentist being more or less impossible.  Additional local police and fire services should be provided for, as should social services. Provision should also be made for additional hospital capacity and means of affordable, easily accessible and regular public transport to access such capacity.

Roads

There should be no access from roads in the new development to Fanhams Hall Road as neither Wareside, nor the roads in Ware into which it feeds – High Oak Road and Musley Hill – can cope with the increased volume of traffic. Nor should there be access from the new development to the B1004 at Widbury Hill as neither Stansted Abbotts nor Star Street or King Edwards Road in Ware can cope with the increased volume of traffic that would result. This is, without doubt, the weakest part of a poor plan, as the introduction of thousands of extra cars into Ware is far beyond the possibility of the infrastructure of a medieval market town to absorb.

According to government data [1], the average number of cars per household in the east of England is 1.35, although our canvassers and leafletters suggest a higher figure for Ware. When you add in traditional delivery services such as post and milkman, then add internet shopping deliveries and public transport vehicles, gridlock will be inevitable.

Walking and Cycling

All roads in WNE should prioritise walking and cycling, with proper segregated cycle and walking paths, safe from motorised transport a must. With small neighbourhoods and localised facilities, these should be seen as the primary modes of transport in WNE. We expect and demand a new Walking and Cycling body to coordinate and implement this essential element of the plan.

Alternative Transport Methods

The proposed circular bus service is welcome but completely inadequate to meet need.

Plans for WNE should include innovative environmentally friendly options including Bikes/Electric bikes/scooters to rent; Lynx bus dial a ride minibus service, the vehicles for which should be electric; circular bus running more frequently than planned as a large minibus service; park and ride at Wodson Park to discourage driving into Ware centre and electric car club.

The primary methods of transportation in Ware North and East, and between there and Ware and Hertford should be walking/cycling and/or public transport.

Green Spaces

There must be ample provision of green spaces for recreation including high quality play areas suitable for children of all ages. Easy walking path/bridleway access to from the existing town through the development at multiple points surrounding countryside is vital. These green spaces should be a haven of good habitat for wildlife.

Sport fields for a wide variety of sports should be provided.

There should also be substantial provision of allotment space, community orchards and berry bushes for foraging.

It would be important to have large, enclosed dog exercise facilities for those whose dogs cannot be let off the lead.

Protection of the Bourne and other streams

The plan needs to identify key flood risk & poor water quality locations, and commit to integrated urban infrastructure projects to conserve rainwater (Sustainable Drainage (SuDS)) and reduce flood risk.

Hertfordshire County Council data states that by 2050 Hertfordshire could see a 17% increase in winter rainfall. Rainfall is occurring in sharper, heavier bursts that overwhelm gutters, gullies, and drains. Climate change means an increase in the hazard risk of extreme rainfall events. Urban development means more hard surfaces eg tarmac and concrete. These impermeable surfaces create rapid run off into gulleys etc. Old infrastructure is overwhelmed so flooding is likely to occur more frequently.

Communities and individuals suffer, including loss of human life, property damage, crop destruction, livestock loss, flood water pathogens and health deterioration from waterborne diseases.

While developers must comply with EA specifications for SuDS, given climate change there are concerns that this is insufficient to deal with future risk.

There is also significant concern that streams which are currently polluted by nitrates and other agricultural run off would be severely damaged by increased toxic run off from built over areas. This would be extremely damaging for biodiversity not only in these small streams, but also in the River Lea and other rivers into which they drain.

To maintain biodiversity and provide for net gain in and alongside these watercourses the plan should take a Catchment Based Approach (CaBA) with support for farmers. (See link: http://www.riverleacatchment.org.uk/) We propose a 50m exclusion zone along the banks of all watercourses. Reserved for walking, such zones would prevent diffuse pollution from nitrates and phosphates and run off/incidents. Such zones are adopted, for example, in Sweden.

Links to Ware and Hertford and beyond

Links from the new community to Ware, Hertford and the surrounding area must be sustainable and in keeping with the rural nature of Ware’s surroundings. Cycle and walking paths must be integrated into planning from the beginning, giving the possibility of safe and easy non-car access to Ware and Hertford. This should be stressed as the primary method of reaching Ware town centre, alongside well planned, extensive, rapid and environmentally sustainable methods of public transport to link to towns, especially to rail infrastructure.

The plan should also identify how transport links from WNE will connect to the new Hemel to Harlow rapid transit system. There are similar needs for significantly enhanced public transport along the A10 corridor and the A602 to Stevenage. This is an opportunity to ensure that new build does not just add to congestion.

Conclusion

The plan drawn up for the development of Ware North and East is a poor one. It is unnecessary and will overwhelm the already overstretched infrastructure of East Herts. The East Herts Green Party believes the development should be halted, but failing that have set out ideas to mitigate the harm that will be done to Ware with drastic changes to current proposals. We want a plan fit for life in the climate crisis, not one hastily drawn on the back of a 1970s envelope.

[1] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1017101/nts9902.ods

14 thoughts on “East Herts Green Party Comment on Ware North and East Development Plan

  1. I wholeheartedly agree. Having seen the destruction HS2 is causing and looking at the living “silos” built near Buntingford and Bishops Stortford, it is of deep concern how little thought is being given to development across the UK and here in Ware. There are so many brownfield sites available. Please review this disastrous plan.

  2. I am particularly concerned about the flooding issue, also the access from the development to the minor roads past Fanhams Hall and to the road to Wareside. I totally agree that there should be no access from the development to these narrow minor roads. One of the benefits to living in Ware has been the close access to rural walks and the surrounding countryside without having to get into the car. We must preserve this rural environment as much as possible and keep this rural feel. We don’t want to lose Ware’s identity as a small historically important town.

  3. I completely agree with this response which is considered & thorough. Whilst recognizing there is public perception that demand for new housing continues to grow, unsubstantiated in my view, how can we countenance cementing over vast tracts of our precious green belt without having exhausted all the brownfield opportunities that exist first.

  4. I currently walk the fields behind Linwood Rd with my dog & have walked these fields for over 30 yrs. I love the wildlife including all the birds that gather in the trees. As being on my own now those fields have been my lifeline during the past couple of difficult years. I’ve seen deer, hares, hedgehogs & even orchids. How sad that this will all disappear & future generations will not see all this. It is just greed on developers part. How can this Country ever be self sufficient if we concrete everywhere over. People move here to be near the countryside & breathe in clean air. How can Boris tell other countries not to chop their forests down but do just that here – very sad.

  5. I agree with the need to preserve green spaces, providing habitats for flora and fauna and areas for local people to enjoy. The town of Ware already has infrastructure problems so adding another housing development will only increase the pressure on this. Quality of life should be prioritised over quantity of houses.

  6. Totally agree this development is far to big for Ware, train services cannot cope, the amount of traffic it would bring to Ware would result in gridlock. Also they say posted out 9000 leaflets, I live on the High Street in Ware and did not receive one, so did not attend the presentation, I would have done if received. So agree that are not trying to engage with local people, the meeting should have been done at the weekend and advertised better.

  7. I agree with the comments above. It seems that the Ptarmigan plans have, as usual. been for the benefit of Ptarmigan only. I have no wish to see yet another huge development stain the Hertfordshire countryside, of which there is precious little left.
    I keep hearing that these new homes are necessary but have yet to know anyone who has bought one. Certainly my friends and colleagues can’t afford these new homes. I am of an age to have seen the beauty of unspoilt country, of rolling fields ,woodlands, abundant wildlife and hedgerows alive with birds. Alas these things are long gone, replaced by roads, houses and shopping outlets.
    I was unable to attend the limited open day, but I too worry about the impact of the extra vehicles on our small roads. 1500 houses equates to @3000 vehicles, I shudder to think of the congestion in Ware and its surrounding roads. Also medical facilities, GPs, hospital beds, water and waste services, so much will be affected but I’m sure, unaddressed by the developers.
    I’m sure this development will be given approval by the government, it means revenue for their coffers, but as usual, it will be the locals who suffer. Anything that can be done to mitigate the effects of these developments must be done. Although I am at a loss to suggest anything practical.

  8. A comprehensive and extremely well-voiced summary of the issues worrying us residents of Ware. How can this possibly be of benefit to our historic town? It is a disaster in the making. These suggestions are an attempt to mitigate what will be a disastrous development, affecting quality of life for people, flora and fauna.

  9. Already written to JTP, basically I told them that it has not been thought out correctly, as someone mentioned the lovely town that is my home is now gridlocked at certain times of the day into the town due to new builds carried out all ready. Where are residents of this enormous project supposed to park?Is it going to be another Ware Road problem with residents having to park half up the pavement. If the Council still insist on going ahead with this project and do not really care about the residents concerns then the only way I can show my disappointment of them is at the next election, which I can assure you I do care about.

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