As if we needed any further evidence, the self-styled ‘listening Prime Minister’ does not listen. All the campaigning and representations against the vastly overblown housing demands being made on our district and county by the proposed "Regional Spatial Strategy" have been ignored.
Thousands of local residents signed the Hands Off Herts e-petition and paper petitions too - and for what? The Government waits till after the local elections and then today confirms concrete not cows for St Albans as Hemel and Hatfield are both extended onto St Albans Green Belt land. We have warned all along that the Government was going to drown our historic cathedral and market city in a sea of new suburbia charmingly called ‘London Arc West’.
Welcome to the ‘London Borough of Hertfordshire’. There is a target set of 5370 more housing units for St Albans by 2021, and St Albans is designated a major town centre. But the real damage comes from the planned increases for Hatfield and Hemel – a combined total of 22,000 houses, which are all additional to the St Albans target yet potentially built in St Albans District. Of course I accept there needs to be more housing in St Albans. All the local councils agreed growth was needed but this is way above any sensible level in terms of local infrastructure capacity.
Even worse, these figures are “floors” not “ceilings” – so there could be more. And they have also today announced that this plan is to be further reviewed with immediate effect. It is madness. St Albans is now specifically identified as a ‘growth town’. You might think that would mean massive investment to ensure our creaking transport, schools, hospitals and other infrastructures copes with the demand these policies will bring.
But what does the Government announce? A simply laughable £600,000 extra for St Albans for the whole period up to 2021 – £20,000 extra per year, barely the cost of a couple of roundabouts in total. Certainly not enough to buy in the expertise that could develop something of real quality and long-term sustainability. This after the Government confiscates £9 million of revenue from St Albans council house rents each year!
Meanwhile Hemel will get £6.5 million and Chelmsford £11 million. At a time when every piece of green space and farmland is more precious than ever, concreting it over cannot make sense. As I have written before, if London had the same population density as Paris, 30 million people could live within its borders. I am not arguing for that of course, but it shows that we could provide much more housing where infrastructure already exists. Instead it’s two fingers to St Albans and two fingers to Hertfordshire from a Government which has lost the plot.