Planning (Part 34)

Martin & Mandy

Sorry about this - normally I manage to fit a picture or two into our articles, but this month I'm hard pushed to find an appropriate picture, and I need the space for words. I do promise you that normal service will be resumed next month.

Some time ago I asked the conservation officer at the council who was looking after the St Bartholomew's project whose side she was on, and she said to me 'the buildings'. I replied that this was fine as so were we, and we should get on like a house on fire, which is just what has happened. She's helped us along the way and on several occasions I've used her as a bounce board for ideas - she's independent of trades people and so has no interest in one person or another doing work, and she certain does not care about the cost of an activity - but she definitely has the interests of the building at heart.

Before we started this project you could find people who would tell you tales of woe about listed buildings where English Heritage caused all sorts of trouble.. Again this was not our experience, and the case officer for the project was and still is deeply interested in what we are trying to do, and proved more of a help than a hindrance.

Recent events made me think about this and our experiences of the planning system, and the thing that's made it work for us from the start is that we have considered ourselves merely custodians of the building. Ok we will add a layer of modernity to it - the roof was missing before we started - but we will also add 300+ years to the life expectancy of the building. We have revived Roger Hale and his story, along with all the other personal histories we've been able to bring to light. We have tried not to commit any conservation crimes in the process, and in general I believe we have done well by the building. We have certainly spent more money than any sane people would and we will leave our stamp on the world when we are gone in St Bartholomew's. This is the reason why our experiences with English Heritage and the Conservation officer have not matched the rumours in the world; we are basically not a 'Developer'.

The other side of the coin landed on my door mat this week in the shape of a letter from Hertfordshire council about the Hare Street Road development asking us for our comments since we are basically a neighbour to the site. Now let's get one thing out the way first, turkeys never vote for Christmas and neither do home owners want airports, waste processing plants, oil refineries, supermarkets, sky scrapers or 160 houses next to their homes - and we are no exception to this rule. However, we do accept there is the need for growth as the population is growing, and this requires houses, but I'd like it to be part of a planned process.

The thing that's missing at the moment in Buntingford is a County wide plan for housing and a Buntingford plan for development, both these I understand are in hand and due for publication. However in the meantime Buntingford has already seen the development opposite the Sainsbury depot of Kingfisher Park, this was in the region of 150 homes, a fair chunk of which are still under construction, with a number of those already completed remaining unsold. It's a large development of houses one on top of another and driven by a developer who's frankly in it for the money who has tried to get as many houses in as possible. Whenever I drive past I can't but help think of Pottersville from the film 'It's a Wonderful Life' where Henry Potter's aspirations of densely packed but profitable (for him), housing is imagined, rather than the idyllic world of Bedford Falls and the long suffering George Bailey. In the film Potter's nemesis is George Bailey who runs the Building and Loan savings company which provides comfortable houses for the benefit of the community, as part of a plan for the community - most certainly not for profit, and it's a striking difference in the end result that's portrayed.

Another example of this is the Railway Inn site - where 8 little houses are being crammed into a tiny site, each house having a garden barely the size of a family car from what I can see. Thank goodness there's countryside in walking distance down Hare Street - for now.

The Hare Street Road proposal is from a different developer to Kingfisher Park, or the Railway Inn site, but the principle is identical, trying to get in quick on the planning angle before the release of a town or county plan which may block their scheme.

As I mentioned, Turkeys don't vote for Christmas and I accept the need for more housing but I really cannot understand why this is not being accomplished once a plan has been created for Buntingford, rather than simply letting random developers pick off parts of the Town that they have access to because people are prepared to sell. To those that say there's an immediate need ... not so! If there were an immediate need then the Kingfisher Park development would have been sold long ago, and that's not happened.

We all have a chance here to influence the world we live in, Mandy & I are lucky enough to be able to do our bit in helping some of our history survive, but we can all voice our views on the way our Town grows. I want to live and retire in Bedford Falls (aka Buntingford) and not in Pottersville (the result of developers circling ready for the kill) and if you feel the same way I'd urge you to look at the Hare Street proposal (either on the website or at the Manor House) and object to it before it's too late (Nov 8th). Write to Hazel Izod, the planning officer for development at East Herts Council planning department quoting application number 3/12/1657/FP and Councillors Surjit Basra & Stan Bull at the Manor House in Buntingford and make your feelings known.Published Version

It's not constructive to object to all housing development in Buntingford, remember we are all like turkeys on this one, but it is sensible to object to housing that does not benefit the town, merely provides profit for a company who have no care for an overall design. Far better to produce a plan that covers the Towns' growth over the coming years and then allow developers to produce the houses that provide us with a coherent and functioning town, rather than a patch work of homes scattered across the area, causing congestion and overcrowded spots, which will just line the pockets of people who don't even live in Buntingford.

Rant over, but please think about acting on this topic, as Hare Street might not be the right place for new development. Next month we will introduce you to the Green Man!! Sounds scary, but we are firmly back on track with a stunningly nice act from a person who we had never met till a few weeks ago.