Stevenage MP: 'I firmly believe the Gresley Park plans should not be granted'

PUBLISHED: 17:25 20 February 2019 | UPDATED: 17:37 20 February 2019

A view of Beane Valley  part of the proposed Gresley Park site  on the outskirts of Stevenage. Picture: DANNY LOO

A view of Beane Valley  part of the proposed Gresley Park site  on the outskirts of Stevenage. Picture: DANNY LOO

©2019 Archant

The MP for Stevenage has strongly objected to plans to build up to 618 homes, a school and other facilities on the outskirts of the town.

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland has penned a letter in opposition to Gresley Park. Picture: Chris McAndrewStevenage MP Stephen McPartland has penned a letter in opposition to Gresley Park. Picture: Chris McAndrew

Stephen McPartland has written to the East Herts District Council’s planning department, expressing his “disappointment” that a hybrid planning application for the housing at Gresley Park, as well as a primary and pre-school, care home and up to 60 assisted living homes off Gresley Way.

In the letter, Mr McPartland said: “I am disappointed a hybrid planning application has been accepted, which suggests the development is a fait accompli.

It is clear East Herts District Council intends to ignore the concerns of local residents, just as they ignored them during the inquiry into the East Herts Local Plan, which removed this area from the Green Belt.

The proposed location of Gresley Park.The proposed location of Gresley Park.

“The proposed development will have a detrimnetal impact on existing local infrastructure and raises serious environmental concerns. The application has also been submitted in contravention of principles set out in the National Planning Policy Framework regarding consultation of local communities.

“I am concerned that the proposed application does not provide sufficient mitigation schemes to alleviate the increased flow of traffic along Gresley Way.

“It is also clear from objections raised by the local authority in Stevenage that little to no consultation has taken place regarding the impact of an additional 600 homes on the already busy Gresley Way.

The proposed site layout of Gresley Park.The proposed site layout of Gresley Park.

“In terms of educational provision, there is a great disparity and failure to co-operate with Stevenage Borough Council, regarding the provision of additional secondary education.

“The development will also significantly impact the Beane Valley and River Beane. Chalk stream environments are extremely rare, with only 200 in the world, and it is shocking that such an important ecosystem will be threatened to make way for this development.

“This breach of the Beane Valley by the proposed development will have a negative impact on settlement pattern and local individuality, absorbing Aston into the suburbia of Stevenage town and ignoring the concerns and objections raised by local people, Aston Parish Council and the local protection group known as PACE.

A view of the proposed Gresley Park site in Beane Valley, Stevenage. Picture: DANNY LOOA view of the proposed Gresley Park site in Beane Valley, Stevenage. Picture: DANNY LOO

“Myself, constituents and stakeholders consider the unfavourable outcome of the consultation to have been predetermined and I refer to my previous objections to the development as part of EHDC’s Local Plan.

“I firmly believe that the application to develop the land alongside Gresley Way should not be granted, as its approval would be to the detriment of the infrastructure, environment and characteristics of the area to the east of Stevenage. I share the concerns of my constituents and believe the application should be rejected.”

More than 330 others have also lodged objections to the application, more than 600 have joined Facebook group Say NO to Gresley Park, two petitions have been launched and more than 700 people have joined the Gresley Park Interest Group against the plans.

Beane Valley – pictured here looking towards Walkern – is under threat from the Gresley Park plans, with concerns also raised about traffic congestion, which is already a problem in Walkern Road near Box Wood as the picture above demonstrates. Pictures: Stephen SypulaBeane Valley – pictured here looking towards Walkern – is under threat from the Gresley Park plans, with concerns also raised about traffic congestion, which is already a problem in Walkern Road near Box Wood as the picture above demonstrates. Pictures: Stephen Sypula

In addition, Stevenage Borough Council has produced a 12-page report expressing concerns about several aspects of the plan’s provisions.

The report – which includes issues such as affordable housing, education and health provision and traffic noise – will be discussed at a meeting of the full council on Wednesday, February 27, from 7pm in the council chamber at Stevenage Borough Council’s offices in Danestrete.

Stevenage Borough Council’s executive member for environment and regeneration, Councillor John Gardner, said: “We welcome development in Stevenage but we are seeking assurances regarding this plan and we have previously raised objections to aspects of this project.

A view of the proposed Gresley Park site in Beane Valley, Stevenage. Picture: DANNY LOOA view of the proposed Gresley Park site in Beane Valley, Stevenage. Picture: DANNY LOO

“We continue to have significant concerns with regards to a number of important issues with the development including the road junction on Gresley Way, impact on a number of services including the provision of education, medical services and increased road congestion.

“We welcome the opportunity for all councillors to discuss this subject at next week’s full council meeting.”

Please be advised there is limited seating in the council chamber’s public gallery. If you wish to attend February’s full council, seating will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

Mr McPartland’s letter, in full, reads as follows:

RE: Planning Application 3/19/0118/OUT Land at East of Stevenage known as Gresley Park

I wish to make clear my strong objections to the above planning application.

I am disappointed a hybrid planning application has been accepted, which suggests the development is a fait accompli. It is clear East Herts District Council (EHDC) intends to ignore the concerns of local residents, just as they ignored them during the Inquiry into East Herts Local Plan, which removed this area from the Green Belt.

The development looks to seek full planning permission for the spine road with site access, and then outline planning permission for the development of up to 618 homes, with primary and pre-school facilities, community and shopping facilities. It is clear that if the spine road is given the go ahead, then the full planning permission for the development of homes will be a rubber stamping exercise.

The proposed development will have a detrimental impact on existing local infrastructure and raises serious environmental concerns. The application has also been submitted in contravention of principles set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) regarding consultation of local communities.

I am concerned that the proposed application does not provide sufficient mitigation schemes to alleviate the increased flow of traffic along Gresley Way. The NPPF states in Paragraph 108 that ‘any significant impact from the development on the transport network (in terms of capacity and congestion)….can be cost effectively mitigated to an acceptable degree.’ In the Main Text & Appendix A of the developer’s Transport Assessment, it is stated in Table 7.2 that the average flow of vehicles on Gresley Way on a neutral day numbers in the region of almost 16,000; this does not take into account the three vehicle access points into and out of the proposed development, as illustrated in the proposed site plan submitted by the developers.

The free flow of these entry and exit points into the development all rely on Gresley Way to be hazard free, which cannot be guaranteed even without an additional unknown number of vehicles used by residents and proprietors of the Gresley Park site. Assessment by the developers concludes in paragraph 8.12 that there will be ‘no significantly adverse impact…upon the surrounding highway network,’ however I am concerned that not enough consideration has been given to the number of additional vehicles using the road daily to access the development. It is also clear from objections raised by the local authority in Stevenage that little to no consultation has taken place regarding the impact of an additional 600 homes on the already busy Gresley Way.

In terms of educational provision, there is a great disparity and failure to co-operate with Stevenage Borough Council, regarding the provision of additional secondary education. In the Statement of Common Ground between the proposed site developers and EHDC, it is cited in paragraph 8.1 that ‘Gresley Park will include the provision of a site to accommodate a new 2 form entry primary school …. Together with contributions to wider education provision.’ However, it is important to note in the Duty to Co-Operate Memorandum of Understanding, East Herts Council and Stevenage Borough Council, paragraph 5.9 states ‘it is acknowledged that no additional capacity exists in secondary schools within Stevenage and no new provision was made…to meet the needs of the Gresley Park Development.’

The development will also significantly impact the Beane Valley and River Beane. Chalk stream environments are extremely rare, with only 200 in the world, and it is shocking that such an important ecosystem will be threatened to make way for this development. This breach of the Beane Valley by the proposed development will have a negative impact on settlement pattern and local individuality, absorbing Aston into the suburbia of Stevenage town and ignoring the concerns and objections raised by local people, Aston Parish Council and the local protection group known as PACE.

I understand Hertfordshire Constabulary have also made EHDC aware that they do not support the application, as it does not satisfy Secured by Design principles.

Finally, I wish to raise objections to the Gresley Park development on points made clear in Chapter 2.9 of the NPPF where it is stated that ‘planning policies and decisions should play an active role in guiding development…but in doing so should take local circumstances into account.’ The NPPF states in Chapter 12.128 that ‘Applicants should work closely with those affected by their proposals to evolve designs that take account of the views of the community’ and EHDC’s Statement of Community Involvement states similarly that ‘Before making a major planning application, prospective applicants should preferably: consult the local community on overall and specific aspects of their proposals; and consider the consultation responses received, and take them into account before making their planning application.’

Myself, constituents and stakeholders consider the unfavourable outcome of the consultation to have been predetermined and I refer to my previous objections to the development as part of EHDC’s Local Plan.

I firmly believe that the application to develop the land alongside Gresley Way should not be granted, as its approval would be to the detriment of the infrastructure, environment and characteristics of the area to the east of Stevenage. I share the concerns of my constituents and believe the application should be rejected.

Yours sincerely,

Stephen McPartland

Member of Parliament for Stevenage

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