Local Development Framework

There will be a public consultation meeting on the implications of the Local Development Framework document to be held on Wednesday 9th September in the Marlborough Pavilion, Old Oak off Cottonmill Lane starting at 7.30pm. Please come along and have your say. You can view our response below.

Responses from the Sopwell Residents Association to the Local Development Framework. The St Albans District Council website has got more information, including a long and short version of the plan as PDF download. Visit their page here: www.stalbans.gov.uk/living/planning/local_plan.htm

Our responses as follows

Para 2.9
We endorse the objectives in the vision.

Para 4.24

  • Extension of Griffiths Way from Sainsbury's to London Road: We would be totally opposed to such a scheme for the following reasons:
    - although it may solve a problem elsewhere, this will be at the expense of a residential area which already has issues with speeding traffic;
    - it is generally accepted now that whilst building new roads may temporarily solve a specific problem, it tends in the long run to generate more traffic;
    - it will encourage rat-running;
    - it can only be achieved by either using the route of the Alban Way ? now well established as a cycle/footpath and officially designated as a green space within the District ? or crossing the Ver valley elsewhere, causing considerable landscape and amenity losses.
  • Improvements to King Harry junction: We would be strongly opposed to any scheme which involved loss or damage to either St Stephen's Church or the open space behind it. The concept of a 'by-pass' round the church is totally unacceptable. There needs to be further research to find out where the excess traffic at this junction is going to all possible solutions using e.g. better signage to redirect through traffic should be investigated before major alterations are considered.
  • We would like to see measures explored to reduce speed in some local roads, in particular, Abbots Avenue West, Cottonmill Lane and Holyrood Crescent.

Para 4.27
We endorse the activities of the Community Rail Partnership on the Abbey Line in supporting and encouraging its use. We would also support the passing loop (or other means of increasing train frequency), better integration with other transport modes and later running trains the latter would certainly attract more passengers.

Para 4.29
Buses need to be more frequent and go where people need them. Some people find timetables difficult to understand, so perhaps different ways of providing this information could be explored. Consideration should also be given to wider and more imaginative promotion of existing services, as well as research into which new services might be better used.
A specific example in Sopwell is the lack of buses to the City Station after 9.30am for those wishing to take advantage of cheap train travel.

Para 4.37
Sopwell is an area of lower than average car ownership within the District, so any measures to promote cycling and walking would be welcomed. In the District generally, there is arguably a need to redress the balance between cars and other modes of transport in favour of the latter. For walking, this could include enforcing existing rules to deal with things that make it difficult or uncomfortable especially for those with disabilities or prams such as pavement parking, contractors working in unhelpful ways, timely pavement repairs, removal of overhanging or intrusive vegetation etc. The current culture which assumes that whereas it is not permissible to block the road, it is acceptable to obstruct paths and cycleways, needs to be addressed.
New developments and changes to existing road systems should include adequate walking and cycling provision, for example, footways on all roads, and should be designed so that pedestrians are not required to 'go the long way round' or cross roads unnecessarily as is often the case. Facilities should ideally be located within walking/cycling distance of residential areas to reduce the need for driving. This is particularly important in large new developments away from the city centre.
The Alban Way runs through part of Sopwell, and two specific improvements to that route might be to investigate the provision of proper access ramps at Monks Close and Boleyn Drive, and consider making the footpath at the end of Berners Drive into a shared cycle/pedestrian route.

There should be better/quicker mechanisms for pavement repairs. However, a great deal of damage could be prevented in the first place if people could be persuaded, by enforcement and/or education, not to park on them. This applies to householders, outside schools and shops and also important because of their size to commercial and contractors' vehicles of all types.

Para 4.44
While it is true that there may be more potential opportunities for windfall housing than in the past for the reasons given, we nevertheless feel that this source should not be too heavily relied on. In the first place, not all the sites identified may be suitable. More importantly, given recent local opposition to back garden developments seen as overbearing, we are concerned that developers will be able to use an optimistic windfall allowance to push through plans which might otherwise be seen as unacceptable.

Para 4.52
With the population balance shifting towards older people, it seems likely that increased provision for this group will be needed, in particular, retirement housing with access to a warden or resident manager. There is a need for more units of this type with two bedrooms much provision at present being in the form of bedsits.
Whilst bungalows are clearly not an efficient way to provide family homes, we feel on balance they should be retained, as they are popular with older members of the community who want both single level accommodation and access to a garden. It seems rather illogical to replace a bungalow with a house in one location if a replacement will then need to be built elsewhere to meet demand.

Para 4.57
We agree that this issue should be part of the SCS.

Para 4.65
Adequate provision for travellers is an issue in Sopwell, as our green spaces and other open land seem to be attractive for them. We do not have specific views on this, other than that it is clear more provision is needed, and we would prefer it not to be met by using sites in the Green Belt.

Para 4.71/4.73
Adequate provision of sport and recreation facilities is seen as one way of keeping young people occupied and hence out of trouble.

Para 4.78
Yes. Existing provision needs to be promoted better.

Para 4.85
One significant improvement would be much more imaginative provision of information. At present, much information on Council services is passive for example, the placing of documents in the library (itself only used by a relatively small proportion of the population). More information is now available via the Internet, which is a positive development, but people still need to know that it is there before they can access it. New ways of proactively providing information about services, Council activities and general information of interest to the public (anything from healthy eating to water conservation) need to be explored. Consideration should also be given to the fact that not everyone is comfortable with written information, whether in print or on the Internet.
There are also issues about communication between Country and District, and people's awareness of which they should contact in a given situation.

Para 4.89

Para 4.108
Yes. Much of the housing development in the District consists largely of high value homes, so it seems reasonable to expect high standards of construction.

Para 4.120
Sopwell is on the northern boundary of the community forest area, and we support the aims and objectives of the Watling Chase project. In particular, the Holyrood Crescent open space is actually within the forest boundary, and we would like to see consideration of tree planting (which would help to screen road noise/light from the A414) and other landscape enhancements there. We would also like to see better access for NMUs one possibility might be a safe crossing over the M10/A414 so that the Holyrood Crescent open space (which already has access to Park Street along the river) is joined to the Greenwood Park/St Julian's Wood area, which now has a cycle route on to Bricket Wood.

Link to the community forest website: www.hertscc.gov.uk/../../../cms/wccf/default.htm

Para 4.123
Yes. We have no specific suggestions, but would like to propose that more publicity is given to falling crime figures, since it is generally accepted that fear of crime is at least as great an issue in reducing people's quality of life as actual crime.

Para 4.134
Although there may be situations where greater diversity could be useful, we feel this should be approached with caution and adequate protection built in to any policy. We would also, if possible, like to see policies which protect the viability of small community shopping centres by encouraging a suitable mix of shops so that it would theoretically be possible for someone to do all their shopping there rather than having to travel to a supermarket. As a local example, the parade of shops at Vesta Avenue provides most items needed for daily life, but lacks a greengrocers. This already makes its viability problematic, and if any more of the traditional retailers are replaced, it will become more so.

Para 4.149
Sopwell is fortunate in having more green space than other wards in the District, and this is often mentioned as a reason why people like living here. Given the disadvantages in the area when compared with others, green spaces have particular significance in terms of physical and mental wellbeing. We therefore support the concept of the GAP, and would like to see positive policies in the LDF safeguarding urban green spaces.

Para 4.157
Experience at the flats in Abbots Avenue West, and outdoors at the Priory open space, suggests that designing out potential 'lurking' areas is helpful. In public areas, parks etc., research has shown that making them pleasant and interesting places to be reduces petty crime such as vandalism and nusiance. Research may be needed into what is actually safe/secure rather than what is perceived as safe (e.g. many householders prefer high fences and secure gates around their gardens, although open plan gardens, where any activity around the house is highly visible, may in fact be better in some contexts).

Paras 4.163, 4.166, 4.167
We would like to see emphasis on the view that designating gardens as ?brownfield? does not necessarily make them suitable for development. The recent surge of back garden applications in Tavistock Avenue suggests that policy in this area may need tightening or existing policy applying more strictly. Although we appreciate that each application has to be considered on merit, consideration should be given to a policy which allows existing or proposed nearby back garden developments to be taken into account. In this context, we would endorse the retention of the 27m rule, and a policy to protect residential character from inappropriate or overbearing infill.

Para 5.14
Although we have no specific view on the development of the King Harry playing fields as it is outside our area, we do have concerns about the road and junction improvements associated with it. (See comment on para 4.24 above.)

Paras 5.21, 5.22

  • We would be happy to see all these sites enhanced as part of the Watling Chase project, and have further comments on the following:
    Land south of Park Street roundabout: Being right on the edge of our ward, this area could potentially provide a good opportunity for local residents to access countryside without driving. It also provides a useful buffer between Sopwell/St Albans and Park Street. Residents have expressed concern that this Green Belt site has been mooted at various times as having potential for a park and ride, hotel and new football ground. The Watling Chase proposal would be much preferred.
  • Radlett Aerodrome: Although well outside our area, residents have expressed concern over proposals to site a railfreight terminal on this site. Retaining it for a major landscape scheme within Watling Chase would be much preferred.

Para 6.9
Yes to both. With the increase in applications for back garden development and large extensions (see comments on paras 4.44, 4.163 above), we would welcome any policy that limits the potential inconvenience to neighbours.