St Albans Labour Party Group Submission to the St Albans Draft Local Plan 2020-26 Public Consultation, Sept-Oct 2018
Members of the St Albans Labour Party met on 3rd August 2018 to consider the soundness of key policies in the St Albans Draft Local Plan, during its Regulation 19 Consultation, Sept-Oct 2018.
The Council’s consultation notes suggest that it be would prefer to receive a Group Submission rather than lots of identical submission. As a result, this Group Submission is being made on behalf of 24 members who attended. Members who did not attend the meeting or who wish to add their own points on other policies will still be invited to do so.
In respect of the way the Plan was prepared, noting the supporting information provided with the Plan and also that the Council is acting as part the South West Herts Group of districts, working together on a Joint Strategic Plan, we conclude that the Local Plan is:
- Legally compliant; and
- Complies with the Duty to Cooperate
However, it was the general view of the members’ meeting that a number of Policies in the Local Plan are not Sound. As required by the Consultation, which allows the submission of an attached document, we set out the reasons why the Policies are Unsound and also what Modifications are required to make it Sound.
Policy L3 – Provision of and Financial Contributions towards Affordable Housing
The members were concerned that the percentage of affordable housing sought was too low and that the mix of affordable housing types did not reflect the evidence base.
The Policy seeks to achieve a minimum of 40% affordable homes on sites of 10 or more dwellings.
However, Appendix 6 states that the Strategic Housing Market Assessment “shows more than 75% of all housing need in the District is for Affordable homes”.
If the need is for more than 75% affordable housing, we believe it is only reasonable that the minimum target should be 75% affordable homes on sites of 10 dwellings or more.
Affordable housing type requirements
Of the affordable housing contribution, the Policy seeks a split of 30% social rent, 30% affordable rent and 40% subsidised home ownership.
However, Appendix 6 refers to Table 4.5 of the SHMA Update 2015. An examination of this Table shows that the split was actually: 81% social rent, 16% affordable rent and 3% shared ownership.
If taxpayer-funded evidence has identified the manner in which affordable housing need is split, we believe the Local Plan should reflect that evidence.
Consequently, we have concluded that Policy L3 is Unsound because:
- it has not been Positively Prepared as it is not seeking to meet the needs of the District as identified in the SHMA; and
- is not Justified, because it is not based on proportionate evidence
The modifications required to make Policy L3 Sound would be:
- to raise the percentage of affordable housing required; and
- to change the split of affordable housing types to reflect the evidence.
Policy S5 – Economic Development Strategy and Employment Land Provision
The members were concerned that the Local Plan promoted the building of a business zone adjacent to Hemel Hempstead but nothing specific adjacent to our own District’s main urban areas of St Albans, Harpenden and London Colney.
St Albans, in particular, is home to a high number of digital employers (earning the moniker “Silicon Abbey”), and the Members believed the Local Plan should include a digital business park and associated high quality, fast internet office space in or adjacent to the city to build on this success.
Consequently, we believe that Policy S5 is Unsound because:
- it has not been Positively Prepared as it is not seeking to meet the economic development needs of the District in the right location; and
- is not Justified, because it is an appropriate strategy
The modifications required to make Policy S5 Sound would be :
- to identify employment land close to St Albans to add a second specialist business zone.
Policy L22 – Community, Leisure and Sports Facilities
The Members were concerned that the Local Plan lacked ambition when it came to the provision of key community facilities.
The Local Plan is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape our district to reflect the needs of its local communities. The members thought that whilst Policy L22 was right to seek to deliver more Places of Worship, to protect our Public Houses, to extend Cemetery facilities and to support the principle of a new stadium for St Albans City FC, there were also major deficiencies in this wish list.
Members thought the Local Plan lacked ambition as it had no explicit reference to delivering, for instance:
- a new General Hospital with full A&E facilities – the need for which will only increase if another 14,000 households become resident in the District;
- one or more manned police stations, at least one with a custody suite, to reflect local concerns about a rising crime rate and the increase in late night licensing; and
- improved grass roots sports facilities, particularly in respect of the changing rooms at the District’s parks and open spaces.
Consequently, we consider Policy L22 to be Unsound because:
- it has not been Positively Prepared as it is not seeking to meet the health and safety needs of the District;
- is not Justified, because it does not provide appropriate strategies for health and safety; and
- is therefore not Consistent with the National Planning Policy Framework which devotes an entire Chapter to “Promoting Healthy and Safer Communities”.
The modifications required to make Policy L22 Sound would be:
- to identify land in the District for the provision of a new General Hospital with 24/7 A&E, police stations in St Albans, Harpenden and London Colney and grass roots sports facilities that actually do justice to what we’re told is one of the wealthiest Districts in England.
Policy L18 – Transport Strategy
The members were concerned that the Local Plan lacked ambition when it came to improving sustainable transport options.
Whilst measures to improve opportunities for cycling are welcome, Members were concerned about the lack of ambition and detail in respect of other transport issues. This was considered particularly important given the additional strain on the transport network that another 14,000 households will produce.
The reference to increased frequency of trains on the Abbey Flyer was welcome but where is the detail: how, where and when will it be achieved? Members would like to see ambitious proposals to make the track dual rail throughout, as well as proposal to integrate with existing services in Watford, offering continuous transport in to London as a viable alternative and back up to the Thameslink line. As a minimum, members would like to see specific reference to the Bricket Wood Passing Loop proposed by the Abbey Flyer User Group.
Improved bus services are always welcome but as they have been cut so dramatically in recent years what, specifically, will the Local Plan to do to ensure services will be enhanced?
Improved accessibility at Harpenden Station is welcome but how will the Thameslink services be affected, first, by several thousand more households seeking to commute to London and, secondly, if the Rail Freight goes ahead?
Again, our already-congested roads will become even busier when several thousand new households take to their cars. Where are the specific measures to reduce congestion via improvements to key junctions and/or Park and Ride schemes?
Consequently, we believe Policy L18 is Unsound because:
- it has not been Positively Prepared as it is not seeking to meet the sustainable transport needs of the District; and
- is not Justified, because it does not provide the detail to demonstrate that its strategies are the most appropriate
The modifications required to make Policy L18 Sound would be to
- provide specific detail on how, where and when the Abbey Line will be enhanced, how bus services will be improved and guaranteed and how road congestion will be eased.
Policy L21 – Education
The members’ meeting welcomed the delivery of new schools at the Broad Locations and the new primary school for St Albans Central Areas but were concerned about the lack of a new secondary school to meet existing/growing needs within St Albans.
Members also criticised the lack of any specific provisions for Extended Learning facilities.
Consequently, we submit that Policy L21 is Unsound because:
- it has not been Positively Prepared as it is not seeking to meet the full educational needs of the District; and
- is not Justified, because it is not, therefore, the most appropriate strategy
The modifications required to make Policy L21 Sound would be to:
- identify specific land close to St Albans that could provide a secondary school to serve the Central Area, as well as potential locations that can deliver Extended Learning opportunities.
Policy L25 – Energy and Environment Performance of New Development
The members were concerned that the Local Plan lacked ambition when it came to delivering zero-carbon development through self-generation.
In a District which is home to the Building Research Establishment, Members were concerned about the lack of specific detail on demanding targets for environmentally-friendly new development. The Local Plan, it was thought, should be a leader in the provision of zero- carbon initiatives.
Consequently, we believe that Policy L25 is Unsound because:
- it has not been Positively Prepared as it is not seeking to meet the sustainable energy needs of the District; and
- is not Justified, because it does not provide the detail to demonstrate that its strategies, for instance for wind and solar energy, are the most appropriate
The modifications required to make Policy L25 Sound would be to
- provide specific detail on minimum targets for the production of sustainable energy sources.
A local rough sleeper has contacted Roma Mills asking about a decision taken at the Plans South Committee to refuse an application for some additional units on a housing association site in London Colney. Roma would be pleased to discuss this with the person concerned if he can provide her with a phone number to reach him on. Her contact details are available from the District Council.
St Albans Labour Councillors reject 5.8% Council Tax Hike
Labour leader Roma Mills has blasted the Tory and Lib Dem obsession with austerity that has cost St Albans millions of pounds.She says “Local residents, even in an affluent place like St Albans, can see the results of eight years of the Tory obsession with cutting public services under the guise of austerity. We see wholesale reductions in services across the public sector locally with the pulling of funding from Nascot Lawn, local libraries closing, social care in crisis, rising homelessness because of the council’s inability to house those in need and cuts to the NHS”. Next year’s cuts will mean less funding locally for important services like Home Start, Youth Talk and the Women’s Refuge. Services like grass cutting and road sweeping are at a minimal level already, and will continue to decline. The advice from the Tories is: “Do it yourself” – and if you want a new play area then crowd funding is the answer! The local Lib Dems also deplore the loss of services. However, their party put the Tories into power and supported the austerity agenda being used to destroy local government. Even Torycouncils are saying the cuts are unacceptable and that they fear going broke.
Labour believes in strong local government. Labour councillors voted against the increase in council tax in 2018/19 because residents will just be paying more for less.
St Albans Labour Councillors say,“ build Council Houses again”
St Albans Labour councillors won the support of all the other parties when they asked the council to lobby the government for permission to keep the money from sales and build houses again.The Labour councillors said, “We need to be able to build Council houses again if we are going to meet the needs of local people on low incomes.”Discounts of up to £78,600 are encouraging the ongoing sale of Council houses – and St Albans now has a stock of under 5,000 homes. St Albans has over 100 families in temporary accommodation. The “hidden homelessless”of people lodging with family and friends, is a reality for many local families. Soaring private rents are driving more and more people into these difficult situations.
The District Council cannot replace the homes that have been sold. They must hand the money from sales to the government and cannot borrow to invest in homes for the future. Trying to replace lost Council housing by negotiating for affordable housing in new private developments is not working-the Council has only managed to secure 6 units of social rented housing via this route since 2015.
Council officers will write to the two local MPs to ask them to put pressure on Government ministers
I am writing to you as the CLP’s black and ethnic minorities officer.
The debate on anti-semitism in the House of Commons on 17 April 2018 has shown a deeply felt disquiet about anti-semitism and the abuse and threats that dedicated parliamentarians have experienced. Watching and hearing from those who contributed to the debate, I was left feeling unnerved that this issue hasn’t been addressed with sufficient rigour and further progress needs to be made. It is not in question that anti-semitism is intolerably prevalent generally and also that this is being addressed with commitment.
It’s worth reminding ourselves of the recommendations made in Baroness Chakrabarty’s report following her inquiry in 2016. It concluded that the party “is not overrun by anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, or other forms of racism,” but has suffered from an “occasionally toxic atmosphere” and “too much clear evidence [of] ignorant attitudes”.
Baroness Chakrabarti’s report contained twenty recommendations on tackling instances of racism, These included procedural rule changes to improve the party’s disciplinary process, the adoption and publication of a complaints procedure and the appointment of a general counsel to give advice on issues including disciplinary matters and to take responsibility for instructing external lawyers.
In her interview on Today on Radio 4 this week, Baroness Chakrabarti commented that the progress with implementation has been slow and not all her recommendations made in June 2016 had been implemented. She implied to the BBC there was still a “serious problem”, nearly two years after a report that she wrote for Jeremy Corbyn urging action to address an “occasionally toxic atmosphere”. But she said the new general secretary Jennie Formby had prioritised the issue. She added: “I think it is time to tackle some of the tropes that have been promoted on the left of politics as well as on the far-right of politics, particularly any confusion between anti-elitism and anti-Semitism. That really has to stop.”
Jewish groups, which demonstrated outside Parliament last month, have demanded urgent action – including the full implementation of the 2016 report.
All our party members should support full implementation of the 2016 report to be undertaken as a matter of priority.
Recent changes to immigration law in the UK, which requires people to have documentation to work, rent a property or access benefits, has highlighted a serious issue affecting long-term residents from the Commonwealth and has left many people fearful about their status to live in the UK and the right of access to, e.g, NHS care.Many long term British residents are being subjected to appalling treatment and distress. A large number of commonwealth citizens are having to contend with a lack of help and support .
This diagram shows how many people could be affected….nobody knows!! Many long term British residents are being subjected to appalling treatment and distress. This problem has been going on for years. It is a systemic problem at the Home Office which needs to have a fundamental change in its approach to one of offering assistance to those affected and move way from detention and removal of people who have every right to stay here. A caring and well judged approach by the Home Office is needed. The immigration system should be about individuals and the default position should not be one of overly complex and bureaucratic requirements to be met. The Home Secretary is urged to review the situation urgently and take the necessary action to assist all those who are facing appalling treatment. The Home Secretary has announced yesterday a new task force to help those affected, and promised to waive fees for new documents needed to prove their status to stay in the UK. The announcement is welcome but her commitment needs to be firm and it needs to be demonstrated in practice.
We’re going to be watching!!
Jagat Chatrath, Black and ethnic minorities officer,St Albans CLP
Labour candidates across the City and District are campaigning against the Government’s austerity drive which has cost St Albans millions of pounds and led directly to cuts in public services and a massive hike in Council tax
Labour leader Roma Mills has blasted the Conservative and Coalition Governments’ obsession with reducing the public sector that has stripped funding from local services and left hundreds worse off. At the Council Budget-making meeting she blamed central government dogma that has wiped away millions of pounds earmarked to help the most vulnerable, “Back in 2010 At Albans District Council received over £7m from the government out of general taxation. It’s been whittled down every year since and next year will amount to one big fat nothing.”
Nearly a decade of Tory and LibDem austerity is now resulting in wholesale reductions in services across the public sector with the loss of the last two rehabilitation wards at our hospital, the pulling of funding from Nascot Lawn, local libraries closing, social care in crisis, rising homelessness and ever more families depending on food banks. We no longer have a police station in our District, our schools’ budgets are being squeezed and people are being asked to ‘crowd fund’ to renew our play areas.
That is why Roma and her Labour colleagues voted against the Council’s budget and the inflation-busting increase in Council tax. People are being askd to pay more for less. A vote for Labour on 3 May will send a powerful message to Government that we have had enough.
“Everyone should make sure they vote. There is no room for apathy. Don’t sit back and think there’s no point or it’s someone else’s responsibility. Austerity is a Conservative choice not an economic necessity. It’s time to send a strong message to the government—we have had enough. I urge you to vote Labour”
Jagat has lived in St Albans with his family for over 30 years. He has been active in the community as a magistrate and school governor. As a chartered accountant, Jagat has extensive experience as a statutory external auditor for many public sector organisations
“Councillors need the experience to be able to scrutinise the decisions that are made about spending and the services that are provided. I understand finances and financial management issues”