A very occasional blog on matters that are important to me and might resonate with you.

Herefordshire Local Plan Consultation - February 2022

An exciting future for the County could be in our grasp and here I suggest a simple plan for a complicated project – revision of the Local Plan.

 

Government obliges every county to have a plan for the next umpteen years covering mainly infrastructure. After endless consultation the draft plan will be considered by the Planning Inspectorate. At the last review in 2015 a phalanx of property developers lobbied the inspector for vast acres of potential housing land to be included in spite of their unsustainable locations. A small collection of local amenity societies put up valid and well researched reasons for objection. We all know what followed – unsustainable projects nodded through often because our Herefordshire Council do not have the resources for legal battles.

 

As an immigrant into Herefordshire 20 years ago I have much enjoyed all the benefits of this little known about county – most Londoners don’t even know where it is located. We have a fascinating range of attributes that we should all seek to preserve and develop logically in this fast changing world. We have a responsibility and this time there can be a real change. Please do join the debate and log into the Council website with your views and hopefully endorse mine. https://hlp.commonplace.is/ 

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There is only one way to get to Net Zero The fundamental issue is the movement of people and goods. If this can be resolved then so much else follows at minimum cost. So much has been written, so much research conducted and yet creating the nirvana of the perfect 21st Century habitation has alluded us. 

 

I’m proposing we further improve Hereford as the City hub providing focus for the county’s major cultural and sporting events. Market towns will provide similar but with local focus and a major expansion of Ewyas Harold/Pontrilas would service the hinterland in the south west. Rural parishes would work with their local market town. All new development (housing and commercial) to be concentrated in the city, market towns and along the principle transport links; apart from infill in rural areas. The removal of development rights in rural areas and unplanned spasmodic development will help to preserve the natural capital of the county especially for the benefit of tourism – little estates of executive homes do not enhance our environment – they are far from ‘sustainable’ as the National Planning Policy Guidance instructs. Health and local authority service providers will usually be in the towns. Larger rural communities and new ones along the transport corridors will become self sufficient for their general local needs, including small primary schools; and there will be a return to vitality in the market towns where shared services and facilities will continue to be located including learning establishments.

Nearly half of Herefordians live outside of towns in the countryside. How can this half be supported to contribute to the economy and the benefit of the whole County? With big changes coming in the agricultural sector the need for a re- positioning of farming, without losing the benefits of the beautiful landscape, is likely. Merging tourism into our rural landscape is not easy with a poor road network and the needs of farmers and businesses. Surely this is best achieved by restraining miscellaneous building and siting any new developments along the transport corridors. Guidelines from ‘Transport for New Homes’ suggests decent public transport should be available within ten minutes’ walk of all new housing! A reasonable demand and entirely necessary if we are to get to net zero. But we all like our personal vehicles and even when these become driverless we’ll need roads and parking. Let’s remember personal transport is the most convenient and lessens demand on public transport but causes congestion that inspires the use of public transport. Also over 25 percent of inhabitants do not drive and are entitled to a reasonable level of transport support, whether dial-a-ride or similar.

We need to lobby for a new station at Pontrilas, improved rail links to London, Birmingham, Bristol and Cardiff, and principal trunk roads. Building new housing along the improved transport routes complete with light trams would complete the vision. It is not easy and compromise is needed.  Rural Parish Councils will need to work with each other and update Neighbourhood Development Plans.  Public bodies will need to concentrate on their core responsibilities, maintenance of transport links, security, fire, health services and education.

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I perceive there is a general misunderstanding about how Local Authorities work and are funded. Central government provides grants which barely cover the statutory duties imposed upon them. Some funding just passes through their coffers from the Dept.of Education for schools etc. Over 70% of Council revenue expenditure is on adult and childcare – they just don’t have much cash. All councils can do is to inspire the inward investment by the private sector. There is little more that they can do but provide

  • Clear forward plans showing precisely where they would like to see new development.

  • Clear plans where retail should be encouraged and possibly discouraged in less favourable areas

  • Improve outside Hereford Station, after 15 years of plastic barriers and create a transport interchange

  • Continue to encourage our new university and colleges

  • Clinch the eastern river crossing

  • Provide leadership and publicise our new low cost eco city

This idea was first suggested by me (Hereford Civic Society PLACE magazine Summer 2015) and was inspired by Prof. Sir Alan Wilson’s lecture to the nascent NMiTE in March 2015. I believe I was ahead of the game – now the time really is right. To achieve this vision is far from easy – we need leadership to drive this forward.   Might our current administration have the confidence to do this? I think it is the ONLY WAY. Do remember to lobby your local councillor and input into the current consultation.

John Bothamley - February 2022