Stevenage Liberal Democrats objections to the Gresley Park planning application

Since 2016 Stevenage Liberal Democrats have been objecting to the development to the east of Stevenage known as Gresley Park. Gresley Park is within East Herts District Council land but borders Stevenage along Gresley Way. The site was unfortunately included in the East Herts District Plan and removed from the green belt in Autumn 2018. During the consultation process for the district plan Stevenage Borough Council welcomed and supported the development with some minor reservations.

Subsequently a planning application was submitted to East Herts District Council for 618 homes, an 80 bed care home, 50 assisted living homes, a neighbourhood hub and Travelling Showpersons’ site, in January 2019.

Stevenage Liberal Democrats continue to object to the entire development and submitted the following letter to the EHDC planning department;

Stevenage Liberal Democrats
8 Cameron Close

Jenny Pierce
Planning Department
East Herts District Council
Peg Lane
SG13 8EQ

25 February 2019

Dear Ms Pierce,

Planning Application 3/19/0118/OUT Land East of Stevenage (EOS1) Gresley Way Stevenage

We, as Councillors representing Stevenage Borough Council wards which adjoin this development, wish to outline our objections to this development.

We object to this development in its entirety and any future proposed development of this greenfield site. We believe this site is a completely unsuitable location for housing development which should have remained as permanently protected Green Belt land in the East Herts District Council district plan. Numerous other non-green belt development sites exist within East Herts District Council, which should have been used to meet EHDC housing demand, therefore no exceptional circumstances existed for the inclusion of EOS1 in the district plan. We believe EHDC is pursuing a deliberate policy of meeting their housing allocation by attaching new developments to neighbouring authorities, to reduce the objections by their own electorate to new developments neighbouring their own major towns and villages. This development places additional demands on the infrastructure and services of Stevenage residents and without putting in place adequate mitigation measures.

We would like to outline the following specific objections to details provided in the planning application:

The number of vehicle movements predicted by the Transport Assessment is in our opinion vastly underestimated and the methodology flawed. Regardless of however well-planned cycleways, pedestrian links and bus services are, these will not have anywhere near the anticipated effect in reducing vehicle movements. Previous recent developments on the edge of Stevenage which also include cycle/bus links still have the majority of journeys made by car. Transport surveys from these developments which are a similar distance from Stevenage facilities should have been used to calculate likely traffic movements. These increased vehicle movements will cause further delays at road critical junctions throughout Stevenage at peak times.

The three new traffic light-controlled junctions within a 700m stretch of Gresley Way will cause substantial delays to the traffic flows in the area. Gresley Way and the adjoining roads already have significant traffic congestion at peak times and these junctions will cause increased delays. There is no reason for this development of 618 dwellings to require three separate road access points from Gresley Way. Two access points would be sufficient for a development of this size and reduce the traffic impact. The three new junctions will increase the noise and environmental pollution along Gresley Way, cause increased emissions from waiting vehicles and cause the established hedgerow habitats to be destroyed.

The planning application does not seek to make improvements to dangerous Lanterns Lane and Gresley Way junction close to the southern boundary of the site. Seven accidents where persons have been injured have occurred here in the last 5 years. Anecdotal reports of numerous other non- injury crashes have been reported at this location. Additional vehicle movements from the development will increase the hazard at this junction.

This development will place an additional demand on Stevenage services and facilities and does not provide for adequate mitigation. New residents of this scheme will look to Stevenage to provide their secondary education, GP surgery and healthcare needs, parks and recreational facilities. Further detailed information on how these needs will be met and financial contributions towards them should be supplied.

The number 1 bus service which serves Chells, Chells Manor and Poplars is already one of the longest bus routes within Stevenage. It currently takes over 30 mins to travel from Poplars Sainsburys to the town centre bus station along a meandering route. The planning application assumes bus services will be provided to the development by re-routing this service. An additional detour into Gresley Park is likely to add another 5-10 minutes to this bus service. A direct journey taken by car would take less than 10 minutes to reach the town centre. Many residents report this current bus link to be poor and unreliable with buses routinely late or cancelled. Taking into account these factors, it is unlikely that such a poor bus service would encourage Gresley Park residents to use public transport instead of car journeys. We believe the Transport Assessment doesn’t take this into account and over estimates the likely public transport use. Adding additional stops to the route will also further degrade the bus service for existing Stevenage residents.

The submitted plans indicate the footpath along Gresley Way will be upgraded to a 3m wide dual use cycle way and footpath with connections made to the existing Stevenage cycle network at Fairlands Way/Emperors Gate and Six Hills Way/ Chells Way. Cycle and pedestrian links into the existing Stevenage network are an essential requirement and must be delivered as per the outline plans. To achieve a 3m cycle way for this entire section, a significant number of obstacles will need to be removed or altered. Street signs, street furniture, bus stops, embankments and private property boundaries all present potential difficulties. Assurance should be given at this stage as to how a 3m cycle way can be achieved throughout and that funds are available to fully deliver this. Restrictions should be put in place to make sure this 3m cycle way is built in full and ensure it is not downgraded at a later date to whatever size conveniently fits.

The cycle and footway plan should also seek to rectify an existing safety issue on Gresley Way. The current cycle and footway deviates from Gresley Way, behind Barham Road at this point to the Chells Way junction. Cyclists and pedestrians often travel along the grass verge or in the roadway against oncoming traffic at this location to avoid the detour. The Gresley Park development is likely to increase the number of people using this dangerous route. The cycle and footway way improvements should correct this unsafe route and provide safe passage along the length of Gresley Way.

We believe that the location of the site allocated for the travelling showpersons’ site is entirely unsuitable as it will cause the destruction of approximately 6500 square meters of broad leave woodland which contains a number of protected species. The Ecological Impact Assessment confirms that this woodland (reference W1) which is to be destroyed contains; Bluebells (Hyacinthoides Non-scripta) which are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside act (1981); protected bats species with 32 bat passes per hour recorded at the nearest monitoring point; Dunnock birds which are an amber listed species listed under Section 41 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and evidence of Badgers demonstrated by the presence of setts and droppings. The vehicle entrance to the site is also likely to cause dangerous vehicle movements close to the busy roundabout on Gresley Way. This is another unnecessary access from the development onto Gresley Way.

This development is opposed by a large number of local residents due to the reasons stated above with over 900 signing a petition against it on the Stevenage Borough Council website.

Yours Sincerely

Councillor Robin Parker CC (Manor Ward SBC & Chells Division HCC)
Councillor Graham Snell (Manor Ward SBC)
Councillor Andy McGuinness (Manor Ward SBC)
Councillor Tom Wren (Chells Ward SBC)