Many people are not yet aware that the consultation on the new revised preferred option for Hereford has already started. The parish councillors of Breinton, Stretton Sugwas and Credenhill were some of the first to hear the revised housing figures for the county over a new timescale, 2011 to 2031, but it seemed these were the only elements of the plan for the future of the County that had changed since Herefordshire Council’s consultation last autumn.
It was disappointing and rather unfair that the councillor chosen to share the Conservative vision for the period 2011 to 2031 had not been properly briefed on many of the important details. For example, no one had told him that in the consultation last year the public had soundly rejected the original “preferred option” (by over 80% on nearly every question) not just for the levels of growth, but on aspects such as movement and allocation of the strategic sites. The unfortunate councillor was also unaware that a new relief road will not be complete before 2031 and when it was, Greyfrairs bridge would be down to being single carriageway. Fortunately, the forward planning officers were able to assure him that there was no possibility of a road in the near future, and certainly not before 2015.
The optimism of the forward planning team has not been abashed by public rejection and whilst Herefordshire Councils consultation leaflet shows that housing growth for Hereford has been cut from 425 to 325 new homes per annum this level of growth is still 47% above what has been achieved in the last 15 years (on average 220 homes p.a. have been built in Hereford since 1996. (SHLAA 2010-2026 First review Jan 2011)). Herefordshire already has a faster growing population (+4%) than that experienced elsewhere in England and the West Midlands (less than 4% and 3.7% respectively). (GL Hearn Report July 2011 para 3.2.). The Vision that the parish councilors were lacking “is that Hereford is to become a prosperous place for businesses to grow”. However, the Rotherwas Enterprise zone is not mentioned anywhere in the 12 pages of the consultation leaflet and employment growth is only shown for Three Elms.
The parish councilors were hoping that there would be more detail about what infrastructure is to be provided to support this growth and how this will be paid for, as many had requested these details in the last consultation. However, another year on and there is no more information on what is needed, how much it will cost and where the money is coming from.
The parish councillors were told in no uncertain terms that if they didn’t like the plans they were welcome to come up with something better. They did try and explain that they would be happy to do so if the forward planning team was made available to them and the expense paid for by Herefordshire Council, but neither the officers nor the councillor present seemed keen that this should happen.
Residents of Herefordshire will have to point out, yet again:-
1. that issues over water supply and sewerage remain unresolved;
2. with all the new homes planned for Hereford in the next 20 years, and yet no schedule of funding or the timing of the delivery of the “relief” road, congestion is likely to get a lot worse in the future;
3. hospital bed capacity remains an issue and is likely to become more so as there are no plans to increase the capacity in line with the level of population growth;
4. by increasing the amounts developers will have to pay to the council across the county to fund the Hereford relief road (on average £28,000 per home), this will increase the price local people will have to pay to buy their own home.
5. due to housing developers having to pay for so much infrastructure such as roads elsewhere in the county, it is also likely that the level of affordable housing to be built in the plan period will be reduced.
If anyone would like to respond to Herefordshire Council’s latest consultation Here for Hereford has prepared a simple questionnaire that can be sent either by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by FREEPOST to Local Development Framework, Licence Number – RRJX-TLSH-SCYH, Freepost – Forward Planning, Herefordshire Council, PO Box 4, Plough Lane, Hereford, HR4 0XH.
To see the questionnaire and to print a copy click on this link