Local Matters with Mione Goldspink November, 2021.
I am pleased and relieved that the planning application for the large 24hour Distribution Centre on the new development south of Whittington Way has now been withdrawn. I had always objected to this application and there has been huge community opposition, with an excellent petition expressing people's views. It is a great pity that the Conservative Planning Committee did not insist on better and tighter wording when it granted the permission in 2018.
I notice dismay and criticism from members of the public at the number of new houses which are being built in the Town without any solar panels. I share this dismay, but unfortunately councillors are helpless about the situation, which is caused by the serious weakness of the Local Plan. This Plan was approved and adopted by the District Council early in 2019, just before the Local Elections. All 50 Councillors were Conservative. The Plan has no teeth regarding Solar Panels - all that the Council can do is to "encourage" developers to put in environmental and climate friendly features. The Council has no powers to enforce these works. It is a source of regret to me that the Tories did not have the foresight to draft a better Local Plan.
With regard to solar panels, there is talk that a Planning Application may soon be submitted for a Solar Farm to be built on farmland on the Wickham Hall Estate, which is on the northwest side of the Town. Part of the land is in Uttlesford, and part in East Herts. If and when an application does come forward, the Planning Committee (Development Management) will have to weigh up the pros and cons very carefully. We all know that the District should try to use as many renewable-energy sources as possible, but how great would be the loss of food production? At the moment I feel inclined to support the Solar Farm, but I am willing to listen to all the facts before deciding.
The development at Old River Lane (ORL)(on the Causeway Car Park) , with a 5-Screen Cinema, is still being planned. The notes/Minutes of the ORL delivery Board meetings are available on the Council's website, but they are often brief and sometimes difficult to understand. I, and my colleagues have always queried the viability of the whole project. But, unfortunately, the Tories had committed the Council to various agreements/contracts before we were elected. We think that the building of the 6-storey car park at Northgate End is a serious mistake. There have been predictable problems with access to the site from the Link Road.
There are continuing doubts about the future popularity of a new Cinema, given that the Town already has one in Anchor Street. The results of the public consultation in July showed support from an average of only 47% of respondents - hardly a ringing endorsement. I continue to serve on the ORL Delivery Board, as I am bidden to represent my constituents, but, it is not a comfortable position. I am frequently asking for better consultation, with "Open" questions, but without success. I do wish that the Council would do a proper "Open" consultation with every household in the Town to gauge people's real opinions before it spends £15million of taxpayers' money.
East Herts District Councillor
Lib-Dem Group Leader, EHDC.