ASHRIDGE BEECHWOODS: CONSERVATIVES' FAILURES COME BACK TO BITE THEM, AS LOCAL PLAN DELAYED AND NEW-BUILD PLANNING APPLICATIONS FROZEN
The Dacorum draft Local Plan is delayed, again, to 2023, and Dacorum Borough Council have finally accepted that a repeat public consultation is needed.
Meanwhile, potential damage to Ashridge Estate has been identified, as massive changes are introduced to the current planning system, with serious delays on all new-build planning applications across all of Dacorum.
Liberal Democrats, alongside the work of hundreds of activists and residents groups across Dacorum, have led the way in opposing the Conservatives' 2020 Draft Local Plan. Now the Conservatives' failures have come back to bite them.
Conservatives at Dacorum failed to heed the warnings of Liberal Democrats Councillors in 2019, and recklessly sent out an incomplete Draft Local Plan that slavishly followed the governments' line on housing numbers, despite the threats to the Green Belt and failing to meet the need for sustainable and truly affordable homes.
The Liberal Democrats local Councillors mobilised, and despite the challenges of the pandemic, worked alongside dedicated resident and environmental groups across Dacorum to oppose the plan in the last consultation, and repeatedly and persistently opposed it at Dacorum on behalf of our residents.
Last June, the Conservatives insisted that the Draft Local Plan was ready to be adopted taking it to the next step. The Liberal Democrats refused , highlighting the information yet to be gathered , including the Habitat Regulations Assessment ( HRA) that their Officers' own report identified as a legal requirement and critical to assess the impact on 'Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)' by the proposed Local Plan.(DBC Chiltern Beechwoods SAC topic paper 2.4, 2020). Had we caved in, who knows if we would ever have had this chance to assess the real damage the Local Plan could cause?
Cllr Sheron Wilkie Shadow Portfolio Holder for Strategic Planning says:
'It was irresponsible of the Conservatives' to progress the consultation with essential reports missing. The Liberal Democrats warned the Draft Local Plan was not ready , and that these reports would alter it so much that a second consultation would be needed. This was entirely foreseeable and yet the Conservatives wouldn't listen, wasting both the publics' time and money'.
The Liberal Democrats consistently set out that these plans will concrete over vast areas of Green Belt land that we can never recover.
Despite the threats to the Green Belt and rare natural assets including the Beechwoods , Dacorum's chalk-streams and Ashridge Estate, the Conservatives pursued the draft Local Plan at all costs.
Cllr Adrian England, Shadow Portfolio Holder for the Environment says:
'The Conservatives' in Dacorum and central Government, must get real about the Climate Emergency, with actions, urgency, leadership, and recognition of the catastrophic affect these misapprehended and misplaced building numbers are bound to visit upon the future of Dacorum residents'.
Now it is up to the Liberal Democrats, the residents, the many Resident Associations, and key stakeholders to keep fighting this proposal .
We cannot do this alone, but together, we have shown organised, well-researched opposition can, and will, make a difference.