Wye Ruin It?
Site plan for three Elms.jpg

WYE RUIN IT?

UNAFFORDABLE HOUSING

 

Major Housing Developments are used to justify the City Link Road, Southern Link Road and the Bypass which are designed for Hereford City to accommodate the traffic from 16,500 new houses across Herefordshire by 2031. This projected growth in housing requires new planning to reduce pollution and car usage. Increasing Herefordshire housing stock by 20% without plans for public mass-transit system is asking for chronic health problems and increased mortality. A modal shift in transport would substantially reduce current and future road traffic on the existing city network. We know from over 50 years of research that building bigger roads will increase pollution and healthcare costs. Implementing sustainable transport measures such as exclusive cycle paths and non-polluting mass transit systems would enable a modern city to grow without increasing pollution.

 

Planning for Failure

   Planning for Failure:    The picture above is from a report by the    Foundation for Integrated Transport    on a recent housing development in Northamptonshire. This transport analysis is typical of the UK: There is a choice of:     A. No public transport      B. Journeys times nearly three times longer with limited services     Not surprisingly, most major transport investment is in road infrastructure for the future of new housing estates.    The authors of the Report, Jenny Raggett and Joey Talbot, described their research, and delegates explained some of the difficulties they encountered trying to promote sustainable transport measures in new housing estates:     1.    Local authorities in the UK lack planning expertise, especially where rail is concerned     2.    Network Rail reluctant to get involved     3.    People have emotional attachment to their cars     4.    European examples of car free town centres benefit from experience of rapid transit schemes and enlightened financing of new housing (see Aarhus, and Amersfoort where the Local Authority built the new railway station first, and corralled a number of developers to work together rather than competitively.)    The point is that Local Authorities should provide Sustainable Transport Measures to shift enable a modal shift away from private cars for the public good.

Planning for Failure: The picture above is from a report by the Foundation for Integrated Transport on a recent housing development in Northamptonshire. This transport analysis is typical of the UK: There is a choice of:

A. No public transport

B. Journeys times nearly three times longer with limited services

Not surprisingly, most major transport investment is in road infrastructure for the future of new housing estates.

The authors of the Report, Jenny Raggett and Joey Talbot, described their research, and delegates explained some of the difficulties they encountered trying to promote sustainable transport measures in new housing estates:

1. Local authorities in the UK lack planning expertise, especially where rail is concerned

2. Network Rail reluctant to get involved

3. People have emotional attachment to their cars

4. European examples of car free town centres benefit from experience of rapid transit schemes and enlightened financing of new housing (see Aarhus, and Amersfoort where the Local Authority built the new railway station first, and corralled a number of developers to work together rather than competitively.)

The point is that Local Authorities should provide Sustainable Transport Measures to shift enable a modal shift away from private cars for the public good.

The current Hereford Transport Package is not the answer. It is an outdated plan to access unsuitable development land that will increase city congestion, pollution and healthcare costs.

 
 
 Site Plan For Three Elms Development surrounding Huntington Hamlet a designated Conservation Area.

Site Plan For Three Elms Development surrounding Huntington Hamlet a designated Conservation Area.

Surely the planners can’t be serious? Building vast new estates on a floodplain surrounding a designated Conservation Area given all we know about the human and environmental disasters that this causes which cannot be a good plan for anyone! Government guidelines changed after the catastrophic rise in insurance costs from the record 2016 UK floods. Why didn’t Herefordshire’s Core Strategy change too? Huntington Hamlet, sited in the middle of Three Elms development is designated a Conservation Area and the Council has a duty to prepare proposals to ensure preservation and enhancement to protect its special architectural and historical interest. This includes the buildings and natural features, such as the brook, trees and open spaces. What on earth is going on here? Have the planners lost the plot?

Almost a fifth of the currently proposed new houses are on a floodplain at Three Elms. This floodplain is upstream of the City. Its development will threaten a much larger area of housing. £80 million was spent to divert flows from the Yazor Brook for the Livestock market development upstream of the proposed site, but it still floods downstream. This site would require far more flood mitigation. Who will be liable if it is insufficient? Ultimately we, the tax payers not the developers, will foot the bill. When flood damage is repaired we all know insurance premiums rise to cover costs.

 
 Flood Map and Site plan Three Elms. Note the extent of surface flooding in pale blue, even before soil sealing from the proposed development upstream of the City.

Flood Map and Site plan Three Elms. Note the extent of surface flooding in pale blue, even before soil sealing from the proposed development upstream of the City.

Three Elms development also threatens the water supply of two key industries in Hereford: Heineken and Cargill (a joint venture with Facenda Foods). The underlying aquifer provides clean water for the bottling plants and chicken processing operations. Contamination from construction or subsequent occupation would render operations uneconomic. Alternative water supplies are planned but rising cost could render industrial operations uneconomic. This development threatens the current economy with a thousand or more jobs at stake.

The proposed development surrounds a Conservation Area of listed buildings known as the Huntington Hamlet and would entail significant loss of biodiversity and grade 1 farmland. Why has the Council refused to conduct a survey of the current Conservation Area since 1975 when it was designated? What additional heritage sites such as ancient roads, iron works and Roman villas lie in the area to be developed? Only a modern geophysical survey would tell. These historic and environmental features are just what we need to increase tourism and create jobs. for the long term future. 

The Three Elms site owner’s agent recently stated that they cannot provide infrastructure funding for the access road and affordable housing: Its one or the other. With 1,500 families on the waiting list for social housing in Herefordshire affordable houses are essential but this development will not provide any.

 Ground Water Source Protection Zones SP1, SP2, and SP3. Note SP2 underlies development site

Ground Water Source Protection Zones SP1, SP2, and SP3. Note SP2 underlies development site

 
 

In summary, the Three Elms development will destroy a Conservation Area, threatens thousands of jobs, is likely to be extremely expensive because of its flood mitigation and groundwater protection measures and will not deliver affordable homes. Why then is it still accepted as Core Strategy when it is clearly the most expensive and potentially the most damaging proposal to Hereford’s fragile economy? Why is this fatal flaw in Herefordshire’s Core Strategy still used to justify a road building over Herefordshire’s valuable agricultural land, historic heritage orchards, the ancient woodlands, sites of special scientific interest (SSSI), and the landscape designed by Humphry Repton, painted by Brian Hatton? 

For more information on who will profit, what housing Hereford does need, and just how flawed current housing policy is, click on the following links:

Private Eye - Conflict of Interest -Bloor Homes and the Conservative Party

The Financial Times - Help to Buy backfiring on the very people it is supposed to help

The Guardian - House builders failing buyers with poor construction and no protection

Sky News - Independent research into the real state of housing in the UK

The Daily Mail - House builders building fewer homes but making more money

Herefordshire Council - Hereford Area Plan Consultation Aug-Sep 2018