Proposed 1,400 house development not suitable for Tring says Chiltern Countryside Group

Planning director at Harrow Estates is encouraging residents to have their say on the Marshcroft proposals
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A newly proposed development of 1,400 homes in Tring 'should not be happening' says the chief officer of countryside group the Chiltern Society.

Tom Beeston, from Tring, hit out at the plans after attending a consultation event - which he says was 'disrespectful'.

The Marshcroft Garden Suburb Development - which is being proposed by David Lock Associates, Redrow, Harrow Estates and Ryan and May - would be sited on land north of Station Road and south of Bulbourne Road, west of the Grand Union Canal.

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Developers say it would help meet a vital need for affordable housing in the area as well as access to the new open spaces and sports and recreational facilities

Facilities in the plan include two new schools and healthcare services.

Dacorum Borough Council was approached by the developer for the council's view on the content of an Environmental Impact Assessment Report, and has provided a detailed Scoping Opinion which covers a number of environmental considerations that will need to be investigated.

Tom has raised concerns about the location, biodiversity, wildlife and the wider effects it will have on the infrastructure in Tring.

He said: "I was at a Wildlife Countryside conference last week where Michael Gove and George Eustice were speaking about biodiversity and conservation. Michael Gove is looking at government policy and how biodiversity matters. This development should not be happening, is my interpretation, from what Michael Gove said at the conference. Because of these issues the plans should not go forward.

"Biodiversity is in massive decline and climate change is happening now we can not ignore it.

"None of the people at the consultation have managed farmlands before or nature reserves. I have managed farmlands, businesses and now nature reserves and they did not treat me like I was the expert in the room, which in this situation, I was. It was very disrespectful."

He added: "No one in the room representing the developer accepted that grass farmland had real wildlife value. It was as though farmers didn’t value wildlife, and that grass meadows had little or no wildlife value.

"My take being whilst there was some good understanding of academic research and government policy there was little experience or appetite for hands-on countryside management, be that in conservation or farming!

"The area is Tring's only place you can really go for a walk - when I have my nieces and nephews I take them there, it's a great place to take them on their bikes and you can enjoy the beautiful countryside."

He also expressed his dismay that the developer did not attend the consultation - instead relying on a marketing person who "was only there to speak, and not to listen to people".

Tom said: "CPRE, The Countryside Charity, have identified that we do not need to build on green belt land in the short to medium term. There are enough brownfield sites. Therefore we should not be building on this site.

"They say the way they are planning this site means that the footfall to Ashridge will go down. That is simply not true. People know Ashridge, it is easily accessible, it has toilets and facilities for food and drink.

"Dancers End on the other hand, is not easily accessible, there are no toilets and no facilities for food or drink. But it is one of the most beautiful places in Tring.

"The planners have no interest in what is actually happening locally. The company putting it forward has not done its homework."

Mr Beeston wants the council to come up with a more imaginative Local Plan, and developers to rethink this location for the development.

He said: "The council needs to take responsibility for more housing and more affordable housing, and I mean really affordable. Affordable housing to me is for housing for someone on an income of £25,000 or less. That may not be the case for developers, but it is the case for real people on the ground."

And he said the infrastructure in Tring would not be able to increase the population increase - which he says could be as much as 30 to 40 per cent.

Tim Noden, planning director at Harrow Estates, said: “Our recent public consultation events were attended by several hundred people, and I would like to thank residents for taking the time to come along and discuss the Marshcroft proposals with the development team, which included representatives from Harrow Estates.

“We believe that Marshcroft can bring significant benefit for the whole community, regardless of age or background. Marshcroft will provide a range of housing to suit single people, couples, older people and families in Tring.

“One of the key themes which has been raised during the consultation so far has been the need for affordable housing in Tring. There is a well-documented and long-standing need for new affordable homes in Dacorum, and it is clear this need is not currently being met.

"We are proposing 40 per cent affordable housing on this site and are actively seeking to work with Dacorum Council to ensure that this is genuinely affordable.

“There are enormous potential social and health benefits to be had for the community from ready access to the new formal and informal open space, sports and recreational facilities that Marshcroft will offer.

"Additional sustainability gains can be had from providing new, energy-efficient homes set within a high quality, well-designed environment.

“Consultation is still ongoing through our website and I would encourage residents to complete our online survey to have their say.”

A spokesperson for Dacorum Borough Council said: "We recognise the local concerns generated by this proposal, but are unable to comment on the specifics of the scheme at this stage as this may impact our impartiality if a planning application was submitted in due course.

"However, we have been approached by the developer for our view on the content of an Environmental Impact Assessment Report that the developer would be required to prepare to support a future planning application.

"We have provided a detailed Scoping Opinion which covers a number of environmental considerations that will need to be investigated.

"This can be found on our website."

To view the plans visit Dacorum Borough Council's planning portal, and search reference: 21/04241/SCO.