East of England Proposals for Expansion of Hemel Hempstead

The following brief summary covers concerns important to the DEF Water Group for many years. These concerns are becoming increasingly important because of the proposed dramatic increase in housing in this part of the country, apparently without regard for the condition of the existing infrastructure, which includes availability of water together with maximising the treatment of water after its use.

· DEFWG is responding to the Growth at Hemel Hempstead Strategy by 19.1.2007.
· DEFWG will be responding to Site Allocations Issues and Options by 16.2.2007.
· DEFWG will be responding to Changes East of England Plan by 9.3.2007.

All of these Initiatives require our close support for Dacorum Borough Council, the Environment Agency and Three Valleys Water with regard to the safeguarding local water resources as identified below:-

· Returning surface water runoff and floodwater to the aquifer which is particularly vulnerable in this area.
· Safeguards regarding potential increase in flooding due to climate change.
· Increased vulnerability of aquatic ecosystem to climate change including drought.
· It is important to make these habitats as robust as possible.
· Provision of additional wetlands to assist in this process and minimise flooding.
· Green roofs and energy conservation given priority, not only in new Civic Zone.
· Oil and Silt traps where urban water run-off enters watercourses or rivers.
· Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems – do these need more stringent enforcement?
· Substantial programme of improving/renovating water infrastructure.
· Protect future of Berkhamsted Sewage Works - improve local discharge of water.
· Need for integrated catchment management: as, to be effective, these issues need to be co-ordinated beyond Borough of Dacorum and Hertfordshire.
· To be truly effective these issues must be co-ordinated as a River Basin Plan.
· Not only the river Gade will be impacted by such major development.
· Lobby for increased funding to enable additional Sustainability Studies NOW..
We need to be planning for this, together with the priorities for these studies.
· Consider when to lobby for water meters on all existing and future housing.
· Consider when to lobby for a hosepipe ban for houses without water meters.
· Consider lobbying for Water Scarcity Status.

Clearly, increases in funding are always a problem and undoubtedly Three Valleys Water and the Environment Agency have already sought this themselves. Would it be of assistance for DEFWG to also add the views of the local community? We cannot procrastinate. We are faced with current increases in housing. Further increases will clearly emerge in the future. Additional sustainability studies are needed now.

This list of issues is not definitive, as yet.
Contaminants leaching from Buncefield Oil Terminal disaster remain a major concern and are still being assessed.

Core Strategies: Growth at Hemel Hempstead Questionaire
To view the comments attached to the DEF Water Group’s Questionnaire submission click here

Update to submission - January 2008
Since this submission Hertfordshire continues to be under extreme threat from housebuilding, airport expansion and other development.
The final East of England Plan, called the East of England Regional Spatial Strategy, requires all councils to find places for houses in their areas, over 10,000 in Dacorum, 81,630 altogether. But since these figures agreed by the original plan the Government has made an announcement of another 3 million more houses by 2020.

There are many contradictions in the government’s position. The Water Group stands by its arguments detailed above of the total unsustainability of so much extra housing in an area of low rainfall, semi-arid conditions and low flows in our chalk stream rivers. This may not seem to be the case after the rainfall of early 2007 but statistics and the imminence of climate change gives us a realistic view of the future.

The Government requires Councils to seek active participation of their local communities in shaping future development and also the Prime Minister said no Green Belt would be lost to housing. Despite massive opposition by many campaign groups like the DEF Water Group the Chiltern Society the Ramblers Association and many others and individuals, the increased figures have gone ahead, and at the same time Councils in Hertfordshire are having to look to the Green Belt to find room for the houses required.

Another concern is the Government’s alleged intention to press ahead with development in flood-risk areas. There has also been a threat to gardens and community green space which will heighten the risk of flooding if implemented.

Of course any building development should be using porous paving materials and all the other state of the art eco-construction available. The worst case scenario is shoddy, wasteful badly designed housing with no infrastructure and no water.

Author: Sylvia Davidson