Grosvenor Estate is the nominated developer of North Uttlesford Garden Community. Following the unveiling of Grosvenor’s “vision” for NUGC, StopNUtown wrote to the Director of Strategic Land at Grosvenor to place on record a range of concerns about their proposals.
Alex Robinson, Director, Strategic Land, Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, London
I am responding on behalf of the StopNUtown Action Group, following receipt of the NUGC brochure and publication of the Vision Document. StopNUtown represents residents of the Chesterfords and other communities affected by the proposed new town.
It is helpful to see the emerging masterplan proposal; however, it remains very outline and will need significant development before we can understand what is proposed and comment accordingly on the impact the new town will have on Gt. Chesterford and surrounding villages. In the meantime, our initial concerns are highlighted as follows.
Consultation? – what consultation!
We are shocked that the brochure refers to “months of community engagement has helped residents … to evolve proposals,” and that “months of initial engagement has helped to identify the local priorities” etc. At best this is misleading and at worst a deliberate and wilful misrepresentation.
The only community engagement directly with residents of the Chesterfords involved an informal exhibition of Grosvenor’s initial proposal on the 9th/10th November 2017. While there has been engagement with the GC Parish Council I believe this has been on just two occasions.
Your exhibition to the community was by your own admission embryonic and raised more questions than answers. The newly engaged design team provided confused and conflicting answers to many of the fundamental questions raised by villagers. Contrary to the selective quotes included in your vision document, the feedback from villagers leaving the exhibition was that it was not well organised and staffed by a team largely unfamiliar with the matter. In summary, it felt very much like the beginning of a consultation “tick box exercise.” Incidentally our feedback from villagers is overwhelmingly against the proposal.
While the exhibition was saturated with aspirational possibilities, the only factual content was the definition of the site boundary. Completely ignored was the existing transportation and infrastructure problems, and the cumulative impact of an adjacent development.
For the avoidance of doubt, we do not accept that the community has been involved in the development of the outline masterplan; on the contrary, some of the fundamental red lines highlighted separately by villagers and the Parish Council have been ignored, for example respecting the extent of the buffer zone.
Impact on Infrastructure
We are extremely concerned over the dismissal of existing infrastructure issues both inside and outside the site boundary. PBA’s assumption that 60% of a new town’s population of c.20,000 people will travel via public transport, driverless cars, car sharing, or cycling is simply unrealistic and not backed up by any reputable scientific analysis. It can reasonably be expected that the additional trip generation will bring the existing transport network to a standstill during peak times.
Grosvenor’s acceptance that it will fund infrastructure within the site boundary is also disingenuous as this is an integral cost of parcel sale to house builders.
The real issue is “who provides and pays for the infrastructure upgrades outside of the site”. Essex CC’s position on funding highways improvements was very clear from the meeting at UDC on the 27th April. Without clarity on who delivers the essential infrastructure improvements Grosvenor’s proposals will remain unviable, unsustainable and undeliverable.
Similarly, it is irresponsible to disregard the impact of an additional 1,500 houses on the Genome Campus. While that site is in South Cambs DC it is less that 600m from your boundary and is likely to receive planning consent long before NUGC.
Visual impact on the Village
We are not convinced that Grosvenor has understood the unique character of Gt. Chesterford and why the surrounding landscape is so important to us.
The village suffers from the visual and noise impact of the A11 and M11 to the west, which is compensated for by tranquil agricultural farmland to the north, south and east. The eastern views are so important to us because the proposed development will be visible and highly accentuated on the horizon. This will be compounded by the high-density urban townscape shown on your vision plan which will shout from, rather than blend into the existing landscape. The result will be the M11 to the west, Genome to the north and Greater Kneighton to the east, a very suboptimal outcome for the village, I’m sure that you would agree.
The villagers have requested and expect a physical buffer zone which separates the village from the new town, the zone shown in the brochure is not sufficient and needs to be increased, with the first development parcel relocated to the east of its current location. This is essential to minimise the combined impact of sight lines and topography should the development proceed.
Heritage and Ancient Monument
There is little reference to the ancient monuments that exist on the site, or how they could be celebrated. Similarly, the flood mitigation from the site makes no mention of the ancient monument and how it will be protected from the implications of run-off from a 5,000 dwelling development.
In summary, it is useful to see some progress on your outline masterplan, but please do not assume that we accept the NUGC; indeed, we will continue to actively oppose this development and the disingenuous way that Grosvenor and UDC are inferring consultative acceptance by the community, while driving the proposal to a pre-determined conclusion.
We would, however, welcome a meeting prior to the start of the Reg 19 process to provide you with another opportunity to fully understand and respond to our community’s concerns.
For and on behalf of StopNUtown Action Group