A frightening prospect for the future of Hertfordshire
The Tyttenhanger area is under serious threat from development. Hertsmere Borough Council want to build 6,000 new houses (with an option of 12,000 long term) that would require a large part of the area to be bulldozed. The resulting new ‘village’ – Bowmans Cross – would swamp the whole site and bring with it a massive demand on infrastructure and an increase in people, traffic, air and light pollution and noise. The wild, open spaces and vistas would be lost to an urbanised environment with heavily managed (and manicured) green spaces, a pale shadow of the current rich biodiversity enjoyed by the site.
Hertsmere Borough Council would have us believe this is a good thing and argue that nearly 80% of their borough is Green Belt leaving them no choice but to build on it. This is a sad state of affairs. In reality, what they have is an extra responsibility as custodians of the Green Belt to protect it now and for future generations. They should be seeking ways of improving the Green Belt land, not destroying it, and looking at smaller sites across the borough to develop that respect existing communities and improve the infrastructure.
Bowmans Cross: the alarming facts
The Bowmans Cross scheme is being promoted by Hertsmere Borough Council as part of their Draft Local Plan to meet government housing targets for upwards of 12,000 new homes over the next 15 years or so.
The scale and size of Bowmans Cross is vast (and the biggest plan in Hertfordshire). Given that it is to be developed on Green Belt land, bordered on one side by the M25 and on the others by London Colney, Colney Heath and Tyttenhanger, it appears as ill-conceived as it is frightening for the effect it will have on people’s quality of life.
Hertsmere Borough Council’s planning documents anticipate Bowmans Cross will have 6,000–12,000 homes once complete (which will bring in upwards of 14,000 people), along with a range of supporting services including at least four primary schools, at least one secondary school and a large healthcare facility. The development would also include offices, leisure and cultural facilities, shops and restaurants, and a sustainable transport hub. Around 2,400 homes are scheduled to be built as a first phase with the rest likely to be completed in the following 15 years. The homes would be a mix of sizes, tenures and types, with 40% delivered as affordable housing, of which a ‘majority’ will be social or affordable rented housing.
Our fears around the enormous impact that the development will have on the future of Tyttenhanger are obvious, but we are also incredibly concerned about the huge increase in traffic that it will bring. From the vague plans available, the signs all point to the fact that Bowmans Cross will be a ‘dormitory village’ and therefore highly dependent on car use. To date, Hertsmere Borough Council has not engaged with or provided any form of a solution to the traffic issue, but building a development the size of Bowmans Cross around an existing limited country road network seems utter madness.
What’s even more unbelievable is the fact that Hertsmere Borough Council have decided to label Bowmans Cross a ‘garden village’ (presumably in a bid to make it sound as environmentally appealing as possible). However, with the M25 bordering its southern side bringing a deafening roar of tyres on tarmac throughout the day and a vast spread of light pollution across the area at night, Bowmans Cross couldn’t be further from the character of a quaint, peaceful English garden!
These two maps show the proposed site for Bowmans Cross – labelled as H2*. The left hand one shows the vastness of the H2 site in comparison with other proposed sites in Hertsmere. The one on the right provides a more detailed view.
* These maps are taken from the 2018 public consultation document – Potential Sites for Housing and Employment – but the proposed area for Bowman’s Cross, now renamed NS1, remains just as big, if not bigger. The northern boundary has been extended to incorporate the arable fields either side of the driveway to Tyttenhanger House and the southern boundary to include Redwell Wood – a site of SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) – and Cobs Ash, another area of ancient woodland. While these woodlands to the south are described as ‘protected woodlands’, it is impossible to see how much protection in reality they could be afforded with upwards of 14,000 people and their pets living on the doorstep!
A development underpinned by questionable claims
As part of their presentation of their draft local plan, Hertsmere Borough Council produced a short film in August 2021 designed to play down the impact of Bowmans Cross and suggest that Tyttenhanger’s land is of little value as it currently is. The film was fronted by council leader Maurice Bright and the Council’s portfolio holder for planning, Cllr Dr Harvey Cohen.
You can watch their ‘performance’ here, but please take note of the following points that counter their presentation:
- They have chosen to film in one of the few locations not accessible to the general public.
- They have, ironically, chosen to film next to one of the key Tree Sparrow sites – an area that has been preserved by quarry operators as a condition of their licence to quarry. The site has been monitored and maintained by the Herts Bird Club working with quarry managers and local farmers for nearly 30 years, allowing the sparrows to survive. And yet …
- . . . the film does not show this but instead highlights a group of shipping containers, some underground pipework and a rusty metal girder – all suggestive of decay when actually they are all integral to the current running of productive farm and quarry businesses.
- There is the suggestion that the area is not ‘unspoilt countryside’ but, in truth, very little of the UK is, with most landscapes being shaped by people one way or the other. This so-called ‘spoilt’ area is highly productive, enjoyed by many and rich in biodiversity – quite possibly more so than the countryside in the councillor’s mind.
A development shrouded in secrecy
The film has caused an outcry amongst local residents and on social media, however messages to Bright and Cohen on social media asking them to respond have, to date, been ignored. And therein lies the biggest concern with Bowmans Cross – much of the current plan is shrouded in secrecy.
It comes as no surprise that on their promotional website – www.hertsmerelocalplan.com – the one thing that could not be found was the actual Draft Local Plan! Instead, visitors to the site were fed the view that the councillors wanted you to see and this practice continues – beware!
It is worth noting the emphasis on the Consultation Portal – see screenshot below. The councillors would like you to only visit their misleading website and not engage with the full scale of the actual proposals. It is tempting to only read a ‘summary’ and only have to complete a ‘short survey’ but ultimately the wool will have been pulled over your eyes!
Be alert and make sure you understand the full scale and implications of what is being proposed!
The plans and architectural drawings that have been made available are sketchy at best and ongoing meetings are being held behind closed doors. The big details of the plan haven’t materialised, talk of new infrastructure and new roads have been swerved and public interest and opposition is being locked out by a tall ‘blue wall’ of secrecy. What’s more, the COVID pandemic is still being used as an excuse not to hold face-to-face meetings with concerned residents and organisations. Hertsmere Borough Council is playing a very good game of covert politics and in doing so, eroded trust and growing fear are leading this project.
A recent statement from Colney Heath Parish Councillor Cook supports our concerns:
“It is hard to find out exactly what they (Hertsmere Council) are doing as most of their planning panel meetings are held in private. Operating in this opaque manner is poor for democracy. When a council chooses to hide its policy making process from public scrutiny by its electorate it means the residents are not informed of what is being considered.”
Only last month (September 2021), Colney Heath and London Colney Parish Councils reacted with horror to Hertsmere Council’s plans. Cllr Dreda Gordon said:
“If this site is developed it will result in almost continuous development between Colney Heath and London Colney effectively merging the parishes to create a swathe of new housing alongside the M25 due to the ill thought-out Bowmans Cross.”
Bright and Cohen’s film, although only short, serves to highlight the fact that Hertsmere Borough Council, if left to its own devices, will only show what they want the public to see and say what they want it to hear. The truth about the site is very different and the threat to the area would be truly devastating. As the Draft Local Plan moves into public consultation stage, now is the time to make our voices heard.
What can you do?
Comment on Hertsmere Council’s Draft Local Plan, sign the petition and spread the word. We must fight to demand that residents are properly consulted on all aspects of the development if we are to stop it in its current form.