Building up to 1,400 new homes in Tring will 'promote women's safety' says barrister
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Building up to 1,400 homes between Tring and its railway station will promote women’s safety, a barrister has suggested.
After a planning appeal inquiry which began on March 7, 2023 and continued until the end of April, the Planning Inspectorate is considering whether to grant Redrow Homes and James, John and Jaqueline Westrope permission to build the homes at Marshcroft.
Dacorum Borough Council had previously thrown out the application.
The authority claims building the homes would result in a “permanent and irreversible change” to the Tring Gap Foothills.
But lawyers representing the developers have said there “really is no alternative” to building on the land which is outside the Chiltern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) boundary.
In his closing statement, Christopher Young KC explained Dacorum lacks a recent set of local planning rules, known as a local plan.
“So, this proposal was submitted,” he said.
“And in the absence of any alternative, this is the next best thing.
“Crucially, there is no alternative.
“None has been suggested, progressed or ever been the subject of consultation.
“And even if an alternative were produced, it would not be meeting the housing needs of the borough unless it requires the release of green belt land.
“The only alternative would be to allocated land in the AONB or away from settlements, and there is no evidence that is ever going to happen.
“So, this is the solution to meet housing need.”
Mr Young added: “Tring is a community in which new families moved in significant numbers in the 1960s and 1970s.
“But it seems those who live in those properties, and other people in the town, do not want the same for present generations.
“Indeed, there has been a dearth of new housing development since that era.
“As a consequence, Tring has some catching up to do.”
Mr Young pointed to evidence, which is backded up by Office for National Statistics data, that average house prices in Dacorum are roughly 14 times average earnings in the borough.
“It is apparent that the availability of stock has not been able to respond to the changing needs of households in the town,” he said.
“The entire area has been very specifically excluded from the AONB,” the silk added.
“[Marshcroft, east of Tring] is as perfect a location for an urban expansion to a town as one could ever imagine because it is located precisely between the edge of the town and Tring railway station.
“This is no ordinary railway station, it is a busy mainline station with a high frequency of direct trains into London Euston, with an average journey time of just 40 minutes.
“Much more seriously, however, the gap is very plainly a very unwelcoming and potentially unsafe gap for women, children, elderly people and those with disabilities at any time and especially during the hours of darkness.
“The gap creates a one kilometre route between the station and the edge of the town with very little overlooking.
“The present arrangement is completely inappropriate if we want to plan communities which are safe for women and others.
“The appeal proposal would completely change that with around 50 houses directly overlooking the route and all the activity generated by a new community of over 3,000 people.”
Mr Simon Bird KC is defending Dacorum Borough Council’s decision to turn down the application.
He said: “The justification for extending the development along Station Road is said to be for the benefit for surveillance due to concerns around the safety of that road, for vulnerable users at night.
“However, there are other less harmful ways of ensuring pedestrian and cycle routes are perceived as safe.
“Further … the extent of development here would still leave parts of Station Road to the east unsurveilled which materially weakens this benefit.”
Mr Bird acknowledged that Dacorum does not have a “five year supply of housing land” in its planning policies.
But he said an emerging set of more up to date rules give the council “a number of possible options” as to where housing could go – including an option to reduce growth at Tring, “redistributing it across the district”.
Mr Bird said: “The appellants through their landscape witness sought to reduce the contribution of the site to the purposes of the green belt in a number of ways, all of which are flawed.”
He claimed the developer’s witness had tried to find an average between two green belt purposes – “to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas” and “to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment”.
Mr Bird added the witness had tried to discount the three remaining purposes.
“Green belt purpose scores cannot be ‘averaged’ in this way,” he said.
“Further, green belt purposes are not ranked and should be treated of equal importance.”
The Planning Inspectorate is yet to decide whether to grant or refuse permission for the development.