Bricket Wood News

BWRA Open Meeting: Wednesday 12 September 2019

posted 13 Aug 2019, 13:40 by Bricket Wood Residents' Association   [ updated 13 Aug 2019, 13:49 ]

Climate Change & New Homes: Do they go together? 

By: Richard Bullen from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) 

Date: Wednesday 12th September 2019 

Start Time: Refreshments including Sangria at 7:50 pm for 8:00 pm start 

Venue: St. Luke’s Church, The Crescent, in the Main Hall 

There will be time afterwards to meet the BWRA Committee and ask questions. 

BWRA Open Meeting: Thursday 13 June 2019

posted 16 May 2019, 13:30 by Bricket Wood Residents' Association   [ updated 13 Aug 2019, 15:47 ]

The Challenges of the Production of Women’s Weekly 

By: Sue De Jong 

Thursday 13th June 2019 

Start Time: Refreshments at 7:50 pm for 8:00 pm start 

Venue: St. Luke’s Church, The Crescent, in the Main Hall 

There will be a brief update on village matters and an opportunity to ask questions.

Hanstead Wood Open Again: 29 January 2018

posted 29 Jan 2019, 13:13 by Bricket Wood Residents' Association   [ updated 29 Jan 2019, 13:24 ]

Access to Hanstead Wood is open again. 

Thanks to a fantastic new Kissing Gate installed by Tall Oaks to the left of the cottages on Smug Oak Lane we now have access to The Woods and we are currently marking out a new path you can follow.
This will be for pedestrians only, sadly there is no parking

May we please ask you to respect the residents of the cottages and the security measures in place around the site otherwise the developers will stop access altogether. 

With permission from the developers, the Friends of Hanstead Wood have carried on with volunteer mornings, and we look forward to Spring in the Woods. The first Aconites and Snowdrops are already appearing, and we hope to see you there. 

Friends of Hanstead Wood

Spring Litterpick: Saturday 23 March 2019

posted 29 Jan 2019, 12:55 by Bricket Wood Residents' Association   [ updated 29 Jan 2019, 12:59 ]

Bricket Wood Residents' Association 

Spring Litterpick 

Saturday 23 March 2019 

Meet at 09:30 - 10:00 am by Oakwood Road shops at the village sign, Bricket Wood 

Gloves / pickers / bags supplied 

Come and join in making your Village a cleaner place. 

BWRA Annual General Meeting & Neighbourhood Watch / OWL presentation: Thursday 14 March 2019

posted 29 Jan 2019, 12:39 by Bricket Wood Residents' Association   [ updated 29 Jan 2019, 12:48 ]

Date: Thursday 14th March 2018 

Start Time: 8:00 pm 

Refreshments: served from 7:50pm 

Venue: St. Luke’s Church, The Crescent, in the Main Hall 

  1. Annual reports and accounts.
  2. Nominations and elections of Officers – Chair, Vice-Chair, Honorary Secretary, Honorary Treasurer and members of the Management Committee.
  3. Presentation and Q&A Session by Derrick Sweeney & Ian Pinto: 
    Increased awareness of Neighbourhood Watch & OWL, but has it worked? 
It is also your opportunity to meet the BWRA Committee, ask questions and raise any concerns you may have. 

Everyone welcome! 

Bus Stops Temporary Closure: 4 February to 26 April 2019

posted 29 Jan 2019, 12:26 by Bricket Wood Residents' Association   [ updated 29 Jan 2019, 12:31 ]

The two bus stop close to the Black Boy pub will be closed from 4 February to 26 April 2019. 

Passengers will have to use another stop. The work has to be done and closures are necessary. 

There will be road closures and 30 mph limits while work is done, most will be overnight. 

Hanstead Wood Update: January 2018

posted 17 Jan 2019, 13:02 by Bricket Wood Residents' Association

As many of you will be aware public access to the Woods has been stopped since Christmas which we hoped would not happen but was almost inevitable at some stage. 

We are now finalising the plans for a gated pedestrian access from Smug Oak Lane next to the white garage by the cottages and there will be a marked path from there into the Woods. This will be for pedestrians only, sadly there is no parking. We will put up signs as soon as this access is completed. May we please ask you to respect the residents of the cottages and the security measures in place around the site otherwise the developers will stop access altogether. 

With permission from the developers the Friends of Hanstead Wood have carried on with volunteer mornings and we look forward to spring in the Woods with the first Aconites and Snowdrops already appearing. 

Adding insult to injury

posted 11 Jan 2019, 13:34 by Bricket Wood Residents' Association   [ updated 11 Jan 2019, 13:59 ]

Misleading cash claims promise windfall.  Village will bear the brunt of the housing boom – but probably for meagre reward. 

 By Graham Newson, Editor, The Voice 

It’s very visible, very promising and very wrong.  A sign at the entrance to Crest Nicholson’s new 100 home estate at the Building Research Centre unequivocally states the developers are “proudly investing £812,200 in Bricket Wood.” 

But The Voice, and some equally sceptical BWRA members, have discovered that most of the claim fails to stand up to scrutiny.  To put it politely. 

In fact there’s a strong possibility that the village will get only minor sums for cosmetic and modest projects; even though it will be our already traffic-clogged, poorly maintained and overburdened roads and under-pressure services that will bear the impact of two large-scale building programmes that will transform the outskirts of Bricket Wood. 

It’s symptomatic of the curious lottery created by planning deals between developers and local authorities – resulting in places like our village caught up in the shenanigans of broken commitments, ruined expectations, seemingly unfair and bizarre decision-making and a lingering feeling of being hard done by. 

Crest Nicholson and Linden Wates, the company that’s begun work constructing 129 homes at Hanstead Park off Smug Oak Lane have supposedly earmarked £3.3 million pounds between them to the county and district councils to improve “local services” and infrastructure. 

So it’s not unrealistic for residents to ask: “Where’s all that money going? And on what is it being spent?”  

The Voice submitted a Freedom of Information request to Hertfordshire County Council, as our education authority, to confirm that Bricket Wood will receive the £410,000 investment in education and youth services as trumpeted by Crest Nicholson.   The response was an eye-opener.  Of that money:
  • £336,000 will go to expand St Albans Girls School from seven form entry to eight.
  • The House That Jack Built Nursery at the Building Research Centre will receive £67,500 to increase spaces. 
  • The Pioneer Centre in St Albans will get £6,500 to buy music equipment and help young people with learning difficulties. 
  • And north Watford library will be able to extend its popular fiction section with the aid of £26,000. 
All worthy but not one of the handouts will arguably have any positive knock-on effect, or solve, the pressure of more people and more cars seeking finite space, finite resources and in the case of our one educational establishment, a finite primary intake.   Mount Pleasant Lane School will not currently receive a penny.  Even though it is full and demand for more spaces would seem to be a logical conclusion, with 230 new families moving in. 

It appears that MPL has been dealt a double blow by Herts County Council. More of that later. 

Crest Nicholson has additionally pledged to give St Albans District Council £174,000 for leisure services and £140,000 towards “local green infrastructure”, whatever that might mean.  The council will get the money when the 50th property is occupied. 

In reply to another Freedom of Information request from The Voice SADC admitted that – as it has yet to receive its allocation – it hasn’t drawn up a priority list of where, and when, the money will be spent. 

But it has promised to meet with St Stephen ward councillors and the Parish Council “to understand if any project ideas have been considered.” 

Certainly St Stephen Parish Council is doing its homework to construct a watertight bid to improve leisure facilities in Bricket Wood and Park Street, either via BRE money or Hanstead Park’s. 

It would be wonderful to think all the £174,000 will be spent in the villages.  But the uncomfortable fact is there will undoubtedly be competing demands.  And from past experience there is absolutely no guarantee that any sum will boost the parish council’s coffers.  It might be that it has to settle for a derisory or an insultingly trifling amount. 

As for £140,000 for green infrastructure it’s intriguing to think where that could end up.  The village is already blessed with Blackgreen Wood, Jack William Wood, our “jewel in the crown” common, Hanstead Wood and various tracts of open land and hopefully inviolable spaces like the ‘Donkey Field’ and woods behind Old Watford Road.  And more.  Investment in the flourishing Hanstead Wood should be a given.  But we’ll have to wait and see whether the village is deemed a priority – or an optional extra. 

The NHS is also promised £62,000 – enough to pay Bricket Wood’s blood pressure tablets bill for a month! 

When The Voice went to Press Crest Nicholson had still not replied a month after receiving a range of questions the magazine submitted about the sign, the Section 106 payments, their destinations and related issues. 

But one of our local councillors Dave Hayes said: “What The Voice has uncovered is disturbing. Asking developers to contribute to local facilities to offset the impact that their developments will have is entirely reasonable. It is, however, wrong for developers to profess – or naïve of them to believe – that their contributions will actually be spent locally. In this case, Hertfordshire County Council spending those contributions so far from where the developments are taking place is particularly difficult to understand.” 

Growing concern over the efficacy and justification of such payments has led to SADC to urgently set up a small committee tasked with investigating how they are negotiated, who is accountable as to why and where they are disbursed and how local communities benefit, or not. Fortunately Dave Hayes and another of our councillors, Sue Featherstone, are members. A report will be issued next year.

So what is this supposedly benevolent developers’ largesse all about?  It is a prosaic sounding financial settlement called ‘Section 106 funding’ which local authorities, as part of the initial planning process, ask developers to contribute to offset the loss of local amenities or fund projects within the councils’ boundaries.  

The complex agreements effectively make developments acceptable which would probably be seen as unacceptable.  Councils often spend the cash on roads, schools and community projects which would otherwise not be undertaken. 

Often the Section 106 payments include geographical limitations, deadlines for spending the money – “use it or lose it” clauses – a timetable when builders will release that money and strict legal rules about disbursements.   Oddly, developers are sometimes given their money back. 

In 2014 the BBC carried out a national survey which revealed that Hertfordshire County Council held the most “unspent” Section 106 money with £58 million sitting around doing nothing.  It had also returned £691,000 to developers. 

At the time John Stewart, who is still director of economic affairs at the Home Builders Federation - which represents developers - said local authorities "clearly have an obligation to spend these funds to benefit their communities." 

He added: "However, it is also imperative that they transparently account for these contributions to their residents who must see and experience the true benefits that come with the building of new homes in their area. 

"Otherwise residents will simply see new housing placing additional burdens on local facilities and services, unaware of the compensating benefits from S106 agreements, whether these are purely financial contributions or benefits in kind."

So theoretically, in the spirit of Section 106, communities directly and widely affected by building projects like Bricket Wood should expect to get first call on the investment purse.  In a Utopian world it would receive all of it.  But, if we’re being pragmatic, a significant part of it would probably be gleefully accepted.  Getting nothing, or a pittance, would be adding insult to injury. 

But back to Mount Pleasant Lane School where – to quote Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – matters get “curiouser and curiouser.” 

It’s reported that during the initial planning stages for the BRE estate, when Section 106 funding was first discussed, Crest Nicholson was prepared to earmark £245,000 to the primary school to possibly increase its annual intake from 45 to 60 pupils to meet future demands.  

Unfortunately the idea was dropped at an appeal hearing in 2014 in two paragraphs far down a tortuously long report. 

At that time the Government inspector cited an Education Assessment Report which concluded that “within two miles of the appeal site there is a significant surplus of primary school places.” 

It also stated that the 100 homes being built at the BRE: “…..would only generate a demand for 22 such spaces.  The future children of the development would apply for places (at Mount Pleasant Lane)  in the same way as other children but being within the catchment area they would receive some priority over outside catchment area children.” 

Hertfordshire County Council – which would have received the £245,000 – also could not guarantee that the money would be spent locally and declined the offer.  St Albans District Council called that a “lack of control” arguing the cash should be direct compensation because of the estate’s impact on the local community. 

The report added:   “There seems little doubt that the effect of the introduction of new children from the development to Mount Pleasant Lane would be to displace out of catchment area children wishing to come to the school.” 

So hopes that MPL was in for a nice lump sum have been dashed.  Or they were four years ago.  

Another example, if any more were needed, that Section 106 agreements can promise so much and deliver so little. 

Put-upon. Misled. Ignored, Denied. Told to live with the consequences of hundreds more homes, scores of children who’ll need educating, people seeking medical care and worsening traffic blight. 

Whatever word or phrase you use to describe Bricket Wood’s predicament, in the end very little makes sense.   “Very little” being a term we might have to live with.

Work starts on enlarging the village. But will it share the cash spoils to cushion the impact?

posted 11 Jan 2019, 13:11 by Bricket Wood Residents' Association   [ updated 11 Jan 2019, 13:59 ]

 By Graham Newson, Editor, The Voice 

Preliminary work has begun on the largest building project in Bricket Wood for more than half a century. 

The wholesale redevelopment of Hanstead Park off Smug Oak Lane will create 129 new homes; a mix of apartments, terraced, semi-detached and detached properties. 

The first stage will involve large-scale demolition of accommodation blocks and corporate facilities (below) last used seven years ago when HSBC moved its training operations to India and the Philippines.  

Hanstead House and garden – which aren’t listed - and the Old Lodge will be refurbished and converted into nine homes.  Scottish entrepreneur David Yule’s Grade II listed mausoleum in the grounds is to be protected. 

However, the likely impact of all those new properties, and inevitable traffic movements, are seen by many villagers as profound and disturbing. 

It is an understandable reaction for residents to claim that Bricket Wood is hard done by and being wilfully condemned to more traffic to add to the rush-hour headaches, morning standstills and clogged-up roads that we already endure. 

Particularly as money earmarked for traffic and infrastructure improvements promised by  the developers of Hanstead Park appears to be arguably placatory and, worryingly, subject to the whims of Hertfordshire County Council as highways authority. 

It seems that HCC has already side-lined £175,000 originally destined for the installation of traffic lights at the junction of Smug Oak Lane and Radlett Road. 

And there’s no indication that other cash – part of Section 106 funding – will ever filter down to Bricket Wood for traffic lights or much-needed road improvements. 

Realistically owners of the 129 homes will probably have two cars in the drive which would mean an extra 260 vehicles around Bricket Wood during the working day.  And then the  same number of traffic movements in the evening when people return from work. 

Add to that the expected 150-200 cars from the Crest Nicholson estate at the Building Research Centre, again at critical times, it’s not doom mongering to predict that the village’s alarming traffic problems are set to verge on the insoluble. 

And in the short-term the road network faces the prospect of being under siege from countless skip lorries and other heavy construction equipment and bulk carriers inching their way around the village – plus contractors’ vehicles – for at least a year.   At the moment there is no firm assurance there’ll be a restriction on them turning left out of the site into Smug Oak Lane en route to Station Road.  What a dreadful scenario. 

So what will be happening at Hanstead Park?  Developers Linden Homes and Wates Developments are currently seeking what’s called reserved planning approval to finalise details about landscaping, the scale and character of the properties, access, open spaces and protecting the existing site. 

Work in earnest is scheduled to start in early 2019.  And with it the razing of buildings and, inherently, those skip lorries and construction traffic on our roads,  Homes nearby, and certainly the village, will face   constant upheaval for at least a year, probably a lot longer. 

To be fair to Linden Wates 1,100 invitations were sent out to local people to attend a public exhibition and a question/answer session in July to discuss what was planned.   Only 40 people attended. 

Such weak-willed commitment and apparent apathy would have understandably strengthened the developers’ resolve to push through their plans largely unchanged?  They have had meetings with the Bricket Wood Residents’ Association, the Friends of Hanstead Wood and the Parish Council and expected those organisations to disseminate information to the wider community. 

But, and I think this is sadly a missed PR opportunity, most Bricket Wood residents wouldn’t have received a slick, in colour newsletter distributed only to those who wanted to be kept up to date about the development, BWRA, TFHW, the parish council, St Albans District Council members and those who live alongside the site.  Which to be honest isn’t that many. 

I would personally challenge the rationale behind such a restricted distribution.  After all, every householder in Bricket Wood will inevitably be affected by the Hanstead Park development – either directly or indirectly.    It’s a missed opportunity to challenge misconceptions and inform all.  People at the public exhibition wrongly believed the leaflet would be distributed village-wide. 

Peter Wallace of the Built Environment Communications Group – which represents Linden Homes and Wates – said:  “I am sorry for the confusion regarding the delivery of the submission newsletter. 

“It, however, would not have been said at the exhibition that everyone in Bricket Wood would receive a copy of the submission newsletter as that is not standard practice.  We have been making a concerted effort to communicate with the community.”

So what fresh information does the leaflet reveal? Ultimately not more than we already know.  But it’s interesting to know about the nitty-gritty. The 129 homes - fewer and covering less ground than the 139 originally approved in 2016 – will include 22 units of “affordable housing.” 
I’ve sought a definition for so-called “affordable housing” in the past with a cynical presumption that it is whatever the market dictates it is.  If you wish to be enlightened about what it means at Hanstead Park– and I can assure you it isn’t easy bed time entertainment – then read at the bottom of the article what the developers’ have agreed with St Albans District Council.  Surely the bottom line is, can first-time buyers or single people/married couples who have been brought up or lived in Bricket Wood for years, stump up the money to buy into what will almost certainly be an expensive and somewhat exclusive property enclave?  Developers, after all, want to maximise profits. 

Linden Wates says it will create tree-lined avenues running through the parkland setting – including retaining those from Smug Oak Lane and Drop Lane - with new trees, shrubs, hedges and even a woodland “buffer” to improve the rural setting from the latter.  The lakes are to be managed and bio-diversity and wildlife encouraged.  The planned open spaces will include a children’s play area.

The estate will inevitably be a modern addition – physically, tangibly, visibly and possibly detrimentally – to village life.  So let’s be blunt and seek pay-back by asking: “What’s in it for Bricket Wood?” 

And this is where Section 106 funding comes into play.  As I have explained on earlier pages in relation to the Crest Nicholson development and its financial pledges, trying to trace, validate and make sense of what appear to be ‘flexible’ payments that are open to interpretation and the vagaries of council policy making is like disentangling the Gordian Knot. 
Linden Wates has inherited - because it bought the land and the planning permission from the previous owners - an agreement to contribute £2.5 million towards “infrastructure improvements” including education, leisure, highways and public transport.
Its Section 106 commitments to Bricket Wood currently contain, but aren’t limited, to:   
  • Off-site highways improvement works including a better footpath link to Smug Oak Lane and Station Road,
  • Changes to the junction off Smug Oak Lane and Radlett Road including tactile crossings (lumpy pavements)
  • Highway improvements to Mount Pleasant Lane 
  • £39,081 towards the cost of new equipment at the Woodbury Field play area
  • £62,383 towards the cost of landscaping improvements and a suitable wood-clad cabin at Blackgreen Wood.
But a SADC website also lists £100,000 as being destined for the Abbey View athletics track in Verulamium Park. 

With a commitment of £2.5 million it seems there’s a lot of money still to be spent.  But where? 

Bizarrely the Parish Council owns Blackgreen Wood but no one knows anything about plans for a wood-clad cabin which would almost be certainly considered inappropriate for such a moderately sized open space. Unless there’s a secret move to start selling cream teas and scones. 

Peter Wallace said:  “Linden Wates is happy to support Bricket Wood residents in its ambition to benefit from Section 106.  It is certainly very interested in investment in the areas in which it works and would always want to see the local community benefit as much as possible from the development of new homes.” 

The Voice also asked BECG additional questions about what exact form does the “highway improvement” for Mount Pleasant Lane take; will there be an instruction to construction traffic NOT to travel through Bricket Wood and – because many people remember, during the first planning application to develop Hanstead Park, that Section 106 money was pledged to install traffic lights at the junction of Smug Oak Lane and Radlett Road – what has happened to that commitment which would ease existing rush-hour tailbacks. 

BECG has failed to answer any of them directly but has said before – quite legitimately – that Linden Wates has simply inherited previous 106 commitments and is obliged to go along with them. 

To add to the financial mix – or further muddy the waters depending on your view – is another payment called the New Homes Bonus. It’s money given by the Government to councils as a reward for encouraging and supporting house building and, in the case of Hanstead Park, will be based on the extra council tax that the new properties will generate.

Linden Wates says its 129 homes will mean, courtesy of the bonus scheme, an additional £104,000 will be available for open spaces, community sport and leisure and the same amount for education. 

Perhaps I, and others in the village, are being negative, sniffy, pessimistic and suspicious about the realities of where Section 106 money is likely to end up.  Maybe the village will received a windfall, its coffers bloated by developers’ benevolent obligations and a recognition from county and district councils that it would be an honourable and principled act to compensate a community that will bear the brunt of its planning and highways decisions.  The latter of which rarely make sense. 

Early next year Hanstead Park will begin being transformed and Bricket Wood will grow larger, its roads will see more traffic and the rush hour will be more chaotic, its infrastructure will be further stretched and, possibly, its spirit tested. 

Large cash handouts wouldn’t necessarily buffer the village from the fall-out from Hanstead Park, the 100 home estate at the Building Research Centre and other developments in the pipeline – possibly 2,000+ homes on Radlett airfield, or possibly not! 

But it just might make the community feel a little more valued.

Hanstead Wood Temporary Closure starting December 2018

posted 30 Nov 2018, 12:19 by Bricket Wood Residents' Association   [ updated 30 Nov 2018, 12:28 ]

Any day now the current access to The Woods on Smug Oak Lane will be closed as work on the Hanstead Park development begins. Due to the hazardous condition of the buildings due for demolition the whole site will be closed off until further notice.

The Friends of Hanstead Wood are negotiating an alternative access to The Woods with a new path provided by Linden Homes next to the cottages on Smug Oak Lane. This will be for pedestrians only and parking off the road is very limited! We will put up signs as soon as this access is confirmed.

May we please ask you to respect the residents of the cottages and the security measures in place around the site.

Friends of Hanstead Wood

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