Our future is under threat

COUNCILLORS have vigorously condemned proposals which are set to shape the future of Royston. The suggestions in North Herts District Council s Local Development Framework were branded as shocking and as a raw deal . And Royston Town Council s planning

COUNCILLORS have vigorously condemned proposals which are set to shape the future of Royston.

The suggestions in North Herts District Council's Local Development Framework were branded as "shocking" and as a "raw deal".

And Royston Town Council's planning committee has decided that a strongly-worded response will be submitted to a Government planning inspector who will eventually decide on the proposals.

The committee was outraged at the prospect of Royston having to provide more accommodation because "the goal-posts have been moved".

Originally, Royston's share of new property up to 2021 was based on developments that had started in 2000.

Now the district council is seeking to start anew, which means development in the past six years will not be counted in the demands for building. Committee vice-chairman Cllr Rod Kennedy said in the past six years Royston had delivered 778 homes. This, he said, was a “huge rise” and one which had already seen the area “over-achieve”. To this he added the prospect of 300 new properties already earmarked for Royston. “Effectively we don’t need to build any more,” he said. The committee supported his comments that the development programme should begin in 2000 and not six years later. “We have an opportunity to make a submission and we have to put together a radical set of comments,” he said. “Royston has reached its development limits and there is little land left,” he said. Cllr Kennedy warned that any increase in developments would mean “cramming” into the urban area and on green spaces. The developments over recent years had seen Royston become “the fastest growing area” in North Herts, he said. And he added that Royston should not been seen as making up the shortfall of other areas across the district. Indeed, Cllr Lindsay Davidson said she believed Letchworth was being “protected” at the expense of other areas such as Royston. “It seems that something created in the 20th century has precedence over something centuries old. It’s absolutely unbelievable,” she said. Cllr Davidson said the whole concept was “shocking” and that Royston was being given “a raw deal”.

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Royston town centre: There are serious questions about the role the town centre should be playing to ensure it fulfils its potential. Royston town centre should be encouraged to maintain its role as a service centre for its own population and the rural population. n Housing: There are few locations where the town can satisfactorily expand without detriment to its setting and with fragmentation (and) given the recent history of rapid housing growth outpacing the provision of new amenities it is perhaps appropriate to limit the town’s growth to a more modest rate. In the rural area around Royston . . . none of the villages have a vast number of facilities and are inappropriate locations for major growth. Some do have sufficient facilities to allow some additional growth: Barkway, Barley, Reed and Therfield. We propose drawing development limits around these villages. We believe that housing development in the Royston area should be north of the town within the A505 bypass, and development boundaries should be defined for Barkway, Barley, Reed and Therfield. n Employment and economy: We believe that the Royston economy is relatively successful and the area is relatively affluent with little deprivation. Therefore, employment development should be primary to absorb the job needs of the new population which will occupy the new housing. The best location for modest employment expansion is to the north-west of the town within the bypass. n Transport in the Royston area: A new crossing of the railway will reduce severance within the town and encourage pedestrians and cyclists. Bus services linking the surrounding towns and villages to Royston could be improved.

Serious concerns over the commitment to town centre’

IN a draft response to North Herts District Council’s Local Development Framework, Royston Town Council said: n The lack of green belt protection has contributed significantly to Royston being seen as the favoured town for expansion in North Hertfordshire since the 1950s. It is the view of the town council that the Local Development Framework should do all it can to minimise the use of good quality agricultural land for housing and employment development. n Older and more historic settlements (such as Royston) are destroyed by over-crowded urban cramming. The older settlements deserve equal protection.

Of all the towns in North Hertfordshire, Royston has already accommodated a significant increase in housing and is already close to its proportionate share of the 2021 target.

We support the concept of proportionate and appropriate growth. However, this needs to take account of growth that has already taken place. n We support the view that no development should take place to the south-east across the ridge line.

While Royston has historically been a market town, we trust that it will be such well past 2021.

We have serious concerns over the commitment of North Herts District Council to the future of Royston’s market and town centre.

What is not recognised is the district council’s responsibility in driving people out of the town centre by allowing massive expansion of the out-of-town superstore and imposition of unreasonable parking charges.

There has to be adequate levels of car park provision at acceptable prices if people are to be encouraged to use the town centre.

We support a prosperous town centre. However, we believe encouragement will be insufficient and there is a need for active involvement – including financial support – to identify projects, to enhance the retail environment, support our markets and encourage new shops. n As Royston has grown, community facilities have declined with the exception of the recent leisure centre.

The only real expansion has been the out-of-town superstore which has done so much harm to the viability of the town centre.

The geographic constraints on the future growth of Royston must be taken into account when setting housing targets. Clearly, if all the potential housing land is used by 2021 there will be no future growth in Royston. n We consider the limited amount of potential employment land that is available should be reserved for the expansion of local companies.

No further land should be made available for distribution industries.

We do not understand how new housing will only be taken by people working locally.

With the present high cost of housing in Royston and a local wage unable to meet these costs, it is probable that the majority of new residents will continue to work outside the town. n A north-south bypass is still discussed, but funding issues and finding an acceptable route make this a distant and unlikely prospect.