GOCA is a member of CPRE Herts and has assisted GOCA with many rural matters, Council planning and potential new builds. Here is an update from our Herts CPRE. GOCA would like to take this opportunity to thank CPRE for their help and guidance. It is much appreciated.

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Our Planning team expected a drop in activity during the lockdown but this has not happened, with many new planning applications being filed right across the county and a good number requiring our response because of proposals for inappropriate development in the Green Belt or in the wider countryside. Several ‘plotland sales’ and self-build proposals on Green Belt sites have been actioned. Local Plan work at the District or Borough level continued through the winter months with our participation at numerous hearings in public, but these have now been paused in North Herts District and Welwyn Hatfield Borough due to the pandemic, and in St Albans District due the inspector’s concerns about the draft Plan.  The Broxbourne Local Plan has now been adopted. The timetable for public consultation on the submission Local Plans in Dacorum, Hertsmere and Three Rivers has been put back. We have learned that a private online poll ‘Your Future’ was run from February to May by consultants as evidence for the SW Herts Joint Strategic Plan.

Chairman Richard Bullen and former Chairman Liz Hamilton recently attended a virtual meeting of the CPRE Water Network which includes local CPREs from the South East and Eastern regions.  There is a major national initiative within the water industry to improve water supplies in this part of the country.  Here in Hertfordshire this is a particular concern as we want to ensure protection for our precious chalk streams.

Our annual CPRE Herts Awards programme is running as usual.  We’re delighted to have received 16 fantastic nominations for a variety of community and environment based projects including library volunteers, a community garden, hedgehog rescue, a drop-in centre and several “Friends of” groups.  Remote judging will take place over the summer, and we’re working out how to safely present the awards and give due recognition to all those who volunteer, later this autumn.

Our annual Children’s Art Competition is also running as usual, and we’ve received 120 pieces of beautiful art from primary school aged children, including from schools and parts of the county who’ve never before participated.  Professional Artist Val Cansick is in action judging the entries now.

During the lockdown, Liz Hamilton has written an excellent series of articles on “Countryside Close to Home” using her garden and the adjacent open countryside near her home in the Chilterns to show us some of the native species of wildflowers, trees, birds and insects thriving locally.  See her articles and beautiful photography on our website at www.cpreherts.org.uk.

Also during the lockdown, our Volunteer Recruitment Lead Eliza Hermann has successfully spearheaded our search for several new Trustees to take the places of those whose terms are finishing soon.  Members will hear more about our new Trustees shortly, as their appointments are confirmed.  Meantime our Trustees, Planning team and Marketing committee are all meeting regularly via teleconference and videoconference because we cannot gather in person.  Our skills with the technology are steadily improving!

Many social and special interest groups from all walks of life are also now meeting virtually on a regular basis.  If you know of any such groups that are looking for a ‘virtual guest speaker’, please get in touch and we may be able to oblige.

We’ve had to close our office in Welwyn during the pandemic and we expect it to remain closed for some time yet, as it would be difficult to maintain safe, socially-distanced working practices in such a small space.  However, we are all busily working from home and contactable by email, in the first instance at office@cpreherts.org.uk

Best wishes and stay safe.

The Team at CPRE Hertfordshire

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