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HomeMore NewsTransport vision for Hemel Hempstead outlined to councillors

Transport vision for Hemel Hempstead outlined to councillors

Transport chiefs have highlighted the need for change to support the development of the Hemel Garden Communities—with an aim to make walking, cycling, and public transport the “natural choice for local journeys.”

The Hemel Garden Community Programme includes a development of 11,000 homes that will straddle the Dacorum and St Albans border—with further plans for 6,300 new homes elsewhere in Hemel Hempstead.

As a result, by 2050, the population of Hemel Hempstead is expected to increase by 50 percent.

County transport chiefs have now drawn up a ‘vision and strategy’ document that points to the need for change in Hemel Hempstead if it is to facilitate the level of growth that is being planned.

It focuses on an approach that, it says, would “grow Hemel Hempstead in a highly sustainable way.”

It includes an aim that 40 percent of all trips to, from, and within Hemel Hempstead—and 60 percent of all person trips to, from, and within new Hemel Garden Communities neighborhoods—should be undertaken by “sustainable modes of transport.”

On Wednesday (May 8), it was presented at a meeting of the council’s highways and transport cabinet panel.

At the meeting, it was reported to councillors that there was a need—and an opportunity—to improve passenger transport and walking and cycling routes “to give people a real choice in how they travel, particularly for shorter trips.”

According to the report presented at the meeting, “by 2050, Hemel Hempstead will be a place where walking, cycling, and public transport are the natural choice for local journeys, for residents and visitors alike.”

Pointing to the planned increase in population, interim director of transport Rupert Thacker said that moving people around would be “more challenging” than it had been in the past.

He acknowledged that there could already be congestion in some parts of the town—later suggesting that that congestion was the catalyst that demonstrates the need for change.

But he said the strategy would look to identify ways to provide viable opportunities for people to shift journeys where possible to sustainable modes, by encouraging and enabling walking, cycling, and bus transit.

And he said it would include consideration of the HERT corridor, which is the east to west transit system that the council is “looking to promote.”

The “high-level” document does not include detailed information about specific routes for public transport, walking, or cycling that could be available.

And at the meeting, Mr. Thacker acknowledged that “the devil will be in the detail”—about the networks, the provision, the individual projects, and schemes that will be needed to bring about that shift and to make it real.

Meanwhile, Philippa Zieba, program director for Hemel Garden Communities, pointed to the importance of sustainability.

“Hemel Garden communities got garden community status in 2019—and a key pillar of that is sustainability across all forms,” she said.

“A key aspect of that is delivering active and sustainable travel. And this is particularly important to support the levels of growth that we are proposing, which is 11,000 new homes and 10,000 jobs in the period up to 2050.”

After pointing to the 60 percent of the population who live and work in Hemel, Conservative Councillor Jonathan Kaye said public transport would be “crucial.”

And he had asked how there could be a guarantee that public transport would be available—suggesting this was what would make people think twice about using a car.

Mr. Thacker pointed to the need for public transport to be reliable and frequent to make people feel secure that that option would be available.

He said there would need to be investment and prioritization of the networks—to make sure journeys were reliable, run on time, and are viable.

He also highlighted the need for “easy” ticketing and payment. And he recognized that this would require investment in the infrastructure and in behavior change.

He also said that the opportunity was in the number of short journeys in the town—with data suggesting 60 percent of journeys around Hemel Hempstead were less than five miles.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Nigel Taylor was among those to ask about the gradients of any cycle routes in the area.

And in response, councillors heard that there was already some consideration of an e-bike scheme in the area.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Adrian England said now almost all his journeys around Hemel Hempstead were by bike or on foot.

He acknowledged that the hills were a problem—but that it was not entire hills, just part of them.

He suggested the reality was that cyclists might have to get off for two or three minutes and then get back on.

And he said that Hemel Garden Communities is capable of bringing a completely new dimension to the way you travel around Hemel.

Meanwhile, concerns were also raised by Liberal Democrat councillors about the lack of planned consultation and public engagement.

Councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst said there should be proper public consultation.

And he said he was surprised that it had not “gone out” for public comment.

At the meeting, executive director for growth and environment Mark Doran acknowledged that it was a high-level vision and strategy document. And he said the next phase was critical in setting out the detail.

Executive member for highways and transport Councillor Phil Bibby said: “It is a vision at the moment.

“Any development will depend on funding, as we know, planning permission, whatever.

“But we’re early days and I think it is quite an exciting project—something very necessary to link in particularly to the HERTS to get people across the county.

“I’m sure a lot of work will be happening in the future.”