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NHDC local plan

Sandon Conservation Group – comments to North Herts District Council on the draft local development plan,
November 2016

As well as our concerns about the village centre, we have concerns for the surrounding hamlets because if Sandon remains a category A village they are vulnerable to development too.
As we are sure you know, whilst Sandon used to be protected under the Excepted Villages Policy and the Rural Areas Beyond the Green Belt Policy it is now only protected by policy SP2 Selected Hierarchy which offers only limited protection as it states “General development will also be allowed within the defined settlement boundaries of the Category A villages”. The areas outside the defined settlement boundary still have some protection under Policy CGB1 Rural Areas Beyond the Green Belt  but they will also be affected by Policy CGB2 Exception Sites in Rural Areas which potentially allows some development for those areas bordering a Class A village.
We appreciate that North Herts District Council is in a somewhat difficult position as it needs to produce a local development plan that meets the requirements of the NPPF and it does not at this point have any plans for development within Sandon. However the Plan covers the period up to 2031, so we do feel that, in order to ensure that the character of the village is retained, it is incumbent upon the Parish Council to do what it can to control development in and around Sandon and ensure that any development meets genuine local needs and has a minimum or no impact on the surrounding environment.
The obvious way to do this is to develop a Neighbourhood Plan as other Category A villages have done and this would have the added advantage of allowing the community at large to be involved in the decisions made concerning the village.

North Herts local plan – The Comet

Groups campaigning to preserve green belt around Baldock and Letchworth reacted with dismay to the approval of the North Herts draft local plan on 22 July, reports The Comet.

The plan calls for up to 14,600 new homes, including more than 3,500 on green belt around Baldock.

Anthony Burrows, acting chair of Save the World’s First Garden City, said the group was totally opposed to any building on green belt land anywhere in North Herts. “If you finally vote to allow building massively on our green belt, any inspector is entitled to assume that you have no objection in principle to building on it,” he told councillors before the vote. “Can any councillor tell us where there is any development in your plan which is not the urban sprawl which for decades has been considered the very opposite of good planning? Moving or increasing the amount of green belt so that the sprawl can be constructed is cynical.”

NHDC Local plan background papers


A killing spree – precedent-setting go-ahead to kill buzzards to save commericial birds

St Albans blocks property build on green belt  – Herts Advertiser

District council blocks effort by housebuilders, including Taylor Wimpey North Thames and Harrow Estates, to use former airfield for 2,000 houses – using the draft strategic local plan, which proposes retaining the site as green belt.

Councils ruining habitats with early hedge cutting, says RSPB


The RSPB has urged local authorities not to cut back hedges or trees until September, saying the work can destroy habitats and nests. Cutting done too early by councils and developers led to nearly 1,000 active nests being destroyed last year, reported the site on 10 May. The RSPB wrote to all councils to remind them that all wild birds and their nests are legally protected. The organisation also called on councils to reduce pesticide use, promote planting of native species over exotics, and use drought-tolerant plants.

World Sparrow Day

Sunday 20 March was World Sparrow Day. The Guardian published sparrow pictures taken by readers. Why not send your favourite bird photo to Sandon Conservation?

Global warming – rate of change is unprecedented
Photo: Pixabay

Drought, rainfall, temperature – the records are broken

Sandon gander

Died 8 March 2016.  Update 16/4/16


Blunt force trauma verdict

Police reported, at first, that the death of the Sandon gander was due to “natural causes” not gunshot, as suspected by residents. The report followed a forensic examination, including a CT scan, by veterinary pathologists.

But “investigations continued”. The latest sign-off, which suggests Grumpie Gertie suffered some kind of blow, does not seem to make a link with “natural causes” now.

The police say the goose died from blunt force trauma, implying the injury caused the death. The Mirror, ( perhaps mirroring local opinion, goes for a deliberate killing: “New evidence from the Royal Veterinary College in London has now proved that 11-year-old Gertie was indeed murdered.”

A Herts police spokeswoman said: “Specialist officers based within the force’s Rural Operational Support Team have remained in contact with the Royal Veterinary College throughout the inquiry. Following further tests the college has confirmed the goose died from a blunt force trauma.

“However there is no physical evidence to confirm the exact nature of the trauma and, despite significant media coverage, no witnesses have ever come forward to help the inquiry. The case has now been closed.”

The case was not classed as a crime because the goose was not a wild bird and did not belong to anyone who could be a described as a victim because of its death, police said.

Comment (March 2016) after reported shooting

So we lose the much-loved Sandon goose – allegedly to a drive-by shooting. If that’s true (and of course the animal has been killed by some means) then sadly it seems to indicate a quite shocking deficit of empathy and education in the assailant. 

One goose dead. Hard to rationalise as significant perhaps when the cruelty of intensive chicken, geese and turkey farming, and field shooting, goes unremarked by the majority. 

Yet it is significant. The gander was a fixture of the village. He made his own life there on the pond, and did adopt the ducks, in a caring role that crossed species. Dodging his hissing bravado as you posted a letter was a hazard but just part of the charm. He was free and that was not lost on people who have developed within themselves a respect for other creatures, even for liberty on a broad front.

Poor trusting bird who probably felt he had to be brave only to protect his duck family. Poor stupid man (if indeed that’s the right gender for the killer), how low have you sunk? How short were you on cheap and easy thrills in your life?

The only uplifting thing is that many Sandon children and their parents do care, as shown by the tribute of flowers and notes left in the bird’s one-time home, the old phone box at the pond (and, indeed, as shown by the succinct quote for the press from resident Gay Ayton, one of the gander’s near neighbours).

One tribute note – “you was brave to help wot you love” – shows a true understanding and respect for other animals and their incredible spirit, a realisation that does cross the species “barriers”.

That learned, that under our belt, we surely all have a bit more of a chance of raising our humanity – and enlightening those loitering in a twilight world. Pat Sinclair

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UK fox reportedly killed and strung up, Cheshire (unverified). Photo:

Sandon foxes strung up in local wood
Reported by a local walker to a resident (report received 11 February 2016).
What do you think?
A Is this a venerable rural tradition teaching those pests who’s in charge?
B Something else entirely – which needs discussing in the open?

Leave your comment – all anonymous, if needs be

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Save 30% of oceans – from us

Yorkshire Post reports on studies suggesting we need much more extensive marine conservation, well above the UN target of 10% protection by 2020

Stranded whales, Norfolk

The EU and the environment
(Matthew Spencer/Green Alliance blog)
Seven things you should know about the EU and the environment

Sloth lost on busy road, Los Rios, Equador. Photo: Transit Commission of Ecuador

Helping hand for sloth – South America
KTLA/Tracy Bloom/John A Moreno/22 January 2016)
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Flooding, trees and rewilding

Best apps for identifying wild and cultivar plants

Getting going after COP21
UN chief calls for action on Paris climate agreement

UNEP and Islamic Development Bank sign climate deal – Climate Action/UNEP

Foxes and the law?
Peterborough’s Fitzwilliam Hunt now faces investigation after a reported disembowelling of a fox during the New Year’s Day hunt, 2016.


Wild about wild

Hertfordshire Biodiversity

“Partnership set up to bring together organisations concerned with nature conservation and biodiversity issues in Hertfordshire. Its focus is to drive delivery of the Biodiversity Action Plan.”

Wildlife on your doorstep

Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust


Wildlife crime – report it

The wide view

Campaign to Protect Rural England


IUCN – ” International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges.”

Climate change
WWF’s climate roundup and explainer

Rewilding woodland – Cambrian Wildwood project, Wales

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