Need to protect our green belt

A MEETING organised by an action group protesting against plans to build 6,500 homes to the north of Stevenage was held last week. Members of GASP - Graveley Against Stevenage Plan - organised the event at Graveley Village Hall. It saw parliamentary hopef

A MEETING organised by an action group protesting against plans to build 6,500 homes to the north of Stevenage was held last week.

Members of GASP - Graveley Against Stevenage Plan - organised the event at Graveley Village Hall. It saw parliamentary hopefuls for Hitchin and Harpenden, Conservative Peter Lilley and Liberal Democrat Nigel Quinton, speaking passionately against the proposed development.

The plans to build 1,500 homes between North Road in Stevenage and Graveley village, and 5,000 homes to the north of Great Ashby, are part of a bid to meet the Government-set target of building 16,000 homes in Stevenage and North Herts by 2021. They also take into account further homes which may be required by 2031.

While Conservative-controlled North Herts District Council is against the proposals, Labour-controlled Stevenage Borough Council are in favour. Labour candidate Oliver De Botton was notably absent from the discussion, leaving him unable to defend Labour's support for what is thought to be the biggest incursion on the Green Belt in this country. Perhaps this is because the plans are simply indefensible.


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As I have said in this column before, I accept the need for more housing in this area.

It is no good sticking our heads in the sand and rejecting any large development. There is a need for realism, not idealism.

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There is a housing shortage which needs to be addressed. Thousands of people are on the housing waiting list, and hundreds are living in bed and breakfast accommodation.

There is a desperate need for affordable housing, which will help many people get on the first rung of the property ladder.

Redevelopment will also encourage people to move to the area, bringing new skills and new money.

Regeneration and growth should be viewed positively, but only when it is environmentally sensitive.

I supported the East of England Plan, which sets out the Government's housing targets, when it was first published in May 2008 because it promised to deliver housing developments which are well designed and built, and environmentally sensitive.

The plans currently proposed threaten to cause significant damage to the environment. Not only will they result in a major loss of Green Belt land, but the sites earmarked for housing includes areas of ancient woodland, and they are home to wildlife including a dormice colony and rare butterflies.

The East of England Plan originally had an objective of avoiding coalescence of villages and hamlets with Stevenage, but, with the current plans, Graveley, Chesfield and Warren's Green are in real danger of being swallowed up, creating an urban sprawl. This is simply not acceptable.

There needs to be a major rethink, with more creativity, to try to achieve the housing target without steam-rolling over the Green Belt and devastating village communities.

Mr Quinton has suggested developing within pockets of Stevenage, making the town more densely populated, and creating satellite communities on the edge of Stevenage. It is ideas like this which need to be given more consideration.

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