Baldock and Letchworth campaigners chant in protest as NHDC vote to move draft housing plan to consultation

Save Rural Baldock campaigners before the Local Plan meeting.

Save Rural Baldock campaigners before the Local Plan meeting. - Credit: Archant

Passionate campaigners greeted councillors arriving at a Local Plan meeting last night with chants of ‘crops not concrete’.

Councillor David Levett, responsible for planning and enterprise at NHDC, giving his Local Plan pres

Councillor David Levett, responsible for planning and enterprise at NHDC, giving his Local Plan presentation. - Credit: Archant

Passionate campaigners greeted councillors arriving at a Local Plan meeting last night with chants of ‘crops not concrete’.

Protestors made a striking presence outside North Herts Leisure Centre with many holding placards reading ‘Save Letchworth’s Green Belt’ and ‘Say no to the overdevelopment of Baldock’ – while a tractor was parked ominously on the mound.

Of the hundreds attending the North Herts District Council meeting, not all lasted for the outcome which came shortly before midnight, as councillors voted to move their Preferred Options draft to the consultation stage.

The draft plan sets out the district’s housing requirements until 2031 – which currently stands at 12,100 homes.


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Nine sites making up 3,414 houses have been allocated to be built in and around Baldock, including one of 2,800 dwellings at the Blackhorse Farm site to the north of the town.

Speaking at the meeting, Save Rural Baldock campaigner Adrienne Waterfield said: “By passing this housing plan on to the public you, councillors, are saying that you believe this is the best plan that the council can come up with and you are committing it to a long, formal, expensive process.

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“We understand that agreeing to put this proposal to public consultation is not approving the Local Plan, or granting development rights and that you are not building the houses, but it is starting to showcase possibilities which are blatantly unfair, not properly thought out and harder to change. Frankly, we had hoped for a better starting point.”

Bob Dunn, who has lived in Baldock for 23 years, said that the housing allocation placed on his hometown would see an uplift in population of 80 per cent, and asked Hitchin, Letchworth and Royston councillors ‘how could you vote for that in your town?’.

Letchworth’s draft allocation contains 11 sites making up 1,537 homes which are still to be built, including 1,000 dwellings on land north of the Grange estate.

Steve Paffet of Save The World’s First Garden City – which are planning to march on Letchworth before Christmas in protest of the plans – asked: “How with a clear conscience can we destroy the concept of the garden city?’

Ellen Barnes of the Letchworth Garden City Society said: “These plans would leave one field between Letchworth and Stotfold – this is not an adequate Green Belt. We should be vigilant in protecting our Green Belt.”

After the public participation, NHDC councillor for planning and enterprise David Levett gave a PowerPoint presentation on the process of the Preferred Options of the Local Plan.

He said: “Each housing site has been comprehensively assessed for suitability and availability. A huge amount of background information has gone into this plan – it is not a five minute whim.

“We’ve got to start somewhere and we need something out there that people can respond to. Nothing is set in stone at this stage. This is not a done deal and we do listen.”

What followed was about two hours of debate as councillors had their say on the Preferred Options.

Baldock councillor John Harris gave an impassioned address saying: “The Government’s guidelines on Green Belt have been ignored. The voice of North Herts is loud and clear – reject this plan.”

Councillor Michael Weeks, speaking on behalf of Arbury councillor Andrew Young, said: “Do we want to be known as the council that fundamentally changed the nature of one of our most historic towns?”

Councillor Julian Cunningham, responsible for policy, transport and green issues, said: “What we are proposing is homes for our children. These housing figures are not plucked out of thin air.”

While Mr Levett added: “We need to get this draft plan moving now. We should’ve done it two years ago. Figures could go up again in two years.”

Councillors voted against an amendment moved by Weston councillor Steve Jarvis to release sufficient land for 9,900 homes.

The results of the consultation period – which runs from December 18 to February 6 – will be fed into the next version of the Local Plan.

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