Stevenage MP's last minute bid to halt approval of 600-home Gresley Park plan
PUBLISHED: 17:00 04 February 2020
In a last-ditch attempt to halt planning approval for 618 homes, a primary and pre-school and an 80-bed care home on countryside on the edge of Stevenage, the town's MP has asked the housing secretary to intervene.
The plans also include up to 50 assisted living homes, shops, community facilities and a site for travelling showpeople on the agricultural land to the east of the Stevenage, off Gresley Way - between Fairlands Way and Lanterns Lane.
The planning authority, East Herts Council, has received 1,273 objections - concerns include traffic congestion, insufficient infrastructure and loss of the Beane Valley view - and an e-petition of 590 signatures.
But the council's planning expert has recommended the planning application, known locally as Gresley Park, is approved because it complies with the local authority's development plan and national policy.
A decision is due to be made by EHC's Development Management Committee tomorrow, but Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland has now asked Robert Jenrick - the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government - to call the application in.
If the application is called in, an inspector will be appointed to carry out an inquiry into the proposal and the secretary of state will take the inspector's findings into account when making a decision on the application.
In a letter to Mr Jenrick, Mr McPartland writes: "I remain concerned at the sheer volume of houses due to be built.
"The application fails to negate local concerns over significant negative impacts the development would have on the surrounding highways and traffic systems. These concerns still remain after consultation with members of the public, with 1,072 individuals and local organisations such as PACE raising concerns. This constitutes, I believe, a shocking betrayal of public trust by East Herts Council.
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"The people who will be affected by this development should be at the forefront of discussions and, given the proximity of the development, my constituents should be able to contribute to the debate and have their concerns listened to in good faith.
"The application appears to me to be a complete fait accompli, with our neighbouring local authority failing to engage on important issues such as secondary school provision, the impact of local public transport and healthcare infrastructure.
"East Herts Council never had any intention of working with the Stevenage community over its impact on local infrastructure." He continues: "I remain concerned over the enormous environmental damage this development would cause if it is allowed to go ahead.
"The rareness and importance of the chalk stream ecosystems in the Beane Valley will be irrevocably destroyed by the development.
"The original inclusion of this development in the Local Plan was objected to by EHC planners, but they changed their view purely to achieve their housing numbers. Now the housing numbers have been reduced, and the Local Plan is 12 per cent over what is required, the area should be reinstated as Green Belt.
"I would urge you to call in the above application and investigate the failure of the local authority to listen to local people."
A council spokeswoman said: "We undertook formal consultation as we do with all planning applications. More than 500 households from the surrounding Stevenage area were sent invitations to comment on the scheme.
"The council has engaged with community representatives throughout the pre-application process and following the submission of the application. As a result of this engagement, a number of amendments were proposed, resulting in a second consultation, where more than 1,000 Stevenage households were notified.
"The application is now due to be determined at our development management committee tomorrow evening."