Campaigners hit out at lack of Hitchin housing consultation

WHAG's poster calling for people to respond to the proposals

WHAG's poster calling for people to respond to the proposals - Credit: Archant

RESIDENTS have hit out at a council for not doing enough to consult residents on the future of housing provision, which could see thousands of homes built on the fringes of a town.

North Herts District Council has been criticised by campaigners in Hitchin for not putting on enough consultation opportunities in the town for its housing options strategy.

The authority did add an additional consultation event in the town following pressure, which was held last night (Thursday) at the British Schools Museum, but is still being accused of not doing enough.

There are proposals to build up to 8,000 homes on the town’s outskirts, including on Green Belt.

Robin Dartington of the group Keep Hitchin Special, who lodged an official complaint with the council, said: “I asked for the exhibition to be displayed in the community centres, Westmill, St Michaels Road, and also St Johns, and for the consultation deadline to be extended.

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“It has discriminated against Westmill Estate in particular, where the section of new houses north of Pirton Road would send traffic pouring along Redhill Road and Moss Way/Burford Way.

“The council’s answer has been to arrange only one extra exhibition, at British Schools, still in the south of the town, too far from Westmill to walk to, and too short notice for people.

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“It has been argued that officers can’t be asked to do more work. Typical – officers’ convenience first, public needs second.

“Hitchin faces huge threats and the consultation at this first stage of falling in with the developer’s vision of getting mega-bucks from clamping a huge swathe of new houses around the south and west sides of Hitchin has been quite inadequate.”

The comments come after the launch of an official campaign earlier this month by West of Hitchin Action Group and Hitchin Forum, who say the number of proposed homes are not proportionate.

And Mr Dartington echoed those comments.

“Hitchin has accepted a disproportionate number of new homes over the last decade, too many as flats, due to unimaginative re-use of employment sites so Hitchin is slipping into a dormitory town,” he added.

“If allowed, these new homes would increase Hitchin’s population by 50 per cent. The town would become unworkable, congestion everywhere.”

The consultation ends on March 28, with residents urging people to email to respond.

Cllr Tom Brindley, North Herts District Council’s portfolio holder for planning and enterprise, said: “We have nearly come to the end of the nine exhibitions we held throughout North Herts looking at where thousands of new homes that will be needed in the district over the next two decades could be built.

“As the exhibitions have been well attended, we have arranged for an additional drop in exhibition to take place in Hitchin in a central location at the Hitchin British Schools. This will take the same format as the exhibitions already held across the district and, like the others, is open for anyone to attend and discuss any site, not just those in Hitchin.

“With this extra meeting, North Herts District Council will have provided 10 fully staffed exhibitions, with at least four taking place in, or near, Hitchin.”

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