‘Concerns’ over North Herts Green Belt invasion

A CONTROVERSIAL Bedfordshire regeneration project which could impact on Green Belt land in areas in North Hertfordshire will be delayed, after a planning inspector expressed concerns over the “soundness” of the strategy.

The joint strategy between Luton and Central Beds councils proposes a number of developments, including an expansion of Century Park which would impose on green belt land in parts of North Hertfordshire.

But this has been opposed by residents, with North Herts District Council (NHDC) also objecting to the scheme.

“The inspector has expressed concerns regarding the “soundness” of the strategy,” said Cllr Tom Brindley, portfolio holder for planning and enterprise.

“These concerns are whether legally it is in general conformity with the development plan, which currently includes the East of England Plan, and also whether it is deliverable. The inspector will have to adjudge on this issue as and when the examination starts.

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“Regarding the second concern, from a North Herts point of view we do not believe that the development recommended in the district is deliverable within the plan period.

“There are very strong Green Belt objections to the type of development suggested and the need for the development has not been justified to the extent that it outweighs these objections.”

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Cllr David Barnard was at the meeting, and objects to the proposals on several grounds.

He also campaigned against a former plan which suggested a housing development on the land, although this has since been scrapped.

“In 2005, there were a number of commercial sites within Luton itself identified which could have been used for development, but these just seem to have disappeared,” said Cllr Barnard.

“There’s a very strong and well researched proposal to develop to the West of Luton, but for some reason, officers refuse to properly investigate it. “We will, as a council, always object to any development into North Herts beautiful green belt. Unless we are strongly instructed to by the government, we will not accept development from any other authority into our area.

“It’s all been driven by commerce, in my opinion, and not by need.”

The news was welcomed by Hitchin MP Peter Lilley, who has also been against the proposals.

“My concern is to prevent the proposed Century Park development being extended into the Green Belt of North Hertfordshire,” said Mr Lilley.

“That could be the thin end of the wedge opening the gate to the possible housing development that Luton has previously considered in this area. I have no objection to Century Park being developed so long as it is restricted to land within Luton’s boundaries and is accessed from existing roads in Luton.

“It will probably help us resist such proposals if the inspector rejects Luton’s strategic plan as inadequate. If it is delayed until after the Localism Bill is enacted, North Hertfordshire District Council will have more control over our own destiny.”

The delay in the start of examination was suggested by the joint technical unit to respond to the concerns, and agreed by the inspector.

A meeting will be held next Friday, June 24, in which Luton and Central Beds councils will consider the key points raised.

“The comments made by the inspector are part of the normal process of ensuring that the core strategy is sound and that there is an opportunity for the committee to address any concerns,” said Cllr Nigel Young, Central Bedfordshire lead member of the joint planning committee.

“In terms of Century Park, the site sits within both Luton and North Hertfordshire. The core strategy does not directly allocate any land outside Bedfordshire and simply makes clear that it is a recommendation put forward by the committee to NHDC to be considered as part of their own local plans.

“While we understand concerns relating to development in the area, it needs to be remembered that for growth to be meaningful, particularly when it is linked to London Luton Airport, then some proposals will have an impact on Green Belt land and in some circumstances will be more sensibly conceived even if they cross administrative boundaries.”

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