Stevenage and North East Herts MPs raise concerns over Local Plan
PUBLISHED: 11:33 17 September 2020 | UPDATED: 11:55 17 September 2020
MPs for Stevenage and North East Herts have spoken out against North Herts District Council’s Local Plan, citing concerns around proposals that would bring around 14,000 new homes.
Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland submitted a lengthy objection to the plans ahead of hearing sessions at the end of this month.
He said: “I remain opposed to the plan, as it is not positively prepared, justified, effective or consistent with national planning policy.
“I am particularly concerned with the lack of consideration to previous objections to proposed developments in Knebworth, Codicote, north of Stevenage and Great Ashby.
“I agree that there is a need for housing in North Herts and have consistently supported a new Garden City to resolve that housing need. I disagree with the objective assessment of housing need as it is not objective for the following reasons:
“The numbers are based on a tickbox to have the plan approved. The proposed plan takes no account for the need for highways, social and affordable housing, education, health and potential social and leisure infrastructure that will be required in each community.”
“A new Garden City located in NHDC could resolve all of these issues and create a wonderful place to live, instead of overloading small communities.
“The site known as NS1, North of Stevenage, is dependent on the development of Forster Country inside Stevenage Borough Council boundaries.
“Sadly, SBC removed this area from Green Belt in their Local Plan and it is now subject to another planning application after I had the Secretary of State intervene on the first application.
“NS1 will coalesce these two areas together into one large estate and even NHDC accept they have no solutions for suitable transport infrastructure.”
He also stated that the COVID-19 outbreak has confirmed the need for open spaces, and said Green Belt land should only be used in “exceptional circumstances”.
North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald echoed Mr McPartland’s concerns, stating that the use of Green Belt in the plan was “excessive”.
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He said: “I remain concerned at the overall effect of the proposed Local Plan on the North Herts part of my constituency.
“The assessment of housing need should take account of what we are learning from the COVID pandemic, where high density housing without open spaces has been deleterious to public health.
“The history of North Herts is as the home of the first Garden City and the principles of Ebenezer Howard, including the precursor of the Green Belt known as the Agricultural Belt.
“His vision was of a pattern of communities built in line with these principles and particularly valuing open space and food production. This has been a popular vision of our future in North Herts.
“The use of Green Belt in the Plan is excessive and should be exceptional. I also share the concerns of Stephen McPartland MP about coalescence on the boundaries of authority areas, particularly in relation to Stevenage.
“I have previously raised overdevelopment and particular sites.
“Now that national statistics show a need for fewer homes, the plan should take account of this. It may result in less by way of New Homes Bonus, but the plan should be aiming to build well and along Garden City principles.”
Major developments in NHDC’s Local Plan include 2,800 new homes on land in Blackhorse Farm in Baldock – the largest single development in the town – 900 homes on land north of Stevenage and 600 in Great Ashby.
After concerns were raised, planning inspector Simon Berkeley called for further public hearings before progressing the plans.
Cllr Paul Clark, NHDC’s executive member for planning said: “The Planning Inspectorate has been examining the council’s Local Plan and will be considering representations submitted in writing or in person via video conferencing at the examination, when the North Herts Local Plan hearings restart.
“These further hearing sessions, which were postponed in March due to the coronavirus outbreak, are currently set to end on Friday, October 23.”
NHDC’s Local Plan hearings begin on Monday, September 28, and will take place virtually.
Further details including a draft itinerary is available at north-herts.gov.uk/planning-policy/local-plan/local-plan-examination/further-hearing-sessions-2020/further-hearings.
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