Cuts in Government funding could delay plans to build 17,000 homes near Hitchin and Stevenage

GOVERNMENT plans to build 17,000 new homes between the West of Stevenage and Hitchin could be delayed by a decade or be shelved. The massive project was due to be completed by 2021 but the East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) say recent Government cu

GOVERNMENT plans to build 17,000 new homes between the West of Stevenage and Hitchin could be delayed by a decade or be shelved.

The massive project was due to be completed by 2021 but the East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) say recent Government cuts for the infrastructure and the recession now cast grave doubts over the multi-million pound plans.

It could mean the whole plan being pushed back another 20 years to 2031.

This week the chairman of EERA John Reynolds spoke about his fears for the projects affecting Stevenage and Hitchin and his concerns about the Government's massive housing blueprint.


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His remarks were prompted by the Government's decision to switch �30m for road links for new housing development in growth areas in the East of England to a national housing fund of which �1.068m was earmarked for Stevenage and North Herts.

"This money was going towards the planning of the infrastructure for these 17,000 homes," said Mr Reynolds.

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"This infrastructure, roads, schools, surgeries and recreational facilities, has to be in place before these houses are built. Without the infrastructure planners cannot approve applications.

"Developers have not got the incentive to do these plans and are now tearing up proposals they drew up. Losing Government funding and suffering a recession must put grave concerns over the entire project in my opinion."

Mr Reynolds added: "The Government is in danger of promoting housing growth without adequate transport links, employment opportunities and social infrastructure. Cutting this funding whilst asking the region to consider building hundreds of thousands of new homes over the next 20 years would be a huge mistake and they should urgently re-consider their decision."

EERA has now written to the Government's Communities Secretary John Denham outlining its fears.

Cllr Tom Brindley, portfolio holder for planning and transport at North Herts District Council (NHDC) said: "When the East of England Plan was being prepared, the Government promised there would be sufficient funding to enable their massive proposals for new housing to be provided in a sustainable way.

"As a council we were very concerned that this commitment would not be delivered and to date there has been little to demonstrate that the Government is going to fund improvements to our already overburdened infrastructure.

"This latest announcement on the Growth Areas Funds (GAF) means that a significant part of the money that had already been identified for local councils to facilitate infrastructure improvements has been taken away.

"The council had committed GAF funding to look at transport improvements in Hitchin, with the Hitchin Transport Plan, on the A505/A602 corridor to manage the impact of Stevenage and Luton growth and on the Royston rail crossing.

"This truly disappointing announcement from the Government means that, as this feasibility work proceeds, we will have to review which schemes can be progressed."

But Cllr John Gardner, deputy leader of Stevenage Borough Council, hit back saying: "Whilst any reductions in growth area capital funding for 2010/11 are to be regretted they do not directly have any impact on the West of Stevenage development.

"Any attempt to link the issue of this short term adjustment to Growth Area Funding to the general economic problems facing major development projects, such as the West of Stevenage, are in my opinion either naive or irresponsible

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