Stevenage Local Plan is adopted despite fears Green Belt land will be engulfed
- Credit: Archant
The Local Plan for Stevenage – which sets out how the town will be developed through to 2031 – has been adopted, despite concerns Green Belt land will be swallowed up with housing.
Stevenage Borough Council's executive team has approved adoption of the Local Plan, which sets out proposals for regenerating the town centre, building 7,600 new homes, revamping neighbourhood centres and creating jobs.
But there are concerns the plan includes engulfing large swathes of Green Belt land.
John Spiers, of the Friends of Forster Country - a group formed in 1988 to help preserve the open green space to the north of Stevenage - said: "The Local Plan intends building on virtually all of the remaining Green Belt land in Stevenage.
"New evidence demonstrates that the Stevenage Green Belt can and should be saved.
"The destruction of the Green Belt is not only unprincipled, it is unnecessary.
"Since the plan examination, the Office of National Statistics 2016 data shows Stevenage will need 1,954 fewer houses than shown by the 2014 data on which the plan was based.
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"This plan exceeds current government requirements to house UK citizens and will damage our local environment."
An SBC spokesman said: "The draft Local Plan was consulted on widely to provide residents with an opportunity to share their views and give their feedback.
"The Local Plan was developed using a robust evidence base and national guidelines and approved by a planning inspector appointed by the government.
"The inspector's report concluded in order to build the council's housing target of 7,600 new homes, a limited release of Green Belt land was required to deliver the Stevenage Local Plan."
The Local Plan was first submitted to central government for consideration in July 2016, but Stevenage's MP Stephen McPartland requested it was placed on hold in November 2017, arguing it failed to adequately regenerate the town centre.
In January this year, with the holding direction still in place, the borough council mounted a legal challenge and it was lifted.
But SBC says the delay has had a negative impact on delivering about 240 affordable homes to the north of Stevenage and has cost tax payers about £45,000 in legal fees and senior officer time.
Councillor John Gardner, Stevenage Borough Council's executive member for environment and regeneration, said: "We are delighted after 497 days, the Stevenage Borough Local Plan has finally had its temporary holding direction lifted. It has now been formally adopted and we can move forward with its implementation.
"After years of public consultation and examination we have a robust plan. We are pleased that the government shares our vision of an even better Stevenage, in line with the views of the planning inspector and our residents.
"Our plan sets out a clear vision for the town including new homes, a proposal to make changes and regenerate Stevenage railway station and ways to protect the environment and enhance the biodiversity of Stevenage."
Mr McPartland was asked to comment, but is yet to respond.