Groups launch campaign against Hitchin housing proposals

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

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

TOWN groups have launched a campaign against housing proposals which could see thousands of homes built on Green Belt around their town.

West of Hitchin Action Group (WHAG) has joined forces with Hitchin Forum and Keep Hitchin Special to launch a campaign against plans to build up to 8,000 homes on the town’s outskirts.

The proposals are included in North Herts District Council’s housing options. It says more than 10,000 homes need to be built in the district over the next 18 years.

Speaking to the Comet this week, Steve Barley, spokesman for WHAG, said: “These sites, if approved, would expand Hitchin by an unprecedented 50 per cent, destroy large swathes of our countryside and ruin the innate character of our town.

“WHAG supports housing growth that meets Hitchin’s needs not regional targets.

“WHAG welcomes development on brown field sites such as these as all towns must grow to survive. However, Hitchin does not need nearly 8,000 additional dwellings on its precious surrounding Green Belt.”

The group will be in Market Place this weekend and on March 23 to encourage residents to make formal representations to NHDC, which is holding a consultation until March 28.

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It has also produced a poster, opposing the proposed large number of homes.

“Only by working together will we have a chance of protecting Hitchin’s Green Belt and rural character for future generations,” added Mr Barley.

At Hitchin area committee last night (Tuesday), Hitchin Forum made a presentation to councillors and members of the public.

Adrian Gurney, who led the presentation, said the number of homes proposed for the town was not proportionate.

“If the outstanding homes for the period up to 2031 were distributed according to the proportion of existing size of settlements, then Hitchin would need to find 27 per cent of the total, ie, 2,400 homes,” he told councillors.

“There are now very few sites within Hitchin that have not already been developed, and those that do go ahead should be for family housing.”

He also suggested the homes target could be met by creating a new settlement.

“The Letchworth/Hitchin/Stevenage area is under considerable pressure and is becoming increasingly congested with significant difficulties in providing infrastructure and services,” he added.

“It may therefore be worth considering the development of a new settlement further north in a sustainable location with associated rail links.”