Hitchin Green Belt land under threat of development


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An action group whose aim is to protect Hitchin’s Green Belt and save the countryside has hit out after a council published its latest land assessment survey, which shows that there are large areas of Green Belt around the town that are being considered as development sites.

North Herts District Council (NHDC) has published an updated Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment document, which considers sites that may be available for housing development.

The update follows on from the consultation that took place in 2013.

The latest document is a reassessment of the sites based on the availability for accommodation, the landowner’s intentions and the financial viability.

In Hitchin, sites south and west of the town have been declared as failing at least one of the requirements.

Adrian Gurney, chairman of Hitchin Forum’s planning group, said: “An area covering the old Priory Park, between Charlton, Gosmore and Maydencroft is still included for potential development.

“This is an extremely important part of Green Belt on high ground very visible from surrounding countryside, and providing separation between Hitchin and the villages, and an important recreational source.

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“There are other areas of Green Belt at Highover Farm, at St Ippolyts and Gosmore, and at Grays Lane/Lucas Lane which remain under threat.”

Steve Barley, spokesman for the West of Hitchin Action Group (WHAG), said: “NHDC’s latest Strategic Land Assessment Survey has pretty much fallen under most people’s radar, but shows that there are large areas of Green Belt around Hitchin that are considered ‘achievable’ as development sites.

“There is a risk that in the face of the large-scale proposals, some smaller, but no less important Green Belt sites would be ‘overlooked’ and be included in future housing development planning applications with limited objection.

“Hitchin has already seen significant growth over the last few years and further development of brownfield sites is already underway. Until those sites are exhausted, WHAG believes we should protect Green Belt land regardless of size.

“Therefore, WHAG objects to the smaller green belt sites along Crow Furlong and Lucas Lane and will campaign against development on these, as well as the larger sites mentioned earlier.”

Ian Fullstone, NHDC’s head of development and building control, said: “The updated document now includes sites consulted upon last July in preparation for a new Local Plan for the district. No decisions have yet been made as to which of the sites will be needed for the council to meet its future housing needs.

“The chosen sites will be included in a draft Local Plan, anticipated to be published later this year, at which stage there will be an opportunity for further feedback from residents.”

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