Councillors vote to protect Green Belt with Ickleford ruling

Chris Dady, from the CPRE believes the devolution consultation is flawed. The process could win the

Plans that would have seen five homes built on designated Green Belt land in Ickleford have been turned down by NHDC - Credit: PA

Plans that would have seen five market houses built on designated Green Belt land in Ickleford were rejected by North Herts District Council's planning committee last night.

Earlier this week, fears were raised by both councillors and residents on the "worrying precedent" that could be set if plans to build on the Green Belt were approved.

The application in question would have seen five new market houses built on land adjacent to Turnpike Lane and Manor Close in Ickleford, as well as on-site parking, landscaping, building of a pedestrian footpath and a designated communal space.

But NHDC's planning committee turned down these proposals last night, citing the lack of "exceptional circumstances" required to overrule Green Belt planning permission protection.

Although listed as part of North Hertfordshire's Green Belt, Ickleford had been defined as an "excluded village" as part of NHDC's 'Green Belt Review' in July 2016.

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The council has proposed to adjust the settlement boundary and to remove the site from the Green Belt in the submission Local Plan.

NHDC Local Plan Green Belt designation

A 2014 image shows North Hertfordshire's Green Belt designation. Ickleford is just to the north of Hitchin. - Credit: North Herts District Council

Within the same document, the southern part of Ickleford was deemed to have made a "moderate contribution to Green Belt purposes as it helps prevent urban sprawl north of Hitchin."

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Representing a group of local residents at last night's meeting, Kate Sargent described the proposed development as "not wanted and not needed".

"I ask the committee if the need to built five houses really outweighs the impact to the environment, the village's heritage, its infrastructure and its residents," she said.

"Are they prepared to set a dangerous precedent in building on Green Belt land for just five new dwellings?"

Speaking publicly on behalf of the developer was James Clark, who defended the "visually attractive" proposed development, and explained how it would provide "much needed housing supply" in the area.

He said: "The site has been designated for Green Belt release under the emerging Local Plan. It would help target and build the 1,400 homes required in the North Hertfordshire borough."

Cllr David Levett raised the proposal to reject the plans, based on the fact it should be afforded Green Belt protection and that there were no "exceptional circumstances" that warranted overruling that designation.

The proposal passed and therefore the application has been turned down.

Upon hearing the news, Ickleford resident Timothy Geldard commented: “It’s been great to see so many across Ickleford come together to push back against this inappropriate development, and for the outcome of the council vote to be so decisive in favour of saving this green space for future generations.

"I truly hope this marks a turning point for development and planning decisions in Hitchin and the wider region. If ever there was a time for our elected officials to step up to the plate and prioritise our green spaces and cultural heritage over the wants of property developers, it is now."

And Cllr Sam North, who also spoke in opposition of the development, described the news as "fantastic".

"This is a fantastic decision and again demonstrates the Council’s commitment to the environment and ensuring development in our district is sustainable.

"Last night showed that there is no appetite for development on this land, and so we must ensure its designation as Green Belt is retained and continue to protect it for the sake of our planet. I will be working to that end with residents and other councillors in the coming weeks."

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