Hitchin residents rally against developers
Almost 5,000 objections have been collected by an action group campaigning to stop the destruction of a vast swathe of Green Belt land surrounding a town. The West Of Hitchin Action group spent just two Saturdays in Hitchin s Market Place collecting obje
Almost 5,000 objections have been collected by an action group campaigning to stop the destruction of a vast swathe of Green Belt land surrounding a town.
The West Of Hitchin Action group spent just two Saturdays in Hitchin's Market Place collecting objection forms against proposals to build thousands of homes and a bypass on countryside around the town.
The hundreds of hectares, including 400 to the west of the town with room for 8,000 homes, are part of 126 sites put forward by landowners and developers after North Herts District Council (NHDC) asked for possible locations to meet government housing targets across the region by 2021.
Members of the action group estimate over 1,000 people filled out forms opposing the sites, which they handed in on Monday to the council - the last day of a public consultation on the plans.
Steve Barley, spokesman for the group, said: "It shows that there's a huge depth of feeling among Hitchin and nearby residents against any development on Green Belt. It's totally out of character with the town and would put pressure on resources, schools and traffic.
"Bearing in mind that there will be further objections done online and others that people will have posted, we expect even more objections. We hope this strength of feeling is sufficient for the proposed development sites on Green Belt to be rejected from the final list."
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Tom Brindley, portfolio holder for planning and transport, said: "We feel that we met the needs for housing in our original proposals (of 159 sites last year), but we were asked to provide more. The council position is that we are obliged to have to consider it and how we consider it is to ask people what they think about it. We investigate all the feedback that comes in, that is the point.
"We don't want to build on any more Green Belt than we ideally have to but it may be that there's not enough Brown Field land for the needs of North Herts."
The council will choose its preferred sites from the total of 285 across the district by the spring. A further public consultation is planned after that.
In a further complication to the process, the 400 hectare piece of land to the west of Hitchin has also been included in a separate public consultation by the East of England Regional Assembly (EERA), as part of an attempt to create a new housing target for the region by 2031. The developer has now suggested that 10,000 homes could be built on it.
A spokesman for EERA said NHDC would have the final say on any planning decisions but it was helpful for them to receive reactions to potential future housing sites.
The council, as a consultee, called the proposal "unwelcome.