Homes bid could swamp’ nearby villages

PUBLISHED: 11:40 19 January 2006 | UPDATED: 09:27 06 May 2010

A map of the area

A map of the area

SHOCKED councillors learned this week that the Government has been asked to allow no less than 8,000 new homes to be built to the south and west of Hitchin. In return for giving permission, the developers would build a southern bypass to relieve traffic c

Ellie Clarke

SHOCKED councillors learned this week that the Government has been asked to allow no less than 8,000 new homes to be built to the south and west of Hitchin.

In return for giving permission, the developers would build a southern bypass to relieve traffic congestion in the town.

If the plan went ahead, the Green Belt and nearby villages would be swamped by the urban onslaught.

North Hertfordshire District Council's cabinet heard on Tuesday of the proposal which has been put to the Examination in Public into the East of England Plan currently going on in Letchworth GC.

Cllr Richard Thake

Councillors were strongly opposed to the proposal and ordered officers to resist it at the examination hearing.

"Development on this scale would fundamentally change the character of the historic market town of Hitchin," said Cllr Richard Thake, portfolio holder for planning.

"We appreciate the need to relieve congestion but this is far too high a price to pay."

Leader of the council, F John Smith, said: "This proposal is grossly invasive of our Green Belt, and the area around Hitchin is especially valuable. Hitchin would increase in size by over half, and that's far too much."

Present at the meeting was Ellie Clarke, secretary of watchdog group Hitchin Forum.

She said afterwards: "It is a completely opportunistic proposal which may not happen for years.

"Someone is flying a flag. For someone to put a letter in to the Government on this is laughable but worrying.

"Villagers will be up in arms. It would be ghastly for Hitchin because that is our countryside.

"It would be an enormous land-take, virtually all of it Green Belt. And it could potentially bring Luton within sight of Hitchin.

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