House plan for North Herts unveiled

MORE than 10 future sites for affordable housing in areas surrounding Baldock, Hitchin and Letchworth GC have been identified by North Herts District Council (NHDC) after a new plan was released.

Along with councils across the country, NHDC was asked by the government last May to prepare a Local Investment Plan to outline its housing strategy and the document was discussed for the first time at a Cabinet meeting last week.

The plan, produced in partnership with the Homes and Communities Agency, has identified a number sites for development including Churchgate and the former bus depot on Fishponds Road in Hitchin, and a former depot in Icknield Way, Letchworth GC. The sites earmark room for in excess of 500 houses.

More houses could also be built on land at the former Norton School site in Letchworth and a site at Clothall Common near Baldock – which is currently reserved for a school but it is anticipated that it will not be needed for this purpose.

All housing projects would only be able to go ahead if funding was secured and planning permission agreed.

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The plan also highlighted the need to address areas of deprivation in the district – naming Westmill in Hitchin as well as Jackmans Estate, Grange Estate, Wilbury and Westbury in Letchworth GC in particular.

Full planning permission has already been granted for affordable housing, a community centre and shopping facilities to be built on Hitchin’s John Barker Place but the �8m development cannot be delivered without grant funding.

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The regeneration of Ivel Court on the Jackmans Estate is another scheme proposed as part of the plan but the existing approved project - which would see a purpose built or refurbished community centre and new affordable homes - has been considered unviable due to the current climate.

Cllr Lynda Needham, leader of NHDC, said: “NHDC in partnership with the Homes and Communities Agency will now work towards meeting some of the priorities set out in the Local Investment Plan to improve quality of life for residents. However, due to the scale of recent government cuts, we will not be able to support all of the proposals in the plan.”

Commenting on the redevelopment scheme for John Barker Place, Mick Furr, centre manager at Westmill Community Centre, said: “Personally, I would be for the community centre staying where it is as it’s a strong part of the estate.

“The shops do need doing up and the houses in Freemans Close were going to be redeveloped but finances will determine it. It’s in the lap of the gods.”

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