Decision on 1,500 new homes for Stevenage delayed

The council will vote on plans for the new west of Stevenage development

The council will vote on plans for the new west of Stevenage development - Credit: Taylor Wimpey/Persimmon Homes

A final decision on plans to build 1,500 homes in a new neighbourhood to the west of Stevenage has been delayed after councillors ran out of time during a four-hour meeting last night.

Councillors on Stevenage Borough Council’s Planning Committee were set to determine the long-discussed application on Thursday, December 16, but the scale of the plans meant there wasn’t enough time to fully debate the proposals.

Plans for the new west of Stevenage development

Plans for the new west of Stevenage development - Credit: Taylor Wimpey/Persimmon Homes

A special meeting of the committee had been scheduled to discuss the application, but a 10.30pm curfew prevented a decision being made. Councillors will return next week to determine whether to grant planning permission to the scheme.

During the meeting, councillors heard about the ambitious masterplan for the site, which would involve 390 homes being built during the first phase, with permission granted for an additional 1,110 homes in later phases.

Developers Taylor Wimpey and Persimmon Homes said the plans were something the original new town pioneers would be proud of, with a “landscape-led approach” which prioritises large green spaces, and would also include new employment spaces and sport facilities.

The application is the culmination of almost two decades of discussion around the site to the west of the A1(M).

A rejected proposal of 5,000 units first came forward in 2002, when the site was removed from the green belt, before a scheme for 3,600 homes granted planning permission in 2009 never got off the ground after a string of legal challenges.

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The revised application would see another reduction in homes on the site, but would provide a significant contribution to the council’s housing need while also contributing to the number of affordable homes.

The developers are asking for full planning permission to the first 390 homes in the scheme, and outline permission for the remaining 1,100 homes, as well as a new primary school, mobility hubs and infrastructure work.

The first 390 dwellings will include 19 one bedroom and 73 two bedroom flats, along with three one-bedroom, 52 two-bedroom and 155 three-bedroom houses. There will also be 84 four-bedroom houses, and four additional four-bedroom self-build plots.

Of those homes, 117 units will be affordable and the developers have committed to 30 per cent affordable housing across the development.

During Thursday’s meeting, concerns had been raised about the impact the development would have on public rights of way, which would affect walkers and horse riders in the area.

There was also a call for new routes to be established before any construction work was ongoing, and for any new surfaces to be approved by equestrian experts to ensure horses could safely use the route.

Officers noted that statutory bodies had backed the plans, and said some through paths on the site could be used by horses, as well as pedestrians and cyclists, to avoid having to use the roads.

Jonathan Pillow, project director at Taylor Wimpey, said: “We recognise Stevenage’s history, Stevenage is one of the first post-war new towns and from the outset our vision was to recognise and complement that, and create a place the original pioneers would be proud of.

“To them Stevenage, as a new town, was a place that should embrace health and the landscape in and around the town in a series of green spaces prioritising walking, cycling and pedestrianised centres with bus connectivity. We believe we have continued these principles in the proposals before you tonight.”

Mr Pillow highlighted the inclusion of three mobility hubs around the scheme. These pavilions would provide electric cycle hire and charging, be connected to green pathways and bus routes, and lessen the need for cars for anyone travelling across the new neighbourhood. 

Simon Green of Permission Homes said it was a project “we are all immensely proud of”, adding that the plans were sustainable while also providing new community benefits.

The developers added there will also be connected parkruns that are integrated into the surrounding countryside, and a number of outdoor spaces for sport use or community events.

The proposals will also include a new primary school, and neighbourhood centre including new social hubs and shops for residents.

During Thursday’s meeting councillors heard presentations from officers, but were unable to ask questions or discuss specific points of the proposals before reaching the 10.30pm cut-off time.

The committee had the option of extending the meeting until 11pm if they thought a decision was realistic, but this was unanimously decided to adjourn.

The meeting will resume at 6.30pm on Tuesday, December 21, and if any councillors are unable to attend they will not be able to make a substitution.