Green light for 1,500-home Stevenage neighbourhood
Matthew Smith, local democracy reporter
- Credit: Taylor Wimpey/Permission Homes
Councillors have unanimously backed plans to build a new 1,500-home neighbourhood to the west of Stevenage almost two decades after plans first came forward for the site.
Developers have said the new neighbourhood will provide an environment that the new town pioneers “would be proud of”, including a new primary school, health facilities and a number of community spaces.
Developers Taylor Wimpey and Persimmon Homes said they had taken a “landscape-led” approach with the plans, which included large green spaces with three public parks, which would open up previously private land.
The green light will allow developers to begin work on the first 390 homes of the scheme, along with outline permission for 1,110 homes in later phases.
Members of Stevenage Borough Council’s Planning Committee re-convened on Tuesday, December 21 after being unable to come to a decision during a four-hour meeting on Thursday evening.
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.
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In response to questions about who would benefit from the new homes, Simon Breen, representing the applicant, said he expected 80-85 per cent of house sales to be to local people on developments of this sort. He added the council’s housing waiting list will be the starting point for affordable housing.
In later phases of the development, there will also be 10,000sqm of employment space, a residential care home, and mixed use local centre.
There had been concerns, including from horse riders, that as the scheme grows there would be an impact on rights of way across the land, but the developers confirmed that these would be retained in ‘green corridors’ through the new scheme.
The land was removed from the green belt when plans for 5,000 homes first came forward in 2002, before a second 3,600 home scheme never materialised after a string of legal challenges.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Cllr Graham Lawrence noted that the plans were also a “good opportunity” to build homes, rather than flats which have become more common in the town centre and had become a point of contention with some residents.
Councillor Michael Downing (Labour, Symonds Green) added green space to the east of Stevenage was often much quieter than walks to the east of the town, and he suggested more people would be drawn to the “unexplored countryside” around the new development once the scheme is complete.
The developers also highlighted the use of ‘mobility hubs’ throughout the site, with three pavilions offering electric cycle hire and charging as well as links to the bus route to avoid people having to use cars to get around the neighbourhood.
There will also be the creation of three parks, including new sporting facilities, which councillors were told could also host community events and ensure the principles of the original new town were still at the heart of the development.
On Thursday, 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.”
During Tuesday’s meeting, Hertfordshire County Council also confirmed they were confident there is capacity in Stevenage’s schools to meet the initial demand from families who move into the first phase of the scheme, before the new primary school is completed.
Councillors unanimously supported the scheme, and planning permission will be granted subject to conditions, including contributions to local health and bus services and a commitment to 30 per cent affordable housing across the development.
No timescale for the later phases has been suggested, and the applicant will be required to submit final details for the plans before work on these can begin.