Will housing expand into Green Belt land near Hitchin?

Hitchin Forum fears that North Herts Council may be emulating Stevenage Borough Council's plan to build on the Green Belt

Hitchin Forum fears that North Herts Council (right) may be emulating Stevenage Borough Council's plan to build on the Green Belt - Credit: Hitchin Forum Steering Group/North Herts Council

Last week - following news of Stevenage Borough Council granting planning permission for dwellings to the west of the A1(M) - Hitchin Forum expressed their concern that similar plans to develop on the Green Belt could be on the cards for North Herts.

In a column, Neil Dodds of Hitchin Forum's steering group, said that North Herts Council's draft Local Plan includes a proposal to build up to 3,100 dwellings on land to the north and alongside SBC's site.

Members of the forum, which looks out for the interest of people in Hitchin and surrounding areas, feared that these two proposed settlements combined would negatively impact on the Green Belt surrounding the town.

North Herts Council has clarified that while this land has been earmarked in the Local Plan for potential future development, there are no immediate plans to build on the site.

Cllr Ruth Brown, North Herts Council's executive member for planning, said: “Councils are required to identify potential locations for development in the future.

"This particular area of land has been identified in our new Local Plan as such. Although safeguarded in the new Local Plan, the land to the west of Stevenage is not being allocated for development.

West of Stevenage plan

The site indicated in the Local Plan - Credit: Hitchin Forum Steering Group

"Any future allocation for development would need a further review of our Local Plan. This would have to consider a wide range of matters, including the level of housing that is needed at that time.

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“The new Local Plan was sent to the government to be examined back in 2017. The Inspector held hearing sessions that considered all of the council’s proposals to remove land from the current Green Belt and heard from members of the public and other interested parties.

"The council is waiting for the Inspector to publish his final report."

The council will undertake a full review of the Local Plan by the end of 2023 at the latest. which will determine whether the plan needs to be updated either in whole or in part.

The safeguarded land to the west of Stevenage within North Herts, which according to the Local Plan "has long been identified as a suitable location for a substantial urban expansion", will be one of the matters considered as part of this review.