Huge threat to Green Belt thrown out

Plans to build across a huge area of North Herts Green Belt have finally been thrown out after concerted pressure and a change in the law.

The proposals by a Luton and Central Beds planning committee to build 5,500 homes, associated infrastructure and a ring road on a vast swathe of countryside between Hitchin and Luton have been dropped.

The scheme had drawn fire from the local authority, the county council, the MP for the area and thousands of residents and campaigners – including this paper.

Tomorrow (Friday) the committee, which had planned to expand Luton across the county border to meet government housing targets, will discuss a revised ‘core strategy’ that no longer contains the proposals.

The scheme, which would have swallowed up villages and destroyed thousands of acres of fields and woodlands in the Lilley valley, has been scrapped after the Government put an end to top-down housing quotas, allowing local authorities to determine their own needs.

Hitchin MP Peter Lilley who campaigned against the proposals in the House of Commons, welcomed the news.

“Expansion from Luton into Hertfordshire was not needed. It would have done permanent damage to the invaluable Green Belt which makes this part of the country so special.

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“I want to congratulate all the people who campaigned against the development. The work of pressure groups such as Keep East of Luton Green was vital in ensuring these unnecessary proposals could not be rushed through.”

Keep East of Luton Green spokesperson Alison Balfour-Lynn said it was an initial victory, but the group would keep working to prevent any future incursion into the area.

“It’s great that this battle to keep development out of this beautiful area of North Herts appears to have succeeded, but we will continue working to ensure that inappropriate development in Green Belt land to the east of Luton doesn’t happen,” she said.

David Barnard, southern rural committee chairman at North Herts District Council, said it was a happy day for all those who had opposed the development.

“There’s been a lot of people put in a lot of work on our side and although never is a long, long time we are in a much more comfortable position now,” he said.

But he warned that remaining proposals for major new roads in and out of Luton was “development by stealth” because the routes proposed would be useless without a bypass along the Lilley valley.

He said any development into North Herts would be strongly opposed by the council.