Labour leader Ed Miliband vows to build thousands of homes in Stevenage and north Herts
- Credit: Archant
During a visit to Comet country, Labour leader Ed Miliband criticised a “stick-in-the-mud” council for blocking plans to build thousands of “desperately-needed homes”.
Mr Miliband, who visited the new housing development Chrysalis Park on Martin’s Way in Stevenage on Monday, said we are facing “the worst housing shortages for a generation”.
He was in the town to launch the independent Housing Commission, which will look at increasing the supply of new homes in England to more than 200,000 a year by the end of the next parliament.
Mr Miliband said: “Stevenage is a great community - an example of how successful new towns can be - but for decades it has been waiting to be completed and has been thwarted.
“Plans to build desperately-needed homes on the edge of this town have been blocked every single step of the way by North Herts District Council, even though that would take pressure off other areas in the county.”
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In 2001, the West of Stevenage Consortium applied to build 3,600 homes on land between Todd’s Green and Norton Green – situated between Stevenage and Wymondley. Following continued obstruction, the developer withdrew its application this year.
“There have been consultations galore, planning permission granted and lengthy appeals,” said Mr Miliband. “The only winners have been lawyers, on whom Stevenage has had to spend more than £500,000 since 2001 on this issue alone.
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“North Herts District Council is a home blocking council. It is bad for its neighbours, bad for its own residents - where the housing waiting list has got ever longer, and bad for those who wish to protect their market towns from over development.
“This is a stick-in-the-mud council.”
Latest figures show there are 5,518 people on the housing waiting list in Stevenage and 2,980 in north Herts.
Cllr Tom Brindley, NHDC’s portfolio holder for planning, transport and enterprise, said: “North Hertfordshire District Council opposed the proposed development on Green Belt land as, at the time of the planning applications, it looked like the county’s target of building 65,000 dwellings would be exceeded mainly by the re-use of brownfield sites.
“We were pleased when regionally imposed targets for housing numbers were abolished. North Herts District Council is currently progressing its new Local Plan to 2031 and is actively pursuing cooperation with adjoining authorities to establish how cross boundary issues can be progressed. Recent consultations have identified potential development sites to the west and north of Stevenage which we will need to consider.
“We have been advised the Stevenage housing need to 2031 - 5300 dwellings - can be met within the administrative area of Stevenage without building on Green Belt land in our district which surrounds the town.”
Four councils – Stevenage, Oxford, Luton and York – have signed up to become the first Right to Grow local authorities under the next Labour government, where there is immediate potential to build 40,000 new homes in these areas. Under the initiative, the planning inspectorate would examine different local plans, and arbitrate between authorities to allocate housing based on need, and then oversee a fast track consultation to agree housing development.
“Councils cannot be allowed to frustrate continually the efforts of others councils to get homes built,” said Mr Miliband.
He said the next Labour government will lead “a non-stop drive” to build new homes.