Hitchin Forum: Westward Ho! Stevenage first, North Herts next!

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

Neil Dodds of Hitchin Forum's Steering Group fears that housing development will expand westward and infringe on Green Belt land

On Tuesday, December 21, Stevenage Borough Council (SBC) unanimously gave full planning permission for 390 dwellings, and outline permission for up to a further 1,110 dwellings, together with associated infrastructure, on a site directly to the west of the A1M.

The site had been Green Belt land for over 50 years, designated to be preserved from development, but SBC planners successfully removed it from the Green Belt some years ago, using a procedure which is bizarrely termed ‘safeguarding’.

West of Stevenage plan

West of Stevenage plan - Credit: Hitchin Forum Steering Group

This development has been well publicised, but what may be less well known is that North Herts Council (NHC) is currently following the same course of action as SBC, and on a much larger scale.

NHC’s draft Local Plan includes a proposal to take a large area, to the north of and alongside SBC’s site, out of the Green Belt, so that it can be developed with up to 3,100 dwellings.

The intention is that North Herts Council’s scheme will connect with SBC’s, giving a settlement with a total of 4,600 dwellings, and almost certainly linking Stevenage with the roads south of Hitchin. Based on standard ratios, 4,600 new dwellings will involve over 11,000 inhabitants and 5,500 cars.

The accompanying plan shows shaded in grey the land to the West of the A1(M) which SBC is developing. It also shows hatched on the plan the much larger area, stretching towards Hitchin, which NHC wants to ‘safeguard’ for future development.

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The Government’s National Planning Policy Framework states that Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances.

In this and in the other proposed areas it is intending to remove from the Green Belt, North Herts Council is saying that the current housing shortage creates these circumstances.

However, we know that the result will be more development (with the majority of housing being too expensive for most local people), more traffic, more pollution and loss of countryside. Also, that future incursions into the Green Belt are definitely on the cards.

Hitchin Forum is opposed to building on the Green Belt.