Go-ahead for 160 homes on village Green Belt after inspector overrules refusal
Matthew Smith, local democracy reporter
- Credit: Ashill Land Ltd
Controversial plans for more than 160 new homes on the Green Belt in Codicote will go ahead after an inspector overturned a council’s refusal.
More than 290 residents - and Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland - submitted objections to the plans which first emerged in October 2018, with concerns raised about the impact on local infrastructure and the Green Belt.
North Herts District Council finally rejected the plans in March 2021, but that decision has now been overruled after a government inspector said the area’s housing supply was so inadequate the scheme should be allowed to go ahead.
The plans, submitted by Ashill Land Ltd, will bring 167 new homes built on either side of the Hertfordshire Way, as well as providing new land for Codicote Primary School to expand.
Inspector Mr Peter Rose acknowledged that the development would incur ‘moderate-significant harm’ to the openness of the Green Belt, and through encroachment into the countryside, but said the arguments in favour of housing were “quite extreme”.
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Following a four-day public inquiry held in August, a decision published on September 28 ruled that the lack of housing in the district justified ‘very special circumstances’ to build on the Green Belt.
Mr Rose said the council has a “critically inadequate and deteriorating” supply of new housing, and the benefits of the plans would outweigh any potential harm.
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His decision said: “The context is of a critically inadequate and deteriorating five-year housing land supply set against pressing housing needs, no recent local provision of affordable housing, and a local school unable to meet the needs of the village and with subsequent implications for local children, for Codicote’s social cohesion, and for its future as a sustainable settlement supporting itself and minimising the need to travel. Such circumstances are acute and highly compelling.
“The proposal would make a very significant contribution in all those regards and would be accompanied by high quality mitigation to help offset and minimise the visual implications of additional built form.”
The development will include 67 affordable homes – 45 for affordable rents and 22 under shared ownership – including one-bedroom flats, and houses across two, three and four-bedrooms.
As noted by the inspector, no affordable homes have been delivered in Codicote for the last 14 years, and only 518 affordable homes have been completed in the district since 2011.
The remaining homes will include 24 two-bedroom houses, 43 three-bedroom houses, 30 four-bedroom houses and three five-bedroom homes.
The developers have also included a series of green spaces which they say will benefit the new homes and the existing village.
They agreed to transfer land to the existing school as part of the proposal. However, no plans for an extension to the school or reconfiguration of the site is included in this scheme. Any extension or reconfiguration of the school site will require its own planning process.
To make matters worse for the council, taxpayers will foot some of the developer’s bill for the appeal after the Inspector said “unreasonable behaviour” on the part of the council resulted in unnecessary or wasted expense incurred.
The district council had said the plans were refused partly because it would be premature to approve the plans while working on their Emerging Local Plan, but dropped this part of its defence on the final day of the inquiry. The Inspector found that the late withdrawal of this argument meant the appellant would have incurred unnecessary cost in ‘responding to an unreasonable ground for refusal’.
The district council will now have to pay some of the appellant’s costs, as well as their own costs during the inquiry.
Ashill Land Ltd is now invited to submit details of their costs to the district council with a view to reaching an agreement on the amount to be paid.