Second round of North Herts Local Plan hearings get under way

North Hertfordshire District Council. Picture: NHDC

North Hertfordshire District Council. Picture: NHDC - Credit: Archant

A second round of hearings into North Hertfordshire District Council’s Local Plan began yesterday, following delays caused by COVID-19 and an exceptional council meeting.

The hearings – originally due to take place in March – were ordered by planning inspector Simon Berkeley, who had “issues and reservations” around the projected housing need and use of Green Belt land for a number of developments.

These sessions were postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, and in September, a number of Liberal Democrat councillors at NHDC called for a last-minute extraordinary meeting challenging the expected housing need in the district.

The hearings finally got under way on Monday via Zoom, with a focus on the objective assessment of housing need and housing requirement.

Mr Berkeley quizzed NHDC’s Jonathan Lee on the housing need for NHDC and how the council arrived at the plans for more than 15,000 dwellings based on sets of ONS data.

The figure was taken from the Office for National Statistics 2018 10-year migration trend.

The planning inspector pointed out that “many things had changed” since discussing this matter with the council in 2017 when the plans were submitted and asked why a ten-year migration trend remained the most appropriate way of calculating need.

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Mr Lee said: “Many things have changed in the time, however the rationale for using a longer-term migration remain the same. Migration patterns vary from year to year, and if you take a shorter period you risk projecting forward either a peak or taking a troth, what we sa with the 2012 and 2014 based numbers is that they were high compared to the long-term trends, and we should take a longer term projection.

“What we’re seeing now is a two-year projection and it’s based on a troth.” Overall, he said that the longer-term projection is a much more “stable position” rather than looking at numbers that are far more variable numbers you get when you look at short term migration numbers.

Participants highlighted issues which could impact the data that have arisen since the 2018 data such as the pandemic’s impact of flights, and Brexit, and how the ONS data, nor the 10-year approach, takes these issues into account.

Mr Lee said that “international migration in terms of net impact is close to zero in every scenario. The migration is predominantly, almost exclusively, from domestic migration within the UK and those are the numbers that vary quite markedly.”

The hearings will continue for the next two weeks, potentially running until December 11.

To view yesterday and today’s hearing, or to watch live hearings, go to