New report backs plan for 40,000 more homes

PUBLISHED: 11:25 29 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:23 06 May 2010

PLANS to build 40,000 new homes in Comet country have moved a step closer to becoming reality. A report on the East of England Plan has been published following a public examination, including one in Letchworth GC last November which was overseen by an in

PLANS to build 40,000 new homes in Comet country have moved a step closer to becoming reality.

A report on the East of England Plan has been published following a public examination, including one in Letchworth GC last November which was overseen by an independent panel appointed by the Secretary of State.

The plan upholds proposals to build 14,400 homes in the Stevenage area on brownfield sites and urban extensions and supports plans for a further 5,000 dwellings west of Stevenage.

North Hertfordshire will have to find room for 15,800 homes while in Mid Beds the housing quota has been increased from 8,270 to 11,000.

But the panel's results have had a mixed reception from councils with Hertfordshire County Council saying they were devastated more homes will be built in the county than expected with the number now tipping 83,200.

The report was also attacked by the Campaign to Protect Rural England which says it "poses a major threat to the beauty and character of the region's countryside".

Supporting the plan, Stevenage Borough Council says it recognises the role of the town as "a regional employment and housing growth point twinned with physical, social and economic regeneration to create a self-contained, sustainable and balanced community."

Cllr John Gardner, executive councillor for economic regeneration, said: "We are pleased the panel fully endorsed both the need for the sustainable growth of Stevenage and supports a population of 125,000 by 2021.

"This is the third enquiry that has endorsed the urgent need for the West of Stevenage development as an essential element in the growth requirements for the town.

"We remain optimistic that both Hertfordshire County Council and our neighbours in North Hertfordshire will embrace the panel's statement that calls on former adversaries to put disagreements behind them and work together to achieve what will become commonly adopted new goals."

There was a mood of disappointment at North Herts District Council where Cllr Richard Thake, portfolio holder for housing and transport, said: "There is no chance we will get it watered down.

"There are serious deficits in the infrastructure to cope with this plan and it is not possible to deliver these housing levels without the infrastructure going in first.

"Before this plan comes to fruition there is going to be an awful lot of fighting going on to get the right result for the people of North Herts.

"Attempts to ask local authorities to pay 10 per cent of the cost towards the infrastructure have been raised and thrown out. Millions of pounds would have to be raised.

"Just the widening of the A1(M) would cost millions. The cost of the infrastructure would produce a mind-blowing figure and we are not going to pay for it. It is not going to happen.

"Yes, we have got to find room for 15,800 homes and we would have liked to have got away with less but it hasn't happened."

Leader of Hertfordshire County Council David Beatty said: "To say we are dismayed is an understatement."

The report was applauded by Tim Smyth, chairman of Todds Green Residents' Association, who said: "The new east-west link between the M11 and M1 will help eliminate the traffic rat run through the village and will almost certainly mean a southerly Hitchin bypass."

The Secretary of State will now consider the panel's report with the aim of publishing proposed changes in the autumn and the final East of England Plan in the spring of 2007.

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