NHDC group leaders react as Lib Dem’s motion challenges Local Plan housing estimates

The Liberal Democrat motion is aiming to debate a potential reduction in the "size and scale" of the

The Liberal Democrat motion is aiming to debate a potential reduction in the "size and scale" of the current Local Plan. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

More details are emerging about potential last-minute changes to North Hertfordshire’s Local Plan, as the leaders of NHDC’s political groups publicly respond to the call for an extraordinary meeting.

A motion on the projected housing need for North Hertfordshire will be debated by councillors next week, and could potentially spell new changes to the Local Plan.

Sources within the Lib Dem group say they hope they can reduce both “the size and scale” of the current Local Plan.

Most importantly, they want to reduce the proposed allocation of housing sites – which under present estimates would deliver tens of thousands of homes in the district until 2031.

Cllr Steve Jarvis played an important role in analysing the Office for National Statistics data that forms part of the Lib Dem’s motion that will challenge the existing Local Plan.

READ MORE: Local Plan hearings grind to a halt after extraordinary meeting calledHe admitted the statistics can be “very confusing”, but explained that earlier estimates of a housing need of more than 13,000 were now inaccurate, according to the ONS’s most recently released data.

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“In July, the ONS produced updated base figures (and there isn’t one figure, there’s a range of figures) of about 6,800 houses,” Cllr Jarvis said.

“After applying factors to that, the new total equates to a figure of 11,500 or 11,600 if you add all the numbers that you can. This is really the ‘top end’ number you can get from the ONS predictions.

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“What we’re saying, is that if the need has been reduced to 11,500 then we should be reducing the number of housing sites in the plan, and we should take out the sites which are in the most significant Green Belt areas.”

Should the ONS figures be followed, that could result in a reduction of more 2,000 houses in the North Hertfordshire district as part of the Local Plan, which runs until 2031.

Cllr Paul Clark, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, added: “The Office for National Statistics has reduced the forecast for housing need in North Hertfordshire, and so we believe the housing provision should be change as a result to reflect this reduction in the Local Plan.”

But Cllr David Levett, who leads the Conservative group, has criticised the Lib Dem group’s decision to call for an extraordinary meeting.

He said: “I am disappointed that the Liberal Democrat group should seek to use this method of political interference.

“A democratic process was already agreed by full council that has given anyone who wishes the opportunity to make their views known to the inspector prior to the public hearings.

“This matter was due to be considered at the hearings this week and has now led to further delays in what has already turned out to be a much longer drawn out process than was originally intended in determining the Local Plan and protecting North Hertfordshire from uncontrolled development.”

Cllr Martin Stears-Handscomb, leader of the Labour and Co-operative group, added: “My group will look very carefully at the proposal from our Liberal Democrat colleagues and also from the report that is being prepared by our officers, to look at the implications.

“We will be responding when we get to the meeting accordingly.

“This is an issue we have been discussing for many years, and clearly we need to make sure we make the most responsible choice for North Herts and its planning going forwards.”

The extraordinary meeting of NHDC’s full council will be held online on Thursday, October 8 at 7.30pm.

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