Offley villagers pledge to make stand ahead of Gladman appeal
PUBLISHED: 08:27 02 May 2018 | UPDATED: 08:39 02 May 2018
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Villagers near Hitchin are taking a stand against what they see as overdevelopment, as a firm hoping to build up to 70 homes mounts an appeal.
Gladman Developments’ plan to build on the western edge of Great Offley was rejected by North Herts District Council’s planning control committee in November, and is to go before a public inquiry from June 12 after Gladman launched an appeal.
The site, just south of the A505 between Hitchin and Luton, used to house about 80 allotments.
It is owned by the Pilkington Farm Partnership and is not in the current Green Belt area – but is in the revised Green Belt defined in North Hertfordshire’s proposed submission Local Plan.
Offley is not earmarked for housing development in the proposed Local Plan for 2011 to 2031, which is now awaiting the green light from a planning inspector.
Jason Beaumont from the Keep Offley Rural campaign told the Comet that with 63 new homes in the heart of the village at Garden Fields, issues like the strain on infrastructure meant the village could not take more housing.
He said: “It is important that we make a stand against speculative landowners and protect our rural areas from overdevelopment – especially when we know that there has been more than adequate provision made to build sufficient new housing in North Herts already.”
District council planning officer Simon Ellis and the planning control committee last month agreed with the villagers that the proposed development would have a greatly urbanising affect on the village, especially on its western approach from Luton.
The committee voted unanimously in favour of Mr Ellis’ report refining the reasons for refusing the application – including that the site is beyond Offley’s built limits and issues surrouding the Great Offley Conservation Area, possible section 106 obligations, flood risk at the site and the location’s archaeological potential.
Councillor Faye Frost, who represents the Hitchwood, Offa & Hoo ward in which Offley is located, said during the meeting: “With another large development, Offley is likely to become a commuting village – thus having a detrimental affect on the shop, pubs, businesses and wider community.” She added that the village primary school was “already bursting at the seams”.
NHDC has appointed counsel to present its case at the inquiry, and former planning inspector Shaun Greaves is set to speak on the authority’s behalf.