Stephen McPartland Vs Stevenage Borough Council: MP criticises Local Plan but council lawyer says his alternative is ‘confused and misconceived’

The Local Plan hearings are being at the ibis Hotel in Stevenage.

The Local Plan hearings are being at the ibis Hotel in Stevenage. - Credit: Archant

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland’s campaign to build a new garden city in Hertfordshire to meet growing housing need has been described as ‘misconceived and confused’ by a lawyer appointed by Stevenage Borough Council.

Stephen McPartland

Stephen McPartland - Credit: Archant

Mr McPartland was allowed to speak at the beginning of the second day of a government inquiry into Stevenage Borough Council’s Local Plan at the ibis Hotel on Tuesday.

Planning inspector Louise Crosby MA is investigating the plan as part of a three-month inquiry at which those who have made objections, including Mr McPartland, are invited to speak.

The MP repeated his often-made criticism of the plan, which could see 7,600 homes built in the borough by 2031, with his view that a new garden city should be built instead of separate housing developments in different areas.

But at the same time he criticised the extent to which the council plan would see homes built on Green Belt land, and said he doubts enough locations will become available to meet the council targets for housing and employment sites.

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He also repeated his view that the planned regeneration of Stevenage town centre by the Stevenage First Partnership will not go ahead due to ‘lack of funding, investment and government backing’, and claimed a £50 million plan to redevelop Stevenage railway station will not happen.

But the council planning team’s lawyer, Simon Bird QC, hit back, saying: “There is a lot of confusion in what you’ve just heard.

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“These ideas are as misconceived today as they were yesterday.

“A new settlement option would be unlikely to deliver the same numbers of affordable housing that can be delivered under the Local Plan, and could not be delivered in the time scale of the plan.

“Any new settlement could not be delivered without excessive use of Green Belt land.”

He said the Local Plan would ensure ‘sustainable development’, which would justify use of Green Belt land where needed – and said Mr McPartland had done ‘nothing to promote’ a new garden city to the council, ‘let alone prove that one was fundable’.

Mr McPartland though told the Comet he will push ahead with the idea even if the Local Plan is approved.

He also told the inquiry that an upcoming announcement will clarify the situation with regard to the railway station, and that he believes a new organisation will be created to redevelop Stevenage, with himself as a member.

The government – which insists councils must have Local Plans in place – last week announced plans to build new garden villages at 14 locations, including Harlow and Gilston in East Hertfordshire, but this did not include any plan for the Stevenage area.

Chairing the inquiry, Ms Crosby said it was important the garden city proposal ‘didn’t take up too much’ of the inquiry’s time because it is not the issue she is tasked with deciding.

The inquiry continues on February 21 at the ibis Hotel from 10am. All are welcome to attend.

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