Stevenage MP blasts North Herts Local Plan after solar farm thrown out by the government

Stephen McPartland

Stephen McPartland - Credit: Archant

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland says he is delighted the Secretary of State has overturned North Herts District Council’s decision to approve a major solar farm on Green Belt land near Codicote, and believes the council should now withdraw its entire Local Plan.

Dave Levett

Dave Levett - Credit: Archant

Mr McPartland lobbied the Secretary of State to look at the application for the farm submitted by developers Lightsource for land at Three Houses Lane after the Conservative-dominated council gave it their backing.

He claims the council approved the plans despite opposition from locals because it was concerned about being sued by the developers – and he called this week’s decision a ‘humiliating defeat’ for the council.

The Tory MP told the Comet: “I asked the Secretary of State to call in the planning application as I was concerned about the way NHDC was handling the matter and ignoring local people. It was clear NHDC was intent on granting planning permission.

“The application would have severely impacted the Green Belt and was against government policies.”

He added: “I am delighted there was a full public inquiry and the Planning Inspector recommended the Secretary of State overturn NHDC’s determination to grant planning permission. This has incredible importance locally, as NHDC is currently developing a Local Plan, which has also ignored the concerns of thousands of local people to date.

“The humiliating defeat should encourage NHDC to pause and withdraw their draft Local Plan and develop a new proposal that has the support of local people, with a new garden city at its heart, to resolve housing need.

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“Although today may be a small victory, it is a massive success for the determined local people who led the opposition to NHDC, and I was proud to campaign alongside them.”

Mr McPartland is known to oppose local plans across Hertfordshire because he thinks they do not reflect the wishes of the people.

David Levett, the district council’s head of planning, said Mr McPartland must have ‘his own opinions’ on the matter which were ‘nothing to do with government policy’.

He said there was no link between the Codicote plans and the Local Plan and he couldn’t see why Mr McPartland was putting the two together.

He said the council is looking into the concept of a new garden city but that it will not be possible to complete the plans for it in the scope of the current Local Plan, which runs to 2031. No land for it has yet been allocated.

Mr McPartland is known to favour the garden city concept as a way of catering for housing need in Herts, but it is not included in the district council’s Local Plan documentation.

Local plans for Stevenage, East Herts and North Herts councils are all currently in the process of being completed and all of them have sought to meet government housing targets by calling for landowners to offer possible sites for development.

Mr McPartland says he is ‘publicly opposed’ to all three local plans, and favours the garden city idea along with local people as a way to cater for housing need.