Stevenage's Local Plan put on hold after MP Stephen McPartland steps in
PUBLISHED: 09:53 16 November 2017 | UPDATED: 09:53 16 November 2017
Danny Loo Photography 2017
Stevenage’s Conservative MP Stephen McPartland has used his personal influence with the Secretary of State Sajid Javid to put the town’s draft Local Plan on hold – because he says it is undeliverable.
The news has emerged this week after the draft Local Plan – which includes the regeneration of the town centre and will set out how Stevenage will be developed through to 2031 – was endorsed with minor modifications by a senior government planning inspector.
The MP, who was re-elected for a third term in June’s General Election, has asked Mr Javid to place a ‘holding direction’ on Stevenage Borough Council’s plan so nothing more can be done to develop it until his questions are answered.
It is the latest bid he has made to derail town centre redevelopment plans, which aim to transform Stevenage in six key phases – beginning with an area known as SG1 which includes the bus station, council offices and beyond.
The Labour-controlled council says it is on the cusp of announcing a developer for the £300 million SG1 scheme after a bidding process to transform central Stevenage with a new community hub, health facilities and a library, bars and restaurants and shops.
The council has continually asked Mr McPartland to join them in developing the plans, but he has repeatedly declined and instead says he is working with private investors directly to help transform the town. He takes credit for launching the Park Place redevelopment which is currently underway, although the council says it is part of their overall scheme.
He told the Comet: “I love Stevenage, but its town centre is not fit for purpose. It needs regenerating and bringing forward into the 21st century, it needs to reflect the growing aspirations of the people who live here, but do not shop here. The Local Plan fails to regenerate the town centre as it does not include the shops in Queensway – but, don’t worry, it includes fancy new council offices.
“Stevenage Borough Council launched its regeneration plans more than 22 years ago and have failed time after time to deliver on them. It is time for radical action and for a new town centre in Stevenage. It is time the council got out of the way and stop blocking investment in our town.”
SBC has hit back at Mr McPartland’s intervention, saying it is determined to press ahead with the regeneration and will provide answers to Mr McPartland’s questions as soon as possible so the process can continue.
Council leader Sharon Taylor told the Comet: “How disappointing that our Tory MP has intervened to hold up the approval of our Local Plan.
“The government inspector, Louise Crosby, found that our plan was sound and agreed with our ambitious plans for Stevenage in relation to building homes, creating jobs and regenerating our town centre and neighbourhoods.
“It is frustrating to have yet another delay caused by our Tory MP who has chosen not to engage, so I can only assume this latest action is aimed at petty political point scoring.
“If only he would consider supporting us to get on with building the homes that Stevenage people so desperately need, creating the jobs they want and giving us back a town centre to be proud of. That is what everyone else in our partnership has been working towards.
“So instead of chucking bricks from the sidelines Stephen, come and join us in getting some bricks laid. Help us get the job done that your Government, our partners and most importantly the people of Stevenage want us to do.”
The holding direction will remain in place while a planning team at the Department for Communities and Local Government seek answers to the questions Mr McPartland has posed.
The council says in the meantime it will continue to work to attract investment to the town and will press ahead with the Local Plan once the directive is lifted.