Threat to Green Belt moves closer

THE DESTRUCTION of a huge swathe of prime countryside is expected to move closer this week as neighbouring councils decide whether to approve a massive building development across their borders into Hertfordshire. On Friday morning, Luton Borough

THE DESTRUCTION of a huge swathe of prime countryside is expected to move closer this week as neighbouring councils decide whether to approve a massive building development across their borders into Hertfordshire.

On Friday morning, Luton Borough and South Beds Councils will choose their preferred option to develop the area around Luton bringing nearer the prospect of thousands of homes being built on Hertfordshire Green Belt.

Although various proposals have been put forward, last week Luton councillors agreed to reject development to the west of the town and will recommend to the joint planning committee that they approve the building of 5,500 homes to the east.

The committee is also expected to ignore options to improve public transport around Luton and the building of a bypass around the edge of the town, and instead approve a northern bypass which joins the A505 in North Herts. An eastern bypass to Luton Airport, again through Hertfordshire countryside, may also be approved.


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Around 10,000 hectares would be affected, swamping the villages of Lilley, Breachwood Green, Cockernhoe, Mangrove Green and Tea Green, while traffic through Hitchin would increase.

Reaction to the plans in Hertfordshire has been strong with district and county councillors and opposition groups denouncing them as irresponsible and urging a solution to be found within Bedfordshire.

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Leader of North Herts District Council, F John Smith, said, "We are extremely disappointed to learn that expansion to the east of Luton will be recommended to the joint committee. We do not accept that it is necessary to build in North Hertfordshire to meet the future needs of Luton. There are better options in Bedfordshire, and we are astonished that these have not been selected as suitable sites for development. We strongly urge the joint committee to reconsider its strategy"

Robert Gordon, leader of Herts County Council, said, "Hertfordshire is already a crowded county and its green areas are too valuable to lose. We cannot understand or accept our neighbours' urge for development in Hertfordshire on this scale."

Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, is also urging Luton and South Beds councils not to expand into Hertfordshire Green Belt.

"I call on them to recognise that their responsibilities are for Luton and Bedfordshire. They should be meeting their housing needs within their own areas and not even considering expansion into Hertfordshire.

"The glorious countryside on Luton's doorstep is an asset to the people of Luton as much as to anyone else. I cannot believe that they would wish to sacrifice it and see it built over and lost for ever," he said.

David Barnard, NHDC southern rural committee chairman, said: "Democracy is not a word well known to Luton Council and their pigheaded and arrogant disregard for their neighbouring councils and residents is more evident as each day goes by.

A spokesman for Luton Council said: "The committee will not make any final decisions. It will be asked to agree a draft plan for a period of public consultation.

The upcoming period of public consultation will provide everyone the opportunity to comment on the merits of whatever strategy is agreed by the committee as well as the merits of alternative proposals."

A protest against the development will be held by the Keep East Of Luton Green action group at Luton Town Hall from 9am on Friday.

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