The Prime Minister has been urged to intervene and reassess government housing targets to ensure the approval of Welwyn Hatfield's Local Plan.

WHBC council leader Cllr Tony Kingsbury, along with other key members of his Cabinet, wrote to PM Liz Truss asking for her help in achieving a sound Local Plan.

They explained how a draft plan was submitted by WHBC back in 2017 with a housing target of approximately 12,000 homes, only to be told by a government examiner that to be approved it needed to aim for 16,000 during the plan period.

Although there were subsequent changes in these targets from both sides, in July WHBC made a decision to allow 12,775 homes in the plan, with a 10-year target and an early review.

The letter explained: "Even this involves significant take-up of Green Belt land for development, but in general to aeras of less Green Belt."

The council promised to use every available brown field site in the borough, with the key point being the removal of three sites classed as 'high harm'.

"We note that in an answer at Prime Minister's Question Time on September 7 you stated that there is not enough power in local hands and that you want the housing secretary to stop the planning inspectorate having too much power to overrule councils.

"Additionally, you have written to us individually stating 'I will put more control in your hands. First and foremost, through scrapping Soviet-style, Whitehall-imposed housing targets'.

"This is exactly the situation we are in. Time is short and this statement is contrary to the latest correspondence received from the inspector."

The councillors fear that if they stick with their current proposal the inspector will find the plan unsound, leading to planning applications going through at appeal, and an even higher housing target should they scrap it and start again.

"We are in a very difficult position. We believe it would be extremely irresponsible to risk an unsound plan, or to try and start again, but we have made a decision to remove these sites and will not reverse that decision.

"In summary we would like to understand how the very welcome statement you made will affect the inspector's decision-making process in the short time and hope that government policy will allow a pragmatic resolution of this matter."

A similar version of the letter has also been sent to Housing Minister Simon Clarke, which stresses that WHBC has the support of MP Grant Shapps in terms of numbers of homes and the need to protect the Green Belt.