Local Plan: Inspector has concerns over why Green Belt sites were removed

Planning inspector Melvyn Middleton.

Planning inspector Melvyn Middleton. - Credit: Archant

The planning inspector has decided to investigate several sites that Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council removed from the Local Plan last year.

In November, the council voted to reduce the target number of new homes to be built from 16,000 to 13,800 and proposed a new version of the Local Plan to meet the lower target.

The changes allocated around 2,000 homes at the Wheat Quarter and Bio Park developments on Broadwater Road to justify the reduction at the “high harm” Green Belt site, Birchall, by 700 dwellings.

However, the planning inspector has now said he needs to assess the changes that brought in target numbers down to 13,800.

He will look at the sites put forward for examination in November and potential additional sites for housing development at villages excluded from the Green Belt.

In an inspectors' matter and issues document on the council's website, it said: "The inspector has concerns about the overall soundness of the nature and distribution of sites proposed for housing development.

"In particular he has concerns about the justification of exceptional circumstances to remove sites from the Green Belt, in a number of instances, particularly in the
context of the comparative harm to the Green Belt and the relative sustainability of alternative sites.

"The Inspector has therefore decided to examine all of the sites that passed the Council’s site selection process in 2019, in order to test the
soundness of their subsequent rejection by the Council."

READ MORE: Around 75 per cent of draft Local Plan sites put forward by developers rejected by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council

The inspector will look at the soundness of Digswell and Oaklands/Mardley Heath, as they have no or limited residential development in the current proposals.

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The inspector said the Local Plan aims to deliver "sustainable development through minimizing the need to travel and by directing growth to those areas with good transport networks".

As Digswell has a railway station the inspector therefore concluded "Without proper justification, the plan is unsound in this context".

For more information on the sites being examined visit: www.welhat.gov.uk/article/11226/Stage-9-Hearing-Sessions.

The first three days of the Stage 9 hearing sessions will be held on February 23, 24 and 25.

Additional Stage 9 hearing sessions will be held and are provisionally booked during March 1-18 2021.