Inspection of removed Local Plan sites met with backlash

Aerial view of Symondshyde Green Belt land. Picture: Save Symondshyde

Aerial view of Symondshyde Green Belt land. Picture: Save Symondshyde - Credit: Archant

The latest examination of Welwyn Hatfield's draft Local Plan has met with backlash from residents and an MP.

The government inspector, Melvyn Middleton, has already set out that he will be looking at the villages and Green Belt again and has called for more evidence on why certain sites have been excluded by the council. 

As part of this review, the controversial Symondshyde site will be considered, which has been removed from the draft Local Plan. 

To emphasize its need to remain in the Green Belt, Save Symondshyde campaigners have written to Mr Middleton saying: "There is no doubt that the land to the north and west of Coopers Green Lane and Green Lanes, in which the Symondshyde site is situated, is predominantly open land as far as the woodland extending in an arc to the west. 

"We agree strongly that the necessary exceptional circumstances for releasing the Symondshyde site from the Green Belt do not exist."

The inspector will also reconsider sites near or in villages such as Knebworth, Codicote, Digswell, Welwyn, Brookmans Park and Cuffley.  

MP Stephen McPartland, representing Stevenage, Knebworth and Codicote, has also objected, noting some of these reconsidered developments would be near the nature reserve Singler's Marsh, increase traffic on the Codicote Road and would cause "high harm" to the Green Belt. 

Mr McPartland urged Inspector Middleton to not look at WHBC's draft Local Plan in isolation and pointed out the "detrimental" knock-on impact this would have on Knebworth and Codicote.

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The Stevenage MP added: "I believe it to be a failure of the duty to co-operate and unsound for WHBC to be forced to propose sites they acknowledged would create unwarranted burdens on neighbouring councils."

The borough council has also been asked to justify the exclusion of Brookmans Park, a village with several amenities but little to no affordable housing.  

And in response, the council has said the village was not put into the Local Plan due to its desire to reduce the harm to the Green Belt as far as possible by locating sites in other sustainable settlements with lower Green Belt harm ratings. 

The first three days of the Stage 9 hearing sessions to further evaluate the villages will be held on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

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