Council calls for urgent housing secretary meeting as Local Plan saga continues

The Conservatives look set to remain in charge of Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council after talks betwee

The council hope the letter to the planning inspector will break the Local Plan deadlock. - Credit: Archant

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council has requested an urgent meeting with housing secretary Stuart Andrew as the Local Plan saga rumbles on.

A key decision deadline of March 21 had been set by the government’s appointed planning inspector, but WHBC have now written to him and housing secretary in an attempt to break the Local Plan deadlock.

The council believes  any decision about the required number of new homes should be based on a 2021-22 survey of the housing starts and completions, with the letter stating that the council would then be in a stronger position to consider the options.

This survey is carried out in April by Hertfordshire County Council and the borough council receives the provisional results in May, long after the planning inspector’s deadline.

WHBC also want to take any findings to the cabinet planning and parking panel on June 23, and a full council on July 6, as pre-election period starts later this month, and it would not be possible to begin consultation until after the local elections in May.

“We’re between a rock and a hard place,” said Cllr Stephen Boulton, executive member for environment, planning, estates and development.

“The options presented to us are either to accept an unsound plan, or to scrap it completely and start again. Both would be extremely irresponsible, and neither would match the clearly expressed views of our communities.

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“As far as we understand, agreeing the housing need will require the monitoring of this year’s housing completions and commencements.

“The survey is carried out over April by Hertfordshire County Council, and we normally receive the provisional results in May. At this point Members will then be in a position to consider the options.

“The government’s new Levelling Up White Paper talks about protecting green spaces and empowering local leaders. It also refers to pressure on housing and Green Belt land in areas like ours, but this doesn’t seem to be acknowledged by the planning inspector.

“That’s why, given the situation in which we now find ourselves, we have written to the minister for housing, along with our MP, requesting a meeting to discuss the local circumstances in Welwyn Hatfield.

“We have a strong desire to do what’s right for the borough, right for our Green Belt, and right for our communities.”