Local Plan blow as Herts County Council U-turns on Hatfield school deal

PUBLISHED: 12:23 26 June 2018 | UPDATED: 13:27 26 June 2018

A New Barnfield incinerator protest outside the Fielder Centre in 2013. The Hatfield site was previously earmarked for a waste incinerator. Picture: Mark Lampert

A New Barnfield incinerator protest outside the Fielder Centre in 2013. The Hatfield site was previously earmarked for a waste incinerator. Picture: Mark Lampert

Archant

Welwyn Hatfield Council’s Local Plan has been dealt a blow after the county council U-turned on a linchpin agreement.

The two local authorities previously agreed that a secondary school could be built on New Barnfield in Hatfield, which is owned by Hertfordshire County Council and was previously earmarked for a waste incinerator.

The ‘Statement of Common Ground’ resolved a crucial sticking point over school places, but a spokesman for HCC confirmed this week that the agreement breached its own policies and would have to be revisited.

He said: “The Statement of Common Ground (SoCG) was submitted in January 2018.

“This stated that if Welwyn Hatfield District Council set out proposals for additional housing within the revision of its Local Plan, then the county council would make the New Barnfield site available for a secondary school.

“On further examination, however, we have concluded that the Statement of Common Ground was not in line with the Waste Sites Local Plan, which is part of the county council’s policy framework.”

He added the matter will now have to be considered by full council.

Lib Dem borough and county councillor, Paul Zukowskyj, said he has been briefed that the wording will be revised to say the land will only be released for a school “if an alternative waste site is allocated by WHC”.

He added: “The [HCC] chief executive has apologised for this mistake, which I’m grateful for, however much more important is what this means for the Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan, and the possible 17,000 houses the borough are seeking to find land for across Welwyn Hatfield.

“The plan must be found ‘sound’, and planning housing without proper school provision clearly isn’t sound.

“So if New Barnfield can’t now be used, the borough’s Local Plan is in serious trouble yet again.”

A Welwyn Hatfield Council spokeswoman said: “We will be working together with Herts County Council over the coming months to review the statement and agree how best to allocate the land needed to support development.”

The latest Local Plan hearings are taking place this week between Tuesday (today) and Thursday.

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