Local Plan guidelines clarified following ‘green fields’ confusion

Welwyn Hatfield Council has announced that a third Syrian family will be housed in the borough

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council raised Local Plan concerns following a speech made by Boris Johnson. - Credit: Archant

The guidelines for the Local Plan have been clarified after Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council raised concerns over comments from the Prime Minister on building homes on ‘green fields’.

Meetings of the cabinet planning and parking panel, and special council, in October and November were cancelled as WHBC asked for clarification following Boris Johnson’s speech at the Conservative Party conference.

During his speech, the PM referred to future homes not being built on ‘green fields’, and the council’s six cabinet members have now written to levelling up, housing and communities secretary Michael Gove to find out what this means for future planning policy.

Although not receiving a response from Mr Gove, housing minister Christopher Pincher did respond, reiterating that the government's priority for ensuring Local Plans are in place by 2023 has not changed, and that plan makers should continue to work under the existing guidelines.

Mr Pincher also addressed WHBC’s concerns over housing, after it made clear that it felt a target of 15,200 new homes in the borough was too high.

“The letter from the housing minister stresses the importance of having an up-to-date plan that is consistent with national policy,” said councillor Stephen Boulton, executive member for planning.

“This is something we very much recognise and are working hard to deliver.

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“It also notes that when councils agree on housing requirements, we are expected to take account of any local constraints, including pressures on the Green Belt.

“Mr Pincher is clear that councils and their communities are best placed to take decisions on local planning matters in their area.

“We are grateful for the minister’s response, and our proposed next steps will be presented to the Cabinet Planning and Parking Panel in January.”

Local Plan meetings are now expected to go ahead, after the council said that they will reschedule the cancelled meetings as soon as is ‘practically possible’ following a response to their letter.

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