Pickles pledges to preserve Welwyn Hatfield’s Green Belt

PLANS to build nearly 6,000 homes on Green Belt land in Welwyn Hatfield have been consigned to the dustbin of history.

The news emerged this week, when Communities Secretary Eric Pickles unveiled plans to end Whitehall’s grip on regional planning and allow councils the length and breadth of the UK to choose where to construct new houses.

Ultimately, the move will see the controversial East of England Plan, which states that Welwyn Hatfield must provide an extra 5,800 homes by March 2031, scrapped.

It is also hoped that Mr Pickles’ approach will help prevent large areas of the Green Belt from being concreted over to provide housing for Welwyn Hatfield’s rising population.

“The previous Government gave a green light for the destruction of the Green Belt across the country and we are determined to stop it,” Mr Pickles said.

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“We’ve promised to use legislation to scrap top-down building targets that are eating up the Green Belt, but I’m not going to make communities wait any longer to start making decisions for themselves.

“That’s why I have written to all councils to let them know they can make planning decisions in the knowledge regional strategies [such as the East of England Plan] will soon be history.

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“It will no longer be possible to concrete over large swathes of the country without any regard to what local people want.”

Housing and local government minister Grant Shapps, who worked on the policy along with Mr Pickles, added: “The Green Belt should be protected.

“It is there to prevent urban sprawl.”

Mr Pickles continued: “From now on, communities will be trusted to make the right decisions about what development is suitable for their area, not bossed around by central government.

“Previously people had to stand by and accept bureaucrats knew best.

“The new approach will allow local communities to control the way in which villages, towns and cities develop and they will be the ones who enjoy the benefits from the proceeds of growth.”

John Dean, the leader of Welwyn Hatfield Council, welcomed the news.

“I think it is excellent news for local government and excellent news for local communities,” he said.

“It will mean the fate of planning issues will be decided by local people for local people.”

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