Keep 'unaffordable' Symondshyde scheme out of Local Plan, urge campaigners

Aerial view of Symondshyde Green Belt land

Aerial view of Symondshyde Green Belt land - Credit: Save Symondshyde

The chair of the Save Symondshyde group has called on councillors to meet their previous commitments and leave the area out of the Local Plan.

The planning inspector has enabled Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council to remove Symondshyde from its plan by saying the site is a "judgement call for the council to make”.

However he also said he was satisfied that a development of 1,500 or more dwellings could be supported in the location.

Symondshyde Green

Symondshyde Green - Credit: John Gardener

The council has to build 15,200 homes in the borough following the inspector's updated objectively assessed housing need (FOAHN), and he also identified sites suitable for around 17,000 homes - meaning in theory there is room to eliminate a Symondshyde development from the Local Plan.

Councillors and planners have described Symondshyde as a location of last resort, to be used if other more suitable locations couldn’t be found. This was reiterated by councillors from all sides when the council voted to withdraw Symondshyde from the plan in January 2020 and confirmed that position later in the year.

Chair of Save Symondshyde, Jon Gardner, believes that a development at on the site would mean losing valuable green space for houses at prices locals could afford, he said: "We have all learnt over the last year and a half how much we need our green spaces. Over half of the houses proposed will be in the Green Belt.

"We are calling on the council, and recently elected councillors to meet their previous commitments and save Symondshyde.

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"It is argued by the government and developers that more houses are necessary to make them more affordable. But “affordable” in “planning speak” means 80 per cent of the local market price. It doesn’t mean that most Welwyn Hatfield residents could afford them.

"Bigger plots almost always means higher house prices. Symondshyde is one of the sites with lowest housing density - so it will be one of the more expensive locations. The developers' description was an 'as attractive location as St Albans or Harpenden'.”

The group also rejects the idea of building more houses will make the site more sustainable.

"The argument is that it might make the bus service economical viable and as many as 10 per cent of the journeys would be by bus. We’re deeply sceptical," said John.

"Even if it were true over 60 per cent of all journeys would still be by car."

The council has until September 17 to submit a new selection of sites.