Welwyn Hatfield Council's Local Plan judged 'unsound' by 86% of respondents
PUBLISHED: 09:28 10 February 2017 | UPDATED: 09:48 10 February 2017
Welwyn Hatfield Council has revealed that 86 per cent of respondents to its Local Plan consultation thought the draft proposal was unsound.
The plan – which outlined how the local authority aims to build around 13,000 houses by 2032 – was agreed by councillors in August, before a two-month public consultation took place.
A report summarising responses has been published on the council’s website, and includes criticism from neighbouring authorities and the county council.
A particularly under-fire area was the plan’s “soundness”, with 86 per cent claiming it was unsound, and 60 per cent requesting changes be made.
However, the officers noted there was no consensus about what the changes should be, with many responses promoting opposing views.
Regarding housing numbers, the officers wrote: “A number of respondents consider the housing target is too high because of the environmental impacts that this will create in an area of water stress.
“Others consider it will not be possible to deliver the necessary supporting infrastructure, in particular when the cumulative impacts of growth from outside the borough are taken into account.”
However, they added that respondents’ alternative dwelling numbers ranged from 6,800 to 20,520.
The Home Builders Federation branded the settlement strategy “unjustified”, adding allocations for Brookmans Park, Digswell, Cuffley and Welham Green were too low as they have railway stations.
Building on the Green Belt also continued to be controversial, according to the officers, with St Albans City and District Council and the Campaign to Protect Rural England among “a number” to claim exceptional circumstances had not been demonstrated.
“Hertfordshire County Council has objected on the basis that the allocated waste sites have not been removed from the Green Belt, and have asked for amendments to be made to the Policies Map,” officers wrote.
“Historic England considers that large areas of open spaces that lie within the strategic sites should be designated as Green Belt, rather than urban open land.”
However, the county council and the Education Funding Agency (EFA) both supported allocation of land within strategic sites for schools, while North Mymms Parish Council expressed concern over lack of places in the south of the borough.
Officers also noted that the majority of respondents thought the plan met the legal tests, and said the most frequently cited reason for failing them was the consultation.
Summarising the report, officers claimed it was “critical that progress is made on moving forward with the Local Plan to adoption at the earliest opportunity”.
But they warned the plan may be found unsound if it is not justified by technical advice, or does not meet legal tests relating to its preparation – including the duty to cooperate.
The full report is available on Welwyn Hatfield Council’s website.