Inspector asks Welwyn Hatfield to speed up ‘lengthy’ Local Plan examination

PUBLISHED: 10:44 08 July 2020 | UPDATED: 12:03 08 July 2020

Planning inspector Melvyn Middleton.

Planning inspector Melvyn Middleton.

Archant

The Local Plan inspector has called on Welwyn Hatfield to speed up its already “lengthy” examination process.

Melvyn Middleton said in a letter to the borough council that it is one of the few local authorities still going with a draft of its Local Plan under the 2012 framework.

“I do not need to remind you of the already somewhat lengthy timescale of this examination and the urgency of coming to a conclusion on its future,” Mr Middleton said on July 2. “I would be grateful if you would submit the results of your recent consultation and the proposed sites that you are putting forward to make up your housing shortfall so that I can progress this part of the examination in the immediate future.”

Under the council’s current plan 14,011 homes have been earmarked at sites throughout Welwyn Hatfield. However this is below the assessed need of 16,000 – a key reason the inspector rejected the original draft plan – but the council believes the loss of the Green Belt will provide them with a mitigating issue.

In response to the delay, a council spokeswoman said they want this concluded as swiftly as possible.

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She said: “We’ve been working hard to meet the inspector’s request for further information, analyse the consultation responses, undertake further technical work and move forward with the possibility of hosting virtual hearing sessions.

“The inspector has promised to provide us with an interim report once these hearing sessions have taken place, and this will help inform the final decisions that councillors will make on additional sites. We hope to be in a position to set out the revised timetable and update everyone soon.”

On the same day of the inspector’s letter, North Mymms District Green Belt Society questioned the assessed need for 16,000 homes in light of the economic damage done by the coronavirus pandemic and called it “unrealistic”.

At the meeting of the cabinet planning and parking panel, WHBC explained that its consultants, Turleys, are looking again at the borough’s housing need in light COVID-19 and Brexit.

However, the minutes explain that ”economic forecasts do not feature in the methodology” for calculating housing formations.

It is unclear when Turleys will finish this work but there will be an update on July 30.


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