13,277 homes approved for draft Local Plan following council meeting
- Credit: WHBC
The borough is set to deliver 13,277 homes under the draft Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan following a full council meeting earlier this week.
Councillors voted on two recommendations on November 23, with 23 voting in favour, 13 against and 12 abstentions.
The first recommendation was that the Cabinet Planning and Parking Panel (CPP) and Cabinet agreed that objectively assessed housing (OAN) need should be 690 homes per year, or 13,800 for the 20-year span.
The second recommendation was on whether the council should make any changes to the proposed changes made back in January 2020 based upon the consultation and interim report and further data.
The changes do not add sites selected for removal in proposed changes consultation. They do update completions, commitments and windfall figures. They earmark urban areas such as the Wheat Quarter for 2,000 homes and BioPark for 250 homes. They also remove 700 homes at Birchall Garden Suburb South and remove 160 at PB1 east of Potters Bar.
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The strategy will now deliver 13,277 dwellings instead of 13,457.
CPP also agreed that PB1 should be identified as safeguarding land to meet longer term housing needs.
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There were several risks listed to making these changes which included the inspector concluding the plan is unsound, the Government instructing another body to prepare the Local Plan (which has currently never happened) or even a judicial challenge.
READ MORE: Could 13,277 homes be the last word on Welwyn Hatfield’s Local Plan after inspector’s warning?The changes were in some part based off a public consultation – which was agreed in January when members agreed upon 14,011 sites – which took place from February 19 to May 1.
Most comments from the consultation were given on sites in Green Belt like PB1, which received 88 representations.
These changes also took into consideration the Planning Inspector’s interim report which said a lower OAN would not support housing crisis, Green Belt land could be released without exceptional circumstances and justification, Birchall Garden Suburb harms the openness of the Green Belt, Marshmoor should be considered if housing need can’t be met and Symondshyde maybe selectable if OAN is not met from village sites.
READ MORE: Welwyn Hatfield council to consult on plan to protect borough’s Green BeltCllr Stephen Boulton, executive member of environment and planning, said the proposals provide a ‘reasoned approach’ and reflect the results of their consultation. He said: “This has been a hard and long task, if it were not so we would’ve completed this three years ago, and at the end of this we won’t please everybody.”
Welwyn Hatfield Labour Group leader Cllr Kieran Thorpe said: “My view on this has been unchanged for the last decade and it’s quite simple, it’s just wrong. There’s nothing strategic about the core strategy, there is nothing local about the Local Plan. It doesn’t deliver the type of housing we need, it doesn’t meet any objective need.
“People will be upset, we will have houses built in unsuitable areas and infrastructure needs being unmet.
“Vote for this plan and no one wins, vote against this plan and no one wins. The people of Welwyn Hatfield don’t win either way.”
Lib Dem Cllr Paul Zukowskyj agreed with Cllr Thorpe, saying: “This is the Government’s plan, this is not our plan. This is them putting together a series of policies, rules and structures that effectively stop us doing what we think is best for our communities. That’s the whole point of what a Local Plan is supposed to be.
Conservative Cllr Sunny Thusu responded: “It has been left to the local people to make that decision, yes they [the Govt] have their priorities, because they have to build more housing, but at least they didn’t say you have to have this built here. They left it to us and we have consulted.”
Leader of the Council Cllr Tony Kingsbury said: “Many comments have been made and I think we all agree it’s been a very difficult process and hard work all the way through it. There are some points the opposition have said that I would agree with and some I wouldn’t.
“It’s a very difficult balance, the need of new homes of affordability against the desire of our community to protect the characteristics of ours towns, villages and green spaces.
“I think this is a good compromise.”
Cllr Duncan Bell: “We’ve listen to people as far as we can, I know not everyone will be happy, but we do need to have a Local Plan, it is too risky not to. I think if we can all support this we have a better defence possibly against the inspector finding it unsound.”