Welwyn Hatfield council to consult on plan to protect borough’s Green Belt
- Credit: Archant
Plans to consult on proposals removing all sites from the Local Plan that could cause high harm to the Green Belt have been agreed by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council.
It follows recommendations from the council's Cabinet Planning and Parking Panel on an officer report seeking to find more land to meet the borough's housing need.
Councillors also agreed last week to reduce the allocation at Gosling Sports Park to 100 new homes following community concerns, remove all new sites that cause 'moderate-high' harm to the Green Belt, remove sites that result in coalescence between villages, remove sites from Lemsford and Stanborough where there are limited services to support development, and withdraw Symondshyde due to concerns over its sustainability.
An additional 165 homes at Panshanger and 160 on site PB1 on the outskirts of Potters Bar were also agreed to.
Together, with higher annual windfall assumptions, the total number of new homes proposed for the Local Plan will be 14,011 over 16 years.
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Cllr Stephen Boulton, executive member for environment and planning at the borough council, said: "We have listened very carefully to the views of our communities over loss of Green Belt and are taking all options off the table where the impact of development is too high.
"However, considerations other than Green Belt have also been taken into account, including responding to residents' concerns over development at Symondshyde and Gosling Sports Park.
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"Our task throughout this process has been to find the right balance between growth and sustainability; a balance I believe we have now reached with these proposals."
Cllr Tony Kingsbury, leader of the Welwyn Hatfield Conservative group, said: "I am pleased that the majority of our plan was agreed. If the Lib Dems had their way, huge swathes of our Green Belt in areas including Welham Green, Welwyn and Brookmans Park would be consigned to massive levels of development.
"As Conservatives, we have listened to what people have told us, and balanced the responsibilities forced upon us by the government with the community's strong feeling in support of Green Belt land.
"We have decided on a sensible plan to send out for consultation that addresses the overwhelming need for housing locally, the alternative to this is the Lib Dems' Green Belt development free-for-all."
Cllr Kieran Thorpe, the Labour group leader, said: "The decade long process of illusion that local people had any meaningful say over this, is nearly now at an end.
"Residents and councillors of all political persuasions agree that this will not deliver an overall benefit, but the clear reality is that whatever way it is dressed up, the government inspector will simply decide what happens.
"In relation to Panshanger, I am proud that Labour councillors were instrumental in previously having this taken out of the plan, but again the unelected government inspector instructed this was not allowed.
"Labour has been clear from day one to now, this entire process is not fit for purpose and cannot deliver what this area needs.
"I understand that other parties are upset that the fairytale ending they somehow imagined possible has not come to pass, and we are now in absurd position of having Hertfordshire MPs who previously decried the regional planning processes as unfair, now suggesting that the Local Plan process they replaced it with isn't strategic enough."
Lib Dem councillor Ayesha Rohale, who represents Panshanger, said: "The Conservatives have obviously given up on Panshanger because they were content to nod through extra homes there, whereas they rushed to take out most of the planned homes in their back yards of the villages like Brookmans Park, Welwyn and Cuffley.
"They always expect the towns of Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield to take the pain.
"But this could have been stopped if Labour had voted against the Conservative amendment, or supported the Liberal Democrat amendment to stop the extra housing on the airfield, yet they sat on their hands and let not just us down but their voters as well.
"I'm very angry about letting them get away with additional houses on Panshanger airfield cutting into the planned 'green corridor' and pushing further into the Green Belt."
A six-week consultation on all sites put forward for inclusion will open later this month.