Welwyn Hatfield’s Local Plan ‘falls far short of meeting housing need’ – planning inspector

PUBLISHED: 14:04 01 August 2017 | UPDATED: 14:42 01 August 2017

Panshanger Aerodrome, part of which is set to be included in the Local Plan. Picture credit: Peter Sterling.

Panshanger Aerodrome, part of which is set to be included in the Local Plan. Picture credit: Peter Sterling.

Archant

Welwyn Hatfield Council’s Local Plan has been dealt a blow after the planning inspector assessing it claimed it falls “far short of meeting the [housing] need” identified.

The plan outlines how the local authority intends to build around 12,000 homes in the borough by 2032, and was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate in April.

A letter sent on behalf of the inspector, published on the council’s website, explained that he has read the plan and is beginning to formulate the issues that may need to be discussed at the hearing sessions.

“[The planning inspector] is coming to preliminary conclusions as to the areas of the plan that it may not be easy to find sound, either because of the nature of the supporting information or the lack of it,” the letter reads.

Welwyn Hatfield Council’s proposals include 12,000 homes, compared to the 13,000 previously identified as necessary following an objective assessment.

The letter continues: “The housing proposals in the submitted plan do not meet the FOAHN (Full Objective Assessment of Housing Need) identified at the time of preparation, and they fall far short of meeting that identified in 2017.”

It goes on to list 29 questions, mostly linked to the ‘duty to cooperate’, designed to help the inspector assess the plan.

A Welwyn Hatfield Council spokeswoman said: “As well as considering the demand for new homes, we had to take into account the views of residents and the wider impacts of development on our communities and the green belt, including infrastructure constraints.

“The examination process will allow us to explain our conclusions to the inspector more fully.”

She added: “The first stage of the examination process involves the inspector assessing how councils have approached their ‘duty to cooperate’ with other authorities.

“We are working to respond to the questions the inspector has raised and welcome the opportunity to provide further clarification on how we’ve engaged with neighbouring councils throughout the development of the borough’s Local Plan.”

Following a public consultation earlier this year, the council revealed 86 per cent of respondents claimed it was “unsound”, and 60 per cent requested changes be made.

The subsequent report also included criticism and concerns raised by neighbouring councils and Hertfordshire County Council.

However, planning officers noted that there was no consensus about what the changes should be, with many respondents promoting opposing views.

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