'Welwyn Hatfield's Local Plan not sound in current form', inspector warns
PUBLISHED: 15:47 02 November 2017 | UPDATED: 10:46 03 November 2017
Bullish opposition councillors have claimed the Local Plan's failings were exposed during the latest round of hearings.
Welwyn Hatfield Council’s proposals for around 12,000 homes by 2032 went under the microscope again, with inspector Melvyn Middleton assessing contributions on the Green Belt and objectively assessed housing need.
He said he felt the plan was not “sound” in its current form, although it could be made so if amendments were adopted.
Mr Middleton added it would be acceptable to build fewer homes inside the borough if the council felt it was constrained by the Green Belt – which he said required a review.
Lib Dem members Malcolm Cowan and Nigel Quinton – long-term advocates of developing another settlement outside the borough to meet the housing need – claimed the inspector repeatedly homed in on the issue.
Peartree representative Mr Cowan said: “The inspector has several times questioned the council as to why it had not done more to pursue the idea of a new garden city outside of the borough.
“To date we have not heard a convincing reply – clearly the council should have listened to us before.”
County councillor Mr Quinton added: “We argued that the plan should focus much more on the very real need for more affordable homes and that the Green Belt should be better protected.
“We also said the council should be looking to meet its future housing needs by working with its neighbouring councils to build a new garden city outside the borough.”
However, a borough council spokeswoman stressed the inspector’s conclusion that fewer Green Belt houses may be accepted did not mean the overall number of houses WHC had to build could lower.
She added: “In reviewing our growth strategy, the inspector expressed concerns about the housing numbers being lower than our assessed need, asking us to review which parts of the borough’s green belt are absolutely critical to protect, with a view to finding more opportunities for future development.”