Javid places holding direction on Stevenage local plan

Communities secretary Sajid Javid has stepped in to prevent a Hertfordshire authority from adopting its draft local plan following a request from a local MP.

Stevenage: Sajid Javid steps in over local plan
Stevenage: Sajid Javid steps in over local plan

In a statement issued today, Stevenage Borough Council said that Javid had this week advised its leader that, "following a request from the MP for Stevenage [the Conservative Stephen McPartland], he has put a holding direction on the draft plan".

The statement added: "This means that the council cannot advance the plan until the secretary of state has considered the issues raised by the MP."

In a letter to the council, Javid said that the MP’s request to intervene had raised a "number of issues including plan policies and supporting text covering the regeneration of Stevenage train station and town centre".

Inspector Louise Crosby found Stevenage Borough Council’s local plan to be sound in a report issued last month, provided that a number of main modifications are made to it.

According to the inspector’s report, the plan sets out an objectively assessed housing need of 7,300 homes over the period 2011-2031, with the plan containing a target of 7,600 homes to be developed over the same period.

The inspector’s report endorsed the council’s plans to remove 90 hectares of land from the green belt, including its proposals to allocate two sites for 1,350 homes.

"The only way that Stevenage can meet its current identified housing need is to release any suitable land from the green belt," the inspector’s report said. "There is a pressing need for housing within the borough that cannot be met outside of the green belt."

The inspector’s report concluded that, given the council’s "extensive work" to try to identify sites outside of the green belt, "the exceptional circumstances exist to justify all of the plan’s proposed revisions to the green belt boundary".

Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor said: "We are in the very late stages of developing our local plan, which sets out ambitious plans for Stevenage in relation to building homes, creating jobs and regenerating our town centre and neighbourhoods, and it is disappointing to hear today of this political intervention that seems to be trying to hold back much needed housing, creating jobs and regenerating our town centre.

"We will remain in contact with DCLG colleagues over coming weeks to work through any issues they may have with the draft plan."

A DCLG spokesman said: "We have issued a holding order on the local plan for Stevenage and will decide on next steps shortly."

The secretary of state’s intervention follows similar moves last year, when holding directions were issued preventing the adoption of local plans drawn up by Birmingham and Bradford councils, following requests from local MPs that the government step in. Both holding directions were later lifted.

Earlier this year, Maidstone Borough Council delayed the adoption of its local plan following a request from a local MP that the secretary of state call in the strategy. But Javid last month declined the request to intervene.

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