Brokenshire lifts holding direction on East Hertfordshire local plan

Housing secretary James Brokenshire has lifted his holding direction on East Hertfordshire District Council's local plan.

Direction lifted: housing secretary James Brokenshire
Direction lifted: housing secretary James Brokenshire

The holding direction had been placed on the plan last month in response to a request by local MP Stephen McPartland.

The Tory MP had, alongside other local campaigners, requested that Brokenshire halt the strategy due to concerns over the document’s proposal to release green belt land adjacent to Stevenage for housing.

The draft local plan proposes releasing the 37-hectare Gresley Park site, earmarked for 600 homes, from the green belt to help the council meet its five-year housing land supply requirement.

McPartland had claimed that the plan was not sound, and that the council had a housing land supply of more than six years.

Despite the plan being found sound at examination by inspector Christine Thornby in July, Brokenshire instructed the authority to pause the adoption of the plan to allow him to consider the issues raised by McPartland.

But the holding direction has now been lifted, which the council says means that "much needed homes can now be delivered for the residents and communities of East Herts".

"By lifting the holding direction, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has acknowledged that the plan is indeed sound, and will allow the council to move forward with officially adopting it," the council said in a statement.

"Following the issue of the holding direction, the council has been working with MHCLG to come to a speedy resolution and prevent development taking place in areas that have not been identified as suitable," said East Herts Council leader Linda Haysey.

"We are pleased that our work to create a sound plan has been recognised and look forward to pressing ahead with adopting the plan and giving our residents and businesses some assurances for the future of our district."

The council will hold an extraordinary council meeting on 23 October to formally adopt the plan.

An MHCLG spokesperson said: "After careful consideration of the issues, the secretary of state has decided to withdraw a holding direction preventing East Hertfordshire District Council from taking any action in connection with its local plan, allowing the council to adopt the Local Plan if they wish.

"The secretary of state has written to the council informing them of this decision, which has been taken on the understanding that the authority will continue to work with its neighbouring authorities to explore all options for addressing Hertfordshire’s future housing need, including new settlements."

The spokesperson added that the holding direction on neighbouring Stevenage borough council's local plan "is being carefully considered" and that a decision on the plan would be announced "in due course." The direction, which was placed by former secretary of state Sajid Javid, has been in place for almost a year.

This article was updated at 15:30hrs on 15 October to incorporate the MHCLG's statement on the lifting of the holding direction.

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