Welwyn Hatfield votes to meet inspector half way on local plan housing target

A Hertfordshire council has voted to increase its draft local plan housing target by 2,000 homes, though the figure is still 2,000 less than that requested by a planning inspector and suggested by its own officers after a number of recommended green belt sites were removed.

Welwyn Hatfield District Council offices. Image by Cmglee, Wikimedia
Welwyn Hatfield District Council offices. Image by Cmglee, Wikimedia

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council submitted its draft local plan – with proposals for 12,000 homes between 2013 and 2032 - in May 2017.

Subsequently, the examining inspector requested that the council finds sites for 16,000 homes.

But, at a special cabinet meeting at the end of January, the council voted to submit revised plans for just over 14,000 homes. 

A statement by Stephen Boulton, the council’s executive member for environment and planning, said: "The numbers of houses recommended are nearly 2,000 fewer that the inspector has suggested but it is considered that this is the maximum number that can be accommodated without significant harm to the green belt or harmful coalescence of rural villages."

Earlier in January, planning officers at the authority had published revised plans which would have seen a housing target of 15,952 included in the plans.

A report by the council’s head of planning to councillors said that they could "make amendments to the plan and take out proposed housing in the green belt but there will be consequences, in terms of resource and risk".

Despite this warning, councillors agreed a proposal by the council’s Conservative group to remove 550 homes from sites deemed to have a high impact on the green belt, as well as 985 on new sites considered to have a moderate to high impact.

A number of other sites were removed, including an allocation for 1,130 homes on the edge of the village of Symondshyde, and one allocation was reduced.

Extra homes were added to the target from potential additional capacity from permissions and applications, as well as a new site of 90 homes at Panshanger.

Overall, the changes agreed reduced the allocation suggested by officers over the plan period to 14,011.

The council will now consult the public on the amended proposals.

Last year, the inspector examining the plan blasted the council for delays in submitting requested evidence and warned that the document may need to be withdrawn if there were further hold-ups.

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