Outcome of the Council Meeting 20th July 2016

The Draft Strategic Policies and Communities sections of the North Hertfordshire Local Plan 2011-2031 were passed at a council meeting on 20th July.

Councillor David Levett, responsible for planning said “This is an opportunity for new homes to be provided for the future generation” and, throughout the meeting, there was a general acknowledgement that some new housing is needed in the area.

However, the vote of 32 councillors in favour, 7 against and 5 abstentions does not truly reflect the amount of concern that remains about the content of the latest version of the plan.

During Wednesday’s Council meeting, SRB was one of 7 representations from the public urging councillors to reconsider the plan. There were also 3 councillors who proposed amendments to the plan. The first was to stop so much of the development taking place on Green Belt but this was rejected on a technicality. The remaining two amendments were not applied but will be considered later. These were to protect the percentage of affordable housing in the developments and to ensure good numbers of rental properties would be included.
All 5 of the Baldock and Bygrave councillors (McNally, Weeks, Paterson, Muir and Shanley) explained why they would be voting against the motion to approve the plan. They felt that Baldock and Bygrave were being given an unfairly large proportion of the total number of dwellings in North Herts.  Several councillors spoke to say they also felt unhappy with the plan citing aspects such as dreadful congestion on particular roads in the county, lack of infrastructure, inappropriate numbers in certain areas and announced that they would be abstaining.  Even some of the councillors who spoke in favour of the plan, expressed some misgivings and said they would be helping to work to improve the plan before it goes to Cabinet in September.

Most councillors acknowledged that Councillor Levett and the NHDC planning team had worked hard to create this version of the plan. Although it was pointed out by one that “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”.

The overriding concern is that without a plan the county would be at the mercy of “hostile” planning applications which would result in developmental mayhem and no infrastructure.

Councillor Levett himself acknowledged that significant changes could still be made to the plan but that it would be instigated by the Inspector of the plan, not NHDC.

The local Plan will now be worked on further by the planning department to complete missing parts of the evidence base. It will be approved by the Council Cabinet in September and then circulated for a 6 week public consultation. It is vital that all North Herts residents read the plan and submit their comments to the consultation.  Previous consultation comments will only be submitted in summary.  Once views have been collected and sorted they will be sent to the inspector who will pass or fail the plan, returning it to the Planners to adjust if necessary. The plan may then be adopted. If the inspector fails the plan altogether then the planning department would have to start again or see the government step in and write one for the county which might be even less sympathetic.

During the discussions it became clear that Neighbourhood Planning groups can be very influential. The Neighbourhood Plan is a legal document which planners have to observe alongside the Local Plan.  Councillors urged their residents to join their local group. Younger people will be particularly welcome as they are more likely to be looking for a home and may have different ideas to those of their parents.

Baldock and Bygrave residents can register their support for the work of the Neighbourhood Planning Group by emailing info@BBPlan.co.uk.

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