Why so many consultations about housing?

It is a busy time for Baldock’s development planning and it is getting very confusing with so many requests for local people to take part in consultations.

So here is an explanation of what is going on and why taking part is important.

Local Plan consultations

North Herts District Council (NHDC) have a responsibility to maintain an up to date Local Plan. This sets out the land in North Hertfordshire which could be used for housing, subject to planning permission being granted for specific building applications. It also sets out some policies that should shape the details of how the area is developed. These policies cover topics such as Town Centre Design, Transport, Local amenities and Green spaces . There have been two public consultations during the creation of the plan. These took place in 2014 and 2016. Some adjustments were made to the Local Plan following the consultations.  It is a subject of contention as to whether enough was done to reflect local concerns but nevertheless in April 2017, the plan was voted by councillors to be passed on to an Inspector for formal assessment. The Inspector is currently holding a series of public hearings to enable local representatives to make their opinions of the plan known directly to him. These hearings run through to the end of March. The plan may be passed in whole or part or completely rejected. We will find out later in the year.

Save Rural Baldock (SRB) was set up by a group of local people to raise awareness of the Local Plan process in the area and to try to encourage people to take part in the consultations. SRB will be attending the hearing on the morning of 6th February, which is the session dedicated to Baldock matters. Members of the public are able to attend the hearing. Details can be found on the NHDC website.

HCC/WYG masterplan display and consultation

Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) own most of the land that has been made available to be considered for inclusion in the Local Plan. They have employed the services of a consultancy company called WYG to prepare Masterplans for the two parts of Baldock that could be affected by the Local Plan proposals.  WYG have displayed their proposals twice over the course of 2017 and asked local residents to provide feedback about their designs. The design has been amended to try to meet some of the concerns and suggestions that were made during the consultations. These plans are outline plans and some of the details that have been presented are only suggestions about how the detail of the design might be done. These masterplans form the basis of the HCC planning application described below.

Baldock, Bygrave and Clothall Planning Group Survey

Whatever the outcome of the Local Plan process is, the plan will not address the detail of the some aspects of the development. The government has a mechanism called neighbourhood planning which enables local residents and businesses to set out their own policies about how they want their area to be developed. The Baldock Bygrave and Clothall Planning Group was formed to create the neighbourhood plan for Baldock and surrounding area. This group is conducting their own survey to determine what local residents see as important issues that can be included in the neighbourhood plan. This survey is open now and closes on 14th February.

Details are in the January edition of On Our Doorstep and on the group’s website www.bbplan.co.uk.

NHDC Planning Applications consultation

NHDC have a second regular ongoing responsibility, which is to officiate over any planning applications that are made in the area. These include any made relating to anywhere in and around Baldock.

As part of any planning application process NHDC have to notify key people and businesses adjacent to the areas for which planning applications are made.

As land owners, HCC have now made two formal planning applications to NHDC, one for North Baldock and the other for South East Baldock. A consultation period is set to run from now until the 16th March during which time anyone can put forward comments about these planning applications to NHDC. They may continue to receive comments about the applications after the formal consultation is closed.

It is going to take a long time for the HCC planning application process to be completed. The timetable will be dependent on the progress of the Local Plan process. The planning application is then validated against the Local Plan and the Neighbourhood Plan.

However, this planning application is a separate process to the Local Plan. Although superficially it may look like just like the Local Plan, they are not the same thing. The planning application will have details that are not part of the Local Plan and in the event that the Local Plan does not get passed there is every chance that this planning application will still be pursued. So your responses to it are really important!

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