William Eichler 16 March 2022

Council calls for urgent meeting to end local plan deadlock

Council calls for urgent meeting to end local plan deadlock  image
Image: SevenMaps/Shutterstock.com.

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council has written to request an urgent meeting with the housing minister, Stuart Andrew, to discuss the council’s local plan deadlock.

The borough council has to submit its local plan by 21 March, a deadline decided by the Government's appointed Planning Inspector.

However, the local authority argues that any decision about the required number of new homes should be based on a survey of the housing ‘starts and completions’ for 2021-22, and this survey is not due to be carried out until April and the results won’t be ready until May.

There are scheduled meetings of the council's Cabinet Planning and Parking Panel on 23 June and Full Council on 6 July, and the council believes it would be appropriate to take any recommendations to these meetings.

The council believes it faces ‘an impossible choice.’ It will either be forced to submit a local plan to which it and the community strongly object, and which it believes is unsound, or to withdraw the plan and start again.

Cllr Stephen Boulton, executive member for environment, planning, estates and development, said: ‘We're between a rock and a hard place. The options presented to us are either to accept an unsound plan, or to scrap it completely and start again. Both would be extremely irresponsible, and neither would match the clearly expressed views of our communities.

‘As far as we understand, agreeing the housing need will require the monitoring of this years' housing completions and commencements. The survey is carried out over April by Hertfordshire County Council, and we normally receive the provisional results in May. At this point Members will then be in a position to consider the options.

‘The Government's new Levelling Up White Paper talks about protecting green spaces and empowering local leaders. It also refers to pressure on housing and green belt land in areas like ours, but this doesn't seem to be acknowledged by the planning inspector.

‘That's why, given the situation in which we now find ourselves, we have written to the Minister for Housing, along with our MP, requesting a meeting to discuss the local circumstances in Welwyn Hatfield. We have a strong desire to do what's right for the borough, right for our green belt, and right for our communities.’

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