Agenda item


Up to thirty minutes will be made available for questions from members of the public on issues relating to the work of the Committee and to receive any petitions.


Question from Mr. Howard Dawson

At the CPPP meetings on 23RD January and 29th January 2020, Members of this Panel made clear they required all sites of High Harm to the Green Belt and Symondshyde to be deleted from the Local Plan.

The Inspector made clear at the examination and in writing that sites which are High Harm to the Green Belt should not be allocated unless sites of lesser harm to the Green Belt have been allocated first. The allocation of Symondshyde should only be a last resort.

The position of the CPPP at its January 2020 meetings and the position of the Inspector is therefore consistent in stating that the allocation of Symondshyde and High Harm sites should be a last resort, or not at all.

The grounds for deleting Symondshyde and the High Harm sites from the Plan are justified by the fact that the Inspector himself required the Council to undertake the Stage 3 Green Belt Review in 2018 which was after the Plan had been submitted. This is new evidence which justified s the deletion of the High Harm sites and Symondshyde from the submitted Plan.

Given the above facts please would the Chair of CPPP please explain why the Council’s planning officers presented such a strong and robust case to the stage 7 and 8 Hearing Sessions to promote and support the allocation of Symondshyde and all High Harm sites, against the wishes expressed by Members in January 2020?

Response from the Chairman

At the beginning of the Stage 7 Hearing Sessions the Head of Planning gave a statement to the Hearing Sessions explaining the situation.  The Proposed Submission Local Plan 2016 was agreed for submission by Full Council in 2017.  In January 2020 Cabinet Planning and Parking Panel recommended to Cabinet that the Council should consult which included proposing their removal. This was agreed for consultation by Cabinet.  In accordance with legislation it is Full Council which agrees the submission version of a Local Plan or any substantive changes. Full Council have not yet considered the results of the consultation on these proposals or decided on the approach to be taken with regards to sites in the Local Plan. Until such a decision is taken by Full Council, the Submitted Local Plan remains the Council’s policy and officers have a duty to defend its soundness at the Hearing Sessions.

Question from Mr. Peter Miller, Waterend Residents Group

This Local Plan is moving, like Titanic, towards the iceberg.

We currently have site HS22 allocated at Brookmans Park, which we now know from a report requested by the Inspector after the plan was submitted, to be High Harm and surrounded by Very High Harm Green Belt.

This site is now inexorably increasing in size, like the iceberg, potentially doubling in size.

Because the Inspector disallowed what he called ‘a beauty parade’, he refused to acknowledge or examine alternative sites.

Consequently, we now have the utterly bizarre situation of the largest and most harmful to the Green Belt site in Brookmans Park remaining allocated with the Council unable to remove it, whilst other Brookmans Park sites that are significantly less harmful are not allocated.

Will the Council stand by its position in January 2020 and request that all High Harm sites are removed from the Plan to be replaced by sites of a lesser harm?

Response from the Chairman

The Council has consulted on a strategy which would result in the Council advocating to the Inspector that this site be removed. This Panel now needs to consider the results of that consultation and decide what recommendations it wishes to make to Cabinet and Full Council with regards to this issue.

Question from Mr. Nigel Matthews, Chairman North Mymms District Green Belt Society

The Local Plan inspector appears to be justifying his pressure for Welwyn Hatfield to meet their OAN, despite clear green belt constraints, by quoting political statements and bowing to pressure from national government to allocate sites on current greenbelt to meet that 'need’.

Will the Committee confirm that the Local Plan is driven by their vision for the future of Welwyn Hatfield, in response to the genuine needs of Borough residents and not the application of central government policy at one remove, with targets unrelated to local need and heedless of the damage caused to local communities by over-expansion and the irreparable loss of Green Belt.

Response from the Chairman

The Local Plan is allowed to set a vision and that it what is done in the strategic policies of the submitted document.  Whilst the Council can set its own vision for the borough and its settlements, its policies and strategy for growth must still be found “sound” by the planning inspector in order to be adopted.  Only when it is adopted does the plan have any significant weight when it comes to making decisions on planning applications. 

If the plan is found unsound, then the Council would need to start the Local Plan process all over again.

The 2012 National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) defines soundness as comprising four tests.  These include being positively prepared and consistent with national policy.

Positively prepared means that it must seek to meet objectively assessed development needs where it is reasonable to do so and consistent with achieving sustainable development. The methodology for calculating those needs is set out in national planning guidance and is based on evidence of local needs.

National policy requires there to be exceptional circumstances before Green Belt boundaries can be altered. The Inspector has already concluded that exceptional circumstances do exist. The Council has consulted on a strategy which maximises opportunities on brownfield land and it will now consider the results of that consultation before deciding what if any additional sites to submit to the examination.

Question from Mr. Neil Bedford

The Council proposes Brookmans Park should now only be allocated for 16 homes in the new Local Plan.

There is undeveloped land either side of Bluebridge Road, Brookmans Park, sites BrP6, 9 & 10, within a couple of minutes walk of the railway station, that the Inspector describes as putting them among the most sustainable locations within the Borough from a movement perspective. When the proximity of shops, doctors and dentist surgeries, junior and senior schools are also considered these must be the most sustainable sites bar none. They are all deliverable within five years and site BrP6 along with site BrP12 are already considered suitable alternative sites in the submitted Draft Local Plan. Site BrP9 was also proposed for Self Build Housing which can meet the need for the affordable housing requirement.

The Inspector has specifically stated the Council should not exclude sites within close walking distance of excluded villages without justification, therefore please explain why once again the most sustainable sites have not been chosen or even proposed to be safeguarded?

Response from the Chairman

The Submitted Local Plan proposed 274 dwellings for Brookmans Park.  The Council has consulted on a strategy that would add an additional 104 dwellings at BrP1 Bell Bar and advocates the removal of HS22 because it would result in high harm to the Green Belt.

BrP6, 9 and 10 would also result in high harm to the Green Belt but are further away from the station and shops than HS22. BrP1 would result in only moderate harm to the Green Belt and is closer to the secondary school than any of the alternative sites.

Question from Mr. Alan Perkins

In January 2020, the Report to CPPP contained an assessment of ‘Completions, Commitments Windfall and Small Sites’ at 4035 dwellings.

The Report to CPPP on 17 November 2020 contains an assessment of ‘Completion, Commitments Windfall and Small Sites’ at 4,688 dwellings. This is an increase in 653 dwellings.

Would the Chairman please provide a precise and detailed breakdown of where the additional 653 dwellings have come from in the ten month period between the CPPP meeting in January 2020 and the CPPP meeting tonight?

Response from the Chairman

The figures published in the January 2020 committee report were based on 3 years of completions and commitments data from the monitoring year 2016/17 to the year 2018/19. Table 5 in the November 2020 report updates this data with another year of commitments and completions which will be published as part of this year’s Annual Monitoring Report. It is also based on an updated windfall assessment which takes account of the new permitted development rights introduced this summer.

As indicated in the table the biggest single change is in recorded completions of 673 dwellings for the monitoring year 2019/20. These would have previously been identified within the commitments figures but also include a reclassification of the development at the former Comet Hotel from C2 student accommodation contributing 123 dwelling equivalents to 272 self-contained C3 dwellings all of which have been completed in 2019/20. The reclassification is in accordance with the guidance set out in the Government’s Housing Flows Reconciliation Guidance.

The commitments data presented in January 2020 was based on commitments as at 30 September 2019.  Any new permissions granted in the 12 months since this date and up to 30 September 2020 have now been included within the commitments figure presented in the November 2020 CPPP report, whilst those dwellings which have been completed have been removed from this category. This results in an overall reduction of 126 dwellings from the January figure. Since publishing the November committee papers it has become apparent that there is some double counting between 3 sites in the commitments figure and sites identified in the preferred strategy for additional sites. If those sites are excluded from the commitments figure the number reduces from 1,141 to 961.

The windfall allowance has also been increased by 98 dwellings from 1,304 dwellings identified in the HELAA 2019 to 1,402 dwellings in order to account for increased windfall from the new Permitted Development Rights.

A more detailed breakdown will be published on the Council’s website.


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