CPRE briefing note – taken from the CPRE website http://www.cpreherts.org.uk/
‘WELWYN HATFIELD EMERGING CORE STRATEGY’ and ‘LAND FOR HOUSING
OUTSIDE URBAN AREAS’ CONSULTATION: CPRE HERTFORDSHIRE BRIEFING NOTE
CPRE Hertfordshire urges residents of Welwyn Hatfield and the neighbouring areas in St. Albans and East Herts, to respond to Welwyn Hatfield Council’s current consultation because of the potential impact of its proposals for new Housing on the Green Belt. The documents raise important issues which we feel should be drawn to public attention. The wide press support, and public interest in the ‘No Way To 10K’ campaign only a couple of years ago, in which the community in Welwyn Hatfield expressed its opposition to development in the Green Belt, means we are hopeful that residents will make their views on the consultation known to the Council and their Councillors. The consultation period runs until the 31 January 2013.
Two documents are out for consultation: an ‘Emerging Core Strategy’ and ‘Land For Housing Outside The Urban Areas’. The first is the Council’s proposed overall strategy for the development of Welwyn Hatfield until 2029. The second sets out potential development sites in the Green Belt.
The two documents have to be read together in order to understand the proposals – regrettably neither document makes this clear.
The main reason why they need to be read together is because the ‘Emerging Core Strategy’ contains information which amplifies the significance of the potential development sites that are in the ‘Land For Housing Outside The Urban Areas’ document, which in turn raises questions about the proposed ‘Strategy’.
Paragraph 1.26 of ‘Land For Housing Outside The Urban Areas’ states that the ‘Emerging Core Strategy’ proposes the setting of a requirement for 7,200 new houses up to 2029, 6,800 of which would be provided in Welwyn Hatfield, with the balance being built on adjoining land in St. Albans and East Herts Districts.To meet this target, some of the 6,800 houses would have to be built in the Green Belt.
In order to ensure that Green Belt boundaries will not need to be moved again after 2029, the document states that even more Green Belt land will have to be set aside for development, but this is not quantified. Only by going to the ‘Emerging Core Strategy’ do you find out in paragraph 5.13 that the actual target is for 9,200 new houses, most of which would have to be built in the Green Belt.
This very important point is not made clear. Paragraph 6.24 merely states that around 45% of all new housing would take place on previously-developed land. That surely means that 55% (over 5,000 houses) would have to be built on Green Belt land.
‘Land For Housing Outside The Urban Areas’ sets out nine sites which, in total, could accommodate 6,480 houses in the Green Belt. This rises to 6,940 if the potential areas in St. Albans and East Herts are also included. The Council declares that five of those sites are “not suitable to take forward”, so why is the Council including them in the consultation if it has already discounted them?
Policy CS4 in the ‘Emerging Core Strategy’ identifies ‘Broad Areas of Growth’ to the northeast of Welwyn Garden City at Panshanger Airfield (WGC 4) and between Hatfield Garden Village and Stanborough (HAT 1), which suggests that the Council intends to include these, whatever the outcome of the consultation. This in effect leaves only two sites, West of Ellenbrook (HAT 3) and South of Welwyn Garden City (WGC1), on which genuine consultation appears to be taking place.
All of the Council’s favoured sites taken together could contribute a total of 3,015 houses in the Welwyn Hatfield Green Belt (3,535 if the proposed expansions into St Albans and East Herts are included). If the figure proposed in the ‘Emerging Core Strategy’ is really 5,960, where is the shortfall to be found? Shouldn’t that be part of the consultation? In reality, consultation on ‘Land For Housing Outside Urban Areas’ is only on a first release of development sites in the Green Belt. Although we believe the Council would have to repeat this process in order to justify development of another wave of additional housing sites in the Green Belt, CPRE Hertfordshire considers that Welwyn Hatfield should be transparent now about the consequences of its proposed strategy for the Green Belt.