Hertsmere Scraps Local Plan – Green Belt Loss too Painful for Councillors

Borehamwood Times

Given recent appeals in Herts they will probably get Green Belt loss now by appeal – as local plan lead cllr Cohen has warned

Hertsmere Borough Council has shelved its draft local plan after acknowledging its residents had “clearly rejected” the plan.

Following council leader Morris Bright’s sudden announcement at a full council meeting last night (January 26), it looks like the council will go back to the drawing board and come up with a new plan that is more widely supported.

However, this comes with risks with a councillor leading the local plan process warning the council could end up with developments “it does not want”.

The draft local plan is an important document that sets out how Hertsmere will grow over the next 15 years and beyond by providing homes, infrastructure and jobs for future generations.

Primarily, it set out what land in the borough could be sacrificed to meet Government housing targets of around 12,000 – and the Government expects local authorities to have new local plans in place during 2023.

Around 20,000 comments flooded in during a public consultation period towards the end of 2021 after the draft plan revealed huge swathes of green belt land in Hertsmere were severely at risk of being built on.

In a statement published last night on the Hertsmere Conservatives website, Cllr Bright said: “Our residents have clearly rejected the draft local plan. Now the council must reject it too.”

He added: “Whilst residents and councillors understand the need for new homes, this potential decimation of large swathes of green belt has been too much for local people and local councillors to accept.

“I think it unlikely we will have a new local plan in place before 2024.”

This week, Cllr Bright and his colleague Cllr Harvey Cohen met with the borough’s Conservative MP Oliver Dowden to discuss the local plan. 

Following last night’s announcement, Mr Dowden said: “I think it is right that councillors look again at how best to deliver new houses in the borough and draw up a new plan which places the protection of green spaces at its heart.

“I will continue my campaign to get the [Government] housing department to reconsider its approach to Hertsmere, where it is hugely difficult to meet housing targets without damaging the beautiful green spaces which make our area such a wonderful place to live.”

Hertsmere MP Oliver Dowden, left, meeting with lead local plan councillor Harvey Cohen, centre, and council leader Morris Bright this week outside Hertsmere Borough Council’s offices in Borehamwood.

Local plan chief Cllr Cohen says producing a new local plan “will take time” adding: “I advise that we may now not meet Government deadlines for a local plan. We must expect opportunistic planning applications and we may lose some on appeal and end up with developments we do not want.”

But the Tories believe these risks should be taken if the “ultimate aim is to construct a plan that will gain traction and the support of residents and local businesses”.

Opposition members at the council appear to have welcomed the news of the draft local plan being shelved, with Labour and the Liberal Democrats both indicating this was a “victory for residents”.

But Labour said the consultation response had been “scathing” and claimed the Conservatives have been “embarrassed” into withdrawing it. The Lib Dems say the ruling Tories have “finally conceded” they need to go back to Government to “fight for a better deal” on housing targets.

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