Cabinet backs community call to prevent "excessive" growth

The council's Cabinet voted to prevent unnecessary expansion into Welwyn Hatfield's green belt, rejecting the increase in housing numbers recommended by the government's Planning Inspector.

Cllr Stephen Boultan

Cabinet's decision comes after the cross-party Cabinet Planning and Parking Panel (13 January) unanimously agreed not to recommend plans which would have allocated land for 15,200 homes in Welwyn Hatfield over the next 20 years, rather than a lower target set in 2020.  The Cabinet recommendation is for sites suitable for 13,279 homes, an increase of almost 30% in the borough, and this will now go forward for a final decision to be made at a Special Council meeting next week (27 January).

Cllr Stephen Boulton, Executive Member for Planning, said: "This has been an incredibly difficult decision to make, both for me and for my Cabinet colleagues. Ultimately, however, we recognise our primary duty is to make decisions - including at times some very tough ones - on behalf of the people we are elected to represent.

"In a letter we received from the Housing Minister in November 2021, it was made clear that we are expected to take account of any local constraints, including pressures on the green belt, and that we, along with our communities, are best placed to take decisions on local planning matters in our area.

"Over several years, we have rightly invested significant time and effort taking on board the views of people, including the Planning Inspector, on our Local Plan - the blueprint for growth in the borough. It remains clear that a significant majority of people are against building on the green belt to meet housing targets they feel are excessive. As elected members we must respect those views, while recognising that some release of green belt land is inevitable, even to reach previously agreed targets.

"The cross-party panel and Cabinet members have discussed this at great length, and nobody is in any doubt about the significance of the decision we are making. Having looked at a number of options, we feel there is no choice but to accept the proposal of our Planning and Parking Panel and, in doing so, protect our valuable green belt as much as we can."