Cabinet stands firm on housing targets
The council's Cabinet last night stood firm on its commitment to limiting green belt development in the borough, rejecting the independent Planning Inspector's demands to allocate additional sites in its Local Plan - the blueprint for growth in the borough.
A meeting of full Council will vote later today (Tuesday 26 July) on a proposal for sites suitable for 12,775 new homes, with 8,517 of these coming forward in the first ten years. This is a reduction on the 13,279 homes proposed by the council in January this year, with fewer homes allocated at the Wheat Quarter development site in Welwyn Garden City, and significantly less than the 15,200 sought by the Planning Inspector.
Cllr Stephen Boulton, Executive Member for Planning, said: "This has been an incredibly difficult decision to make. On the one hand, the Planning Inspector wants us to allocate more sites in our green belt land. On the other, residents and communities in Welwyn Hatfield have made it very clear that they reject proposals that would have seen over 15,000 homes built in the borough between 2016 and 2036.
"Ultimately, it is our duty as elected members to make decisions - including at times some very tough ones - on behalf of the people we represent.
"Over several years, we have rightly invested significant time and effort taking on board the views of our communities. It remains clear that a significant majority 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.
"Nobody is in any doubt about the significance of the decision we are making. Having looked very carefully at all the options, we feel deeply that our duty is to protect valuable green belt as much as we can, and preserve the unique heritage of our borough."