New sites put forward to meet local housing need

Councillors will be asked to consider sites in the borough for nearly 4,000 additional new homes at a series of meetings in the coming weeks.

Local plan new sites consultation

The Local Plan initially submitted for public examination by the council included land for around 12,000 new homes. That number is below the borough's assessed need for housing and the planning inspector asked the council to do more to find sites for up to 16,000 homes.

A report published today sets out the results of months of work to identify the most suitable sites for the additional homes following a further call for sites earlier in the year.

Of the 144 sites put forward by landowners, 36 are recommended by officers for inclusion, bringing the total number of homes to 15,952.

The table below sets out the recommended additional homes by area.

Town / villageAllocated in Draft Local Plan (2016)Additional recommended (2019) Total
Welwyn Garden City3,7381,6795,417
Woolmer Green15059209
Oaklands and Mardley Heath31031
Welham Green92500592
Bell Bar and Brookmans Park274579853
Swanley Bar000
Little Heath13536171
Newgate Street000
Rural Areas (including Symondshyde)1,144-41,140

* Total does not include homes that have been completed since 2016 (1,446), sites with planning permission (1,268), or a windfall allowance (1,323).

Detailed site assessments and maps are included as appendices to the report.

The recommended strategy in the report seeks to minimise the harm to the Green Belt by maximising opportunities on urban sites, increasing density on some sites already in the plan and using lower harm Green Belt sites where they are in sustainable locations. No new high harm areas in the Green Belt are recommended.

Council officers also set out a range of alternative scenarios in the report, including options that avoid all high harm areas of the Green Belt, maximise the protection of employment land, use all suitable sites and only allocate the additional sites in urban areas.

However, the report acknowledges that, for various reasons, the alternative options are less likely to be accepted by the inspector and, crucially, could risk government intervention and starting again with an even higher housing target.

Residents will have an opportunity to share their views during a six week consultation on any sites councillors agree to move forwards.

Councillor Stephen Boulton, Executive Member for Environment and Planning, said:

We have to consider what the evidence is telling us; people right now are in need of housing and so are our future generations.

We share our residents' concerns about the impact of new development, but we have to balance that with the severe consequences for this borough of not meeting local housing need. If our plan is rejected and the government has to step in, we lose control of the process and we could be hit with even tougher housing targets.

Whatever happens next, we will continue to work hard to ensure the right infrastructure is in place to support growth, including the new roads, schools and healthcare facilities our communities will rely on.

The report will be considered by Cabinet Planning and Parking Panel on 23 January and 29 January, before going to Cabinet on 30 January.