Herts Advertiser comment: Councils at war over housing

Herts Advertiser comment

Herts Advertiser comment - Credit: Archant

Feelings are clearly running high over the fact that in the minds of neighbouring local authorities, St Albans council has failed to cooperate with them over cross-boundary issues and housing figures contained in the district’s planning blueprint, the Strategic Local Plan (SLP).

Whether or not those differences of opinion will be upheld at the initial examination into the SLP this week - and St Albans council promises to have a robust defence - it shines a light on how difficult it is for each different local authority in Herts to plan for their areas.

Green Belt sites earmarked for housing in any area are bound to generate the anger of local residents - the loss of open space and the creation of rows of new houses is, unsurprisingly, anathema to many.

So it is no surprise that each local authority wants to push new housing as far out to its boundaries as possible as St Albans has done with its two proposed sites east of Hemel Hempstead and Welwyn Hatfield Council with its new ‘village’ near Symondshyde, close to Wheathampstead.

These large new housing schemes serve not only to blur boundaries between the various districts and boroughs but also bring into question who is going to provide the infrastructure - the roads, schools, medical services, leisure facilities et al - to which the occupants of these new homes will turn.

It is not surprising that Dacorum borough council, which incorporates Hemel Hempstead, is unhappy about what it sees as the lack of cooperation between St Albans council and itself over the two thousand-plus new homes which are proposed to built on the boundary between the two districts.

It rightly points out that its house prices and those in St Albans are miles apart and it has a completely different demographic so why should it have the lion’s share of new homes yet still have to wrestle with its own housing requirements.

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The only fair way forward would be for a countywide overview of where new homes should be built instead of pitting each local authority in Herts against each other.