Council warns area may not have facilities for 6,000 new homes
Matthew Smith Local Democracy Reporter
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Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council has raised concerns about a controversial new plan to build 6,000 homes on the border with Hertsmere.
The council has questioned the viability and sustainability of the plan. It is not confident that services would cope with thousands more residents under Hertsmere’s proposed draft Local Plan, including a lack of school provision and potential transport issues.
The most contentious part of the plan is the creation of the new settlement of Bowmans Cross, which will include 6,000 homes on the border between Welwyn Hatfield and Hertsmere.
Earlier this month, St Albans district council, which would also share a border with the development, warned the area could “grind to a halt” under the current plans.
Councils have a duty to co-operate and provide feedback on neighbouring plans as part of the Local Plan consultation process.
Welwyn Hatfield’s Cabinet Planning and Parking Panel discussed the proposal during a meeting on Thursday November 11, prior to sending their final consultation response.
Council officers expressed concerns including the narrowing of the “high performing” Green Belt between Colney Heath and the new settlement, which prevents encroachment of urban areas, and a concern that too much development would impact the separation between London Colney, Potters Bar and Shenley.
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A response to Hertsmere said “it is not clear” how the council determined that there are exceptional circumstances to release the land from the Green Belt.
Welwyn Hatfield officers also warned of a “lack of detail” about the sustainability of the Bowmans Cross site in relation to public transport links and questioned whether the facilities will be enough to support residents beyond the first stage of the development.
The development will see 2,400 homes built within Hertsmere’s Local Plan period up to 2038, followed by an additional 3,600 homes in the years beyond.
The draft response said Hertsmere should consider the potential infrastructure implications, adding: “This should include implications on the A414 of bringing forward such a significant site. There is a lack of detail in the consultation document of the proposed sustainable transport links and whether the necessary supporting services and facilities can be provided to support the plan period allocation of 2,400 dwellings.”
The borough council’s executive member for planning, Cllr Stephen Boulton (Conservative, Brookmans Park and Little Heath) added the location is “in one of the least sustainable positions anywhere in Hertfordshire”, noting that there is no nearby railway station and infrequent bus services.
He also questioned how many people would be willing to cycle to and from the development, raising the prospect of thousands more cars on the roads upon completion.
Hertsmere's plan also includes a total of 1,750 homes in Potters Bar, across a number of developments, leading Welwyn Hatfield officers to question whether current services could cope with the increased demand.
One section of the report to raise eyebrows was the mention of Chancellor’s School, in Brookmans Park, in Hertsmere’s report in regards to local school provision.
Welwyn Hatfield has made it clear that the school will be required to meet demand from their own emerging Local Plan.
The council’s draft response said: “Whilst this is within the Potters Bar school planning area, the ability of this school to meet needs arising from development in Potters Bar will be severely limited, as capacity at the school will be required to meet the needs arising from development proposed in the draft Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan.”
Hertsmere’s Section 18 public consultation runs until December 6, before the council will publish a revised second plan, expected in the spring.
The council has said that following submission for public examination late next year, and without any major delays, the new Local Plan could be adopted in 2023.