Party leaders at odds over latest delay to St Albans Local Plan

Cllr Chris White and Cllr Mary Maynard.

Cllr Chris White and Cllr Mary Maynard. - Credit: SADC

Councillors must stop talking and start doing in order to ensure the district has a viable Local Plan which prevents development by appeal.

That was the damning statement made by Conservative group leader Cllr Mary Maynard after it was revealed a Local Plan is not expected to be adopted until autumn 2025 - two years after a government deadline.

The Local Plan is a blueprint for development in the district up to 2036, with the government setting targets of more than 14,000 new homes in this period.

Cllr Maynard told the Herts Ad: "The previous Local Plan was developed in 18 months and withdrawn by the Liberal Democrats against the advice of the Conservative Group.

"We later found out, after an apology from their portfolio holder for planning, that they had misunderstood key technical details of the Plan.

"They had also failed to undertake technical Initiatives, so the Plan was criticised. Since they took responsibility for this new Plan, two years ago, they have dragged their heels and delivered little.

"They do not want to take the key decisions, for example, about where houses will be located, particularly before local elections in May. However, they have already said that there will be multiple small sites [of 50-300 houses] located in Green Belt around the district, without the infrastructure to support this type of growth.

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"At the same time, they don’t want any development in the city centre, where they hold most of the council seats. They clearly don’t want development in their own backyard. They need to get on with it, stop talking and start doing.

"As a first step, they need to support officers and provide more money and resource. Developers are eyeing up the hundreds of millions of pounds in profits they can make from unconstrained development. We need the Local Plan to control this."

Cllr Chris White, council leader and chair of SADC Local Plan advisory group  said: “We are making substantial progress with the complex task of creating a new Local Plan and are moving forward as swiftly as we can.

“During this financial year, we have provided additional resources of £50,000 from our hard-pressed budget to provide our efforts with a boost and a significant bid for additional funds is part of this year's budget round.

“It is our intention to recruit three new planners later this year to work solely on the Local Plan and further improve our capacity to deliver it in a timely fashion.

“We could’ve had a Local Plan adopted already, but had to start afresh because of concerns raised at examination by a Government-appointed Inspector.

“We’ve been working flat-out on a new one and are in regular contact with the Government over our progress, having set out a realistic timetable.

“We have to follow statutory rules, including the requirement to carry out consultations for specific time periods.

“We also have to assess 678 sites that have been put forward for development and do detailed technical work on all of those.

“If we do miss the 2023 deadline, as many other councils are set to do, we will demonstrate that we have done everything we can to ensure that we are well on our way to delivering a new LP.”