More setbacks likely for St Albans housing blueprint after Government delays

PUBLISHED: 12:39 08 August 2017 | UPDATED: 12:39 08 August 2017

High Court

High Court

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Further setbacks are likely for St Albans troubled local plan following delays on crucial government proposals.

In June St Albans district council (SADC) lost a High Court appeal which was the last hope of salvage its Strategic Local Plan (SLP). The now defunct document took more than 10 years to produce, cost £35,000 and outlines all major development in the district until 2031.

Planning inspector David Hogger said SADC had not fully co-operated with neighbouring authorities after discussions broke down.

A point of dispute was the number of homes planned for the district - the other councils wanted SADC to accept some of their own housing burden in areas which would utilise their infrastructure.

Much of the SLP work can be carried forward, and new Government proposals on a standardised housing need assessment could resolve this key dispute - but its launch has been delayed from July to September.

Planning portfolio holder at SADC, Cllr Mary Maynard, described this as “disappointing” and noted it will be more difficult to move forward with redrafting the SLP: “We were expecting to know the Government’s proposals going into our review and to have had time to consider them. It would make fulfilling our duty to co-operate with neighbouring councils easier as we could all be following the same methodology on housing need.”

She said in all likelihood the district’s housing need - estimated in the failed SLP as 450 per year - will be dramatically increased.

Cllr David Yates believes SADC will be forced to release more Green Belt: “It’s appalling. First of all the Government threatens – in a White Paper that was itself delayed for months – that not building enough houses could ‘trigger processes that will ensure that further land comes forward’, then it delays telling us what ‘enough houses’ actually means. Meanwhile it completely avoids describing what the threatened processes are.”

Cllr Iain Grant added: “A consistent, agreed methodology on housing need would be helpful in taking forward SADC’s duty to cooperate work, and the Government delay is therefore regrettable.”

New meetings with neighbouring authorities are currently being organised in spite of the delay.

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