Welwyn and other councils to confront St Albans over homes plan

Green Belt land for St Albans' SLP in Harpenden next to Sauncey Wood school

Green Belt land for St Albans' SLP in Harpenden next to Sauncey Wood school - Credit: Archant

Representatives of Welwyn, Luton, Dacorum, Watford and five other councils are to explain problems they have encountered while negotiating with St Albans over planning issues, including the location of future large housing sites.

While the local authority has asked the planning inspectorate for the go-ahead to have 436 homes built annually within the life of its draft Strategic Local Plan (SLP), which runs from 2011-2031, nearby councils say between 650 and 700 homes should be built here each year.

The district council has been accused by neighbouring councils of “failing” to co-operate with them over suitable housing targets for the next two decades, and cross-boundary issues.

Last month, planning inspector David Hogger told the district council that more work was needed on its planning blueprint, which sets out large-scale housing developments in the Green Belt, in Redbourn, St Albans and Harpenden.

In August, Mr Hogger wrote: “Based on the submissions and evidence that I have read, for example from nearby local planning authorities, I am concerned that the duty to co-operate has not been met.”

He said the council should “justify” its annual housing target, pointing out he also has “concerns regarding the justification of the council’s approach to economic prosperity and employment”.

Since then, Mr Hogger has invited the councils of Central Beds, Dacorum, Hertsmere, Luton, North Herts, Three Rivers, Watford, Welwyn Hatfield and Herts county to “sit at the table” at an initial hearing session on the SLP next month.

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He said: “Over 40 representors stated that, in their opinion, the duty to co-operate has not been met and that they would wish to attend a hearing session.

“I consider that over 40 participants is too many to accommodate satisfactorily around the table.”

He has whittled the list down to include nearby councils, along with a Home Builders Federation representative to attend the session.

Mr Hogger said that in the interests of ‘fairness’ brief comments will be invited from those sitting in the public gallery.

Further hearing sessions on other concerns Mr Hogger has raised over the plan, in regards to its soundness and legal compliance with the government’s planning rules are likely to be held, but not until he has considered all the evidence on the council’s duty to co-operate.

He has published a number of questions for the invitees to respond to by October 7, including whether the district council has “engaged” with nearby local bodies constructively for their mutual benefit.

Mr Hogger has also asked whether the plan has “deliverable policies” in relation to housing, jobs, retail, infrastructure provision and the Green Belt.

• The initial hearing session is on Wednesday, October 26, at 2pm in the council chamber, Civic Centre, St Albans.