Herts over Mind – Delays and Abandonment

01.2.22 2 MINUTE READ

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The political football that is the Green Belt is letting emotion rule logic when it comes to future growth in Hertfordshire.

It appears that my thoughts in the autumn on the progress of Local Plans across Hertfordshire were a little optimistic.

In the space of three months we’ve seen two Local Plans kicked into touch (had to get a Six Nations link in) and two others suggesting significant delays to their programmes.

Welwyn and Hatfield District Council took the decision in January to ignore their officer’s advice and refuse to meet their housing requirement and now face the imminent wrath of their Examining Inspector, who must have the patience of a saint!

Then, Hertsmere decided to scrap its Draft Local Plan following concerns over the extent of the Green Belt release required to deliver 9,000 of its anticipated 12,000 homes.

We’ve also seen (January 2022) St Albans and Three Rivers Councils updating their Local Development Schemes (LDS), pushing back timetables for their Local Plans, which would result in potential future adoption falling beyond December 2023.

The importance of December 2023 being the mandate of March 2020, whereby the government set a deadline of December 2023 for all councils to have up-to-date Local Plans in place with Minister of State for Housing, Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP stating; “It is critical work should continue to advance Local Plans through to adoption by the end of 2023 to help ensure that the economy can rebound strongly from the COVID-19 pandemic”.

There is some light however, as we patiently await the Inspector's final conclusions on the North Herts Local Plan Examination with the possibility of adoption this year. Publication of the Dacorum (Reg 19) consultation was expected last summer (2021) but has been postponed. A new LDS is expected in Q1 2022 with the pre-submission consultation likely to occur later this year with potential for a conclusion before December 2023. Lastly, the Examination in Public of the Watford Local Plan just commenced last month and is due to run until the end of February at the earliest.

In summary, of the 10 local planning authorities in Hertfordshire, only three (East Herts, Broxbourne and Stevenage) have adopted up to date Local Plans with possibly two or three others potentially joining them ahead of the December 2023 deadline (North Herts, Watford and/or Dacourm).

Bidwells' Simon Elliott, states that “the recent 2021 Housing Delivery Test (HDT) results show how poor delivery in Hertfordshire has been with six of the 10 LPAs being subject to the presumption of sustainable development i.e. delivery is less than 75% of their housing requirement. Taken as a whole, the 2021 HDT results suggest that delivery averaged 73% across the county, but this does not tell the whole picture as various deductions are made to the housing requirement. If the delivery figures for the last three years are compared to the Local Housing Need Standard Method (LHNSM) results for the same period, delivery was actually only 59%, and eight of the 10 LPAs would be subject to the presumption. According to the NPPF, the LHNSM is the minimum requirement that LPAs should be planning to meet and therefore provides a better measure of just how much LPAs need to step up in order to achieve sound local plans. In other words, therefore over the last three years the shortfall has grown by almost 9,800 dwellings.”

However, this is not just an issue over the extent of market-led housing and the resultant impact upon the Green Belt to deliver new homes. It is about the historic lack of a plan led strategy and therefore the key delivery of new employment, infrastructure, health, care and of course much needed affordable housing.  In short, this vacuum of activity is stagnating wider social-economic value generated from the delivery of new development.

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Mike Jones

Partner, Planning

Mike is a Chartered Town Planner with 19+ years’ experience and knowledge across an array of sectors.

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