Hertfordshire Local Plan Watch - Autumn 2020
The current Local Government structure in Hertfordshire, comprising the County Council and ten district and borough Councils, is increasingly likely to change. Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) has revealed it has commissioned consultants to look at options for “structural reform”. The high-level report identifies options, two of which would create a completely new arrangement for Hertfordshire in the form or either a single unitary or the creation of two unitary authorities. The proposals will, however, face opposition as the Leaders of the 10 other councils have said they oppose the plans.
- Ultimatum issued by St Albans Local Plan Inspectors – withdraw or it will be recommended that it should not be adopted due to a failure to meet the Duty to Cooperate.
- North Hertfordshire hearing sessions that were set to resume have again be postponed, whilst a number of major issues such as scale of Green Belt associated with the Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan remain unresolved
- Proposed changes to the Standardised Methodology for calculating housing need is expected to result in a significant increase in housing numbers for Hertfordshire. It is unclear how this increase in homes will be achieved when balanced against the continued commitment of Central Government to the protection of the Green Belt which is prevalent in Hertfordshire.
The Local Plan Inspector’s final report on the soundness of the Council's Local Plan 2018-2033 was published on 14 April 2020. The report concluded that the Local Plan is sound with modifications. The Local Plan was adopted during a virtual (online) Council meeting on Tuesday 23 June 2020.
A public consultation was carried out on the Issues and Options for the emerging Dacorum Local Plan in November 2017. A further consultation was planned for Spring 2020, with submission of the Plan intended in Summer 2020. Covid-19 has seen this delayed. The latest Local Development Scheme (July 2020) has postponed this consultation until November 2020 - January 2021, with submission of the Plan for examination in October 2021.
East Hertfordshire adopted a new Local Plan on 23rd October 2018.
According to the Local Development Scheme (LDS) (agreed 5th March 2019), the Council did not intend to bring forward a new Development Plan in 2019 and that an updated LDS will be published when a decision to begin work on a new Local Plan is made. There have been no updates since.
The Council adopted the Affordable Housing SPD on the 13th May 2020 and the Gilston Area Charter SPD on 22nd July 2020.
The adopted Local Plan position comprises the Core Strategy (adopted January 2013), Estree Way Corridor Area Action Plan (adopted July 2015) and the Sites Allocations and Development Management Polices Plan (adopted November 2016).
A Sites Consultation was held October – November 2018 on an emerging Local Plan for Hertsmere. A Draft Plan (Regulation 19) was expected to be taken to Full Council in July 2020 for consultation in the autumn 2020. However, this has now been delayed until 2021 as a result of the Covid-19.
North Hertfordshire’s Local Plan 2011-2031 was submitted for examination 9th June 2017. Consultation on Main Modifications ran from 3rd January 2019 - 11th April 2019.
Further hearings were scheduled for March / April 2020 but were postponed due to Covid-19. Rescheduled hearings were to be begin on 28th September 2020. However, a week prior to the hearings the Council wrote to the Inspector asking for the sessions to be adjourned till the 12th October. The delay was to allow a motion tabled by the Council’s Liberal Democrats to be considered. The motion sought a reduction in the proposed allocation of housing sites in the Local Plan to reflect a reduction in projected need as a result of predictions by the Office for National Statistics. The outcome of this motion could have significant implications on the Local Plan.
St Albans emerging Local Plan was submitted for examination 29th March 2019. Stage 1 hearing sessions were held between 21st and 23rd January 2020, however due to serious concerns in relation to legal compliance and soundness of the plan the Local Plan Inspectors cancelled the February sessions and put the Examination on hold until further notice.
The Local Plan Inspectors wrote to the Council on 1st September 2020. In this response the Inspectors sets out the failure of St Albans to discuss the Strategic Rail Freight Terminal with neighbours, ignored the planning history and importance as a piece of regionally and nationally strategic infrastructure. In the eyes of the Inspectors’ this meant that there were no discussions about how St Albans’ unmet need could be accommodated by neighbours. The Inspectors also note that the Council carried out a Green Belt review and reached conclusions about exceptional circumstances without first having asked its neighbours if they could accommodate any of their housing need. The Inspectors concluded that St Albans have not met the Duty to cooperate. Two options are given to the Council - the plan can be withdrawn from examination or the Inspectors can write their report recommending that the plan is not adopted.
The Stevenage Borough Local Plan 2011-2031 was adopted on 22 May 2019. This followed the Secretary of State lifting a holding direction on the plan on 26th March 2019, 17 months after it was issued on 13th November 2017.
A review of the Local Plan is anticipated to begin 2 years after adoption to produce a new Stevenage Borough Local Plan 2021-2041.
The current Local Plan for Three Rivers consists of the Core Strategy (adopted October 2011), the Development Management Policies LDD (adopted July 2013) and the Site Allocations LDD (adopted November 2014).
A Potential Sites Consultation for the emerging Three Rivers Local Plan ran 26th October 2018 – 21st December 2018. A publication stage consultation is anticipated late 2020/early 2021. Submission of the plan is expected in summer 2021, examination in late 2021 and the adoption of the Local Plan in March 2022.
An Issues and Options Consultation for the emerging Watford Local Plan ran between 7th September - 19th October 2018 and a draft plan was consulted on between 27th September and 8th November 2019.
Consultation on a final draft of the plan was anticipated May 2020, submission of the Local Plan for examination was anticipated September 2020 and adoption was planned for May 2021. However, the indicative timetable has been delayed as a result of Covid-19.
Welwyn Hatfield’s emerging Local Plan was submitted for examination 15th May 2017. During the examination process the Local Plan Inspector raised serious concerns in relation to the approach taken to Green Belt release in the plan and this ultimately prompted a new Call for Sites which ran between 7th January – 4th February 2019.
Stage 7 hearing sessions were held 10th-12th March 2020. Stage 8 hearing sessions to discuss the outstanding matters on the Northern and Southern Settlements were originally scheduled for May 2020, but were then rescheduled as a result of Covid-19 and ran from 28th July to 27th August.
On the 25th August, the Council wrote to the Inspector setting out a timetable to follow moving forward. This notes that they anticipate receiving the Inspector’s interim report late September/ early October. Discussion is also made in relation to the Sustainability Appraisal and site selection process.
Correspondence has also been exchanged between the Inspector and the Council in relation to the impact of the 2018 Household Projections.