More on the Local Plan.

Stage 8 Hearing Sessions.

The Inspector is now seeking to rearrange the hearings on the remaining sites in the Draft Plan that have not been considered to date. These include HS22(BrP4) in Brookmans Park, HS24 and HS25(BrP7) in Little Heath and the Marshmoor site in Welham Green.

The hearing sessions will be held “virtually” and the dates that are under consideration are the last two weeks of July and all of August.

NMDGBS will be represented by our planning consultant Jed Griffiths.

Given that the council’s recent public consultation proposed to withdraw HS22 and Hs 25 from the Plan it will be interesting to see how the council approaches these hearings.

Note: none of the new sites included in the recent consultation are involved in these hearings.

Response to the Public Consultation

Head of Planning, Colin Haigh reported to the Cabinet Planning and Parking Panel (CPPP) at its meeting on 4th June.

  • There had been 780 representations/ responses to the consultation. These were being reviewed by officers and a report will be submitted to the CPPP in due course.

  • The Stage 8 hearings were being re-arranged(see above) After these hearings the Inspector intends to write an interim report.

  • Once the Inspector has produced his interim report, and when they are ready to do so, Officers will present the report to the CPPP with the results of the consultation and the review of the OAN (see below). This is the point at which the CPPP may wish to select additional sites for inclusion in the Plan. The Inspector will hold hearings on any additional sites and submit a final report. There will then be a period of public consultation on “Major Modifications” to the original Draft before the Council finally approves the Plan.

The Objectively Assessed Number (OAN)

NMDGBS has consistently argued that the target number of dwellings (the OAN) for the Borough currently 16000 is too high. It is an arithmetic calculation driven in part by an aggressive assumption of employment growth which pays scant attention to the fact that this will require land from the Green Belt. The Inspector has several times commented that the employment assumptions have housing consequences.

Recently, new population growth projections have been published by the Office of National Statistics(ONS), which show a lower growth in population than that implied by the OAN; additionally, new Household Growth projection figures are to be published on 29th June.

In reporting to the CPPP, Colin Haigh said that once the household growth projection figures were available the Council’s will ask its consultants whether a review of the OAN is necessary. The consultants will also be asked if they can make any assessment about the impact of Brexit and the Coronavirus pandemic.

Irrespective of lower population growth estimates, it seems to us a matter of common sense that ambitious economic expansion figures adopted several years ago, which will cost land from the Green Belt (for example Marshmoor), need to be reviewed to see if they are sensible and realistic in the light of the changed economic circumstances resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. This is a responsibility that the councilors must take themselves, not just shuffle off to consultants. If you agree with this view, please contact your local Councillors to tell them so.

NMDGBS has put down a question to this effect for answer at the next CPPP on 3rd July. We will report on the response in July’s newsletter.

Meantime keep safe.