To receive petitions, comments and questions from the public.
The Chair clarified the procedure for public participants and ensured that all registered speakers were in attendance.
The registered speakers were, in turn, invited to provide the meeting with their verbal presentation.
Audio recording – 14 minutes 29 seconds
The Chair clarified the procedure for public participants and ensured that all registered speakers were in attendance.
The Chair invited Mr Kevin Hinton to provide Council with a verbal presentation. Mr Hinton thanked the Chair for the opportunity and raised the following points:
· Representing Norton Action Group, with over 800 supporters across the County.
· Many of the concerns are safety, amenities and the preservation of Croft Lane which is within the conservation area of Letchworth. Many of the houses on Croft Lane date to the founding of the Garden City.
· Provision of housing is not an issue, but the accuracy and judgement regarding LG10 is an issue and fails to acknowledge the special and historic position of the Garden City.
· The development is not deemed to increase traffic and movements, but this cannot be true.
· The report states that local drivers are aware of the danger, but there is an increasing number of non-local drivers.
· Norton Action Group had consulted with a KC on this and had been advised that there was substance to their views.
There were no points of clarification from Members and the Chair thanked Mr Hinton for his presentation.
The Chair invited Ms Nikki Hamilton to provide Council with a verbal presentation. Ms Hamilton thanked the Chair for the opportunity and raised the following points:
· This policy was going against the government policy of building on brownfield sites first.
· This would see a significant increase of building on the greenbelt, which is a vital space to support the physical and mental wellbeing of residents.
· This goes against the NHDC policy to promote health communities.
· Greenbelt land is meant to be consistent and accessible, but the developments would force people to commute to reach outdoor spaces.
· Some of the sites identified would require significant work before they could provide housing and there were already pressures on the services in towns and villages.
· A new Garden City would have alleviated this issue and many residents who supported this were never able to give their preferred view.
· The developments proposed would decimate local wildlife and would be contrary to the Climate Emergency declared by the Council.
· In certain areas, the proposals would be of a huge cost to NHDC, and at the current size and location it would contravene the law and legal action could be taken.
· NHDC can work with local communities to find answers and compromises.
· If proposed developments go ahead in Letchworth, Stotfold and Arlesey there would be one field separating the three communities.
There were no points of clarification from Members and the Chair thanked Ms Hamilton for her presentation.
The Chair invited Mr Wilfred Aspinall to provide Council with a verbal presentation. Mr Aspinall thanked the Chair for the opportunity and raised the following points:
· Needed to adopt a climate of growth, to encourage small, custom and self-builds, which would encourage more home ownership.
· The Plan did not address the growth in population or propose schemes to make the area more prosperous.
· A review would be required to begin in 2023 and completed within 30 months and there would need to be serious consultation with residents.
· There was potential to extend the plan to 2041 in line with neighbouring authorities.
· Some people do not want housing, but housing builds prosperity and this then brings further tax returns to the Council and additionally retailers get money spent by new residents.
There were no points of clarification from Members and the Chair thanked Mr Aspinall for his presentation.
The Chair invited Ms Cheryl Peers to provide Council with a verbal presentation. Ms Peers thanked the Chair for the opportunity and raised the following points:
· Spoke on behalf of Save the World’s First Garden City group based in Letchworth.
· Site NS1, together with the adjoining development in Stevenage Borough, proposed 1700 homes, which would impact on Graveley and cause major traffic issues.
· With the reduction in housing figures in LG1 from 900 to 600 it would be possible to provide greenbelt land adjacent to the affected villages. This would prevent the urban sprawl concerns and would be in accordance with the Garden City principles.
· It may be that this space is filled in in future Local Plans, but it would provide at least another 9 years of greenspace for residents.
There were no points of clarification from Members and the Chair thanked Ms Peers for her presentation.
The Chair invited Mr Roy Parker to provide Council with a verbal presentation. Mr Parker thanked the Chair for the opportunity and raised the following points:
· Against the East of Luton development included within the North Herts Local Plan under the duty to co-operate with Luton Borough Council, which is now unnecessary.
· Luton adopted their Local Plan in 2017, based on figures from March 2016, which identified a housing need of 17,800 and capacity for only 8,500 within the borough.
· The unmet need of 9,300 was allocated to Central Beds and North Herts.
· The Inspector of the Luton plan required a full review of the Local Plan to be commenced before the end of 2019 and completed by mid-2021 for public examination, but this had not happened.
· At 28 February 2022 the housing need in Luton had reduced to 16,700 and they had identified house building capacity to 15,038. There had been a further 581 dwellings granted permission to date in 2022 and this has further reduced the unmet housing need in Luton.
· A review of the plan is legally required every 5 years and the 5 year deadline for the Luton Local Plan was 7 November 2022.
· Conditional approval should be applied to the East of Luton development until Luton has completed the required review.
· The review should be subject to public consultation and should be referred to the Secretary of State if opposed.
Councillors Michael Muir and Sam Collins made points following the presentation but were advised that this was not the appropriate place to raise these points and they could be made later in the meeting. The Chair thanked Mr Parker for his presentation.
The Chair invited Ms Hayley Ward to provide Council with a verbal presentation. Ms Ward thanked the Chair for the opportunity and raised the following points:
· Spoke on behalf of Save our Greenbelt to protect the greenbelt for residents and future generations.
· Despite the ability to remove all sites from Villages for Growth from the plan without affecting the requirements, they are still included and these should be removed from the plan as they are unsustainable.
· The greenbelt surrounding these villages was designated to prevent coalescence with nearby towns.
· The proposals to remove the greenbelt, given the Climate Emergency declared by the Council, account to environmental vandalism and climate change will be exacerbated by concreting over green spaces.
· Green spaces were important for physical and mental health of residents, as demonstrated through the pandemic.
· There were many instances of flooding around the district recently and this will only get worse with additional housing.
· Infrastructure should be built first, not following the completion of housing.
· Traffic congestion was already unsustainable and residents changing habits would be required to address this.
· The impact of increased traffic will worsen air quality and increase illnesses. The Wymondley Parish Neighbourhood Planning Committee undertook air quality monitoring and found air pollutants to be in excess of limits set by the World Health Organisation.
· The Neighbourhood Plan adopted by NHDC had not been considered fully in the Local Plan.
There were no points of clarification from Members and the Chair thanked Ms Ward for her presentation.
The Chair invited Mr Paul Harding to provide Council with a verbal presentation. Mr Harding thanked the Chair for the opportunity and raised the following points:
· The Wymondley Parish sits at the centre of Stevenage, Hitchin and Letchworth and the greenbelt separating these towns and the villages surrounding has been important to North Herts.
· Greenbelt was established to prevent urban sprawl and stop mass developments and it had done so successfully for 70 years.
· There had to be exceptional circumstances to build on greenbelt land and the proposals here do not necessarily meet these.
· Once greenbelt land is removed, it will be difficult to recover and risks the merging of villages with surrounding towns.
· The greenbelt land was vital to residents physical and mental wellbeing.
· In the Wymondley Neighbourhood Plan 92% of respondents wanted the greenbelt protecting as it was.
· The delay in the adoption of the Local Plan would not have happened were the plan not flawed.
· Should Members be minded to adopt the plan, they should do so with the omission of the growth villages proposal.
There were no points of clarification from Members and the Chair thanked Mr Harding for his presentation.
The Chair invited Ms Carolyn Cottier to provide Council with a verbal presentation. Ms Cottier thanked the Chair for the opportunity and raised the following points:
· The proposals within the Local Plan for the East of Luton site mean North Herts will be more involved in the Luton airport expansion process.
· North Herts Council had previously refused a ring road in 2017, but this had been indirectly added by the Inspector by making North Herts Council a co-commissioning authority for the A505 corridor.
· There was an approved commercial estate, Green Horizons Park, which was not part of the airport development and was phase one of the expansion plans.
· The commitment of North Herts to support unmet housing need of Luton Borough Council is not necessary.
There were no points of clarification from Members and the Chair thanked Ms Cottier for her presentation.
The Chair invited Mr Phil Davis to provide Council with a verbal presentation. Mr Davis thanked the Chair for the opportunity and raised the following points:
· Spoke on behalf of Save Hitchin Green Belt which had launched a petition to save greenbelt sites west of Hitchin, which had attracted 5,500 supporters.
· Dudley Council had removed greenbelt sites from their Local Plan and continue to do so, due to the public response on the protection of greenbelt being too much to ignore.
· These sites have been described as not contributing significantly to the greenbelt and therefore should be removed, but this is not true and the sites do have qualities.
· The sites selected should have the least possible impact on wildlife, biodiversity and the wellbeing of residents.
· There is evidence of badgers, deer and foxes on these sites and there is significant birdlife.
· The meadows are untreated and have not had pesticides used, which makes them suitable for wildlife, but also absorb carbon.
· Hedgerows along these sites are used by bats for feeding.
· A Tree Protection Order had been placed on the smallest wood, but the building on the meadows would prevent wildlife movements.
· The developments are proposed to be on a ridge and therefore would be visible for miles.
· The sites would mean that more traffic would be created and this would be forced into town, further exacerbating already existing issues.
There were no points of clarification from Members and the Chair thanked Mr Davis for his presentation.
The Chair invited Mr David Dorman to provide Council with a verbal presentation. Mr Dorman thanked the Chair for the opportunity and raised the following points:
· Spoke against policy SP19 in the Local Plan, which regards the East of Luton plan, where 2100 homes are proposed with 1950 to meet the unmet need of Luton.
· They had challenged Luton Borough Council and the Planning Inspectorate to review the Luton Local Plan to ensure the exceptional circumstances still existed to build on the greenbelt.
· Central Beds was still the best fit to meet the unmet requirements of Luton and they were able to exceed the amount required, therefore there was no need for the East of Luton site.
· Luton has built around 11,000 dwellings with a further 2,300 planning approvals this year and therefore would be meeting its requirement.
There were no points of clarification from Members and the Chair thanked Mr Dorman for his presentation.
Following the conclusion of the Public Participation there was a short comfort break in proceedings until 21.05.