Lower housing projection figures ‘swept under carpet’ by NHDC

The North Herts District Council offices. Picture: DANNY LOO

The North Herts District Council offices. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

The latest housing projection figures have emerged as being significantly lower than the proposed number of homes to be built in the North Hertfordshire Local Plan, with the district council criticised for “sweeping the numbers under the carpet”.

The Local Plan proposes to build 14,000 new homes in the district by 2031. According to the latest household projection figures by the Office for National Statistics the required increase in housing in the area has dropped from 13,800 to 9,700.

In a letter dated October 11, inspector Simon Berkeley asked North Herts District Council to provide their comments on the projections, and whether these would have a bearing on the Local Plan.

The district council responded in a document, dated on its website as October 2018, in which they state that the method for obtaining the figures had changed and that housing minister Kit Malthouse acknowledged the impact of this, and advised plan-making authorities should not “take their foot off the accelerator”.

Councillor David Levett, NHDC’s executive member for planning, said: “The inspector examining the Local Plan asked the district council to comment on the projections and a response has been provided and published on the council’s website.

“These figures are not a housing target for the district and the government has suggested that they should not be used to reduce housing numbers in Local Plans that are currently being examined.”

Liberal Democrat councillors have challenged the Conservative-controlled council to respond by reducing the number of houses to be built on the Green Belt.

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North Herts Lib Dem leader Paul Clark said: “There is an opportunity to reduce the impact on the Green Belt while still providing housing.

“The council failed to tell councillors about the inspector’s request, which makes me concerned that they just propose to sweep this under the carpet.”

Fellow Lib Dem district councillor Steve Jarvis added: “The council only published its response to the inspector’s question when he told them to do so. They have done all they can to avoid the public, or indeed councillors, becoming aware of this.

“The previous housing projections formed the basis of the housing need figures used for the Local Plan. The revised numbers should be used in exactly the same way.”

On Monday the inspector set the council a series of ‘homework tasks’ to clarify issues. This, and other Local Plan-related documents can be found by going to www.north-herts.gov.uk and searching ‘Local Plan’.