MPs back new garden city as alternative to North Herts housing blueprint

North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald.

North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald. - Credit: Archant

MPs have backed building a new garden city as an alternative to North Herts District Council’s Draft Local Plan.

The council’s draft blueprint sets out plans to build 14,000 homes across the district by 2031, including 1,485 houses in Royston, 3,414 dwellings to be built in and around Baldock and 1,000 houses on Green Belt land north of the Grange in Letchworth.

Stephen McPartland, Sir Oliver Heald and Peter Lilley, whose constiuencies all include part of the North Herts district, have called on the authority to ‘redouble its efforts’ and find a suitable site for a garden city.

Royston MP Sir Oliver said: “A better approach would be to have a plan for the first 10 years from 2011-2021 during which brownfield, non-contentious and mainly non-Green Belt sites are developed.

“For the second 10 years, the council should redouble its efforts to protect the Green Belt by identifying and securing a suitable site for a new garden city, which is not in the Green Belt.

Hitchin MP Peter LilleyHitchin MP Peter Lilley

“I know that the council has consulted with neighbouring authorities over a potential new settlement, but nothing was achieved within the timescale.”

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The Preferred Options Plan includes 1,000 homes in the Graveley parish, to the North of Stevenage.

Mr McPartland (Stevenage) said: “Why has the council not considered creating a new garden city? It has its headquarters in Letchworth, which was the first in the world.

“The draft Local Plan takes no account of the need for highways, social and affordable housing, education, health and potential social and leisure infrastructure that will be required by this amount of housing in each community.

“A new garden city should be considered to meet future housing needs, instead of adding increasing numbers of homes on the edge of communities already fully utilising the infrastructure and public services available.”

There are nine sites set aside for Hitchin, including 484 homes allocated to be built at Highover Farm.

Mr Lilley (Hitchin & Harpenden) said: “I am in favour of finding a site for a new garden city – a point which I have previously raised with secretary of state for communities and local government Eric Pickles.

“It needs to be in an area that is not Green Belt land.

“Building a garden city will not solve all our problems but it is something that we need to look at in more detail.”

The Preferred Options Plan is currently open for consultation and runs until next Friday, February 6.

Councillor David Levett, who is responsible for planning and enterprise at the district council, said: “A new settlement is not deliverable in this plan period and is on the back burner.”

The housing allocation for Baldock has drawn widespread criticism in the town, with Save Rural Baldock campaigners set to march in the town on Saturday.