Hertsmere Borough Council has withdrawn plans for housing and other development across vast tracts of Green Belt land to the north and west of Barnet following an outcry from residents about the loss of countryside.
Council leader Morris Bright acknowledged the council has no alternative but to shelve its draft local plan to build 12,000 new homes across 1,025 hectares of the Green Belt given the outrage there has been:
“Our residents have clearly rejected the plan, now the council must reject it too.”
Hertsmere MP Oliver Dowden, who is a Cabinet Office minister and co-chair of the Conservative Party, welcomed Hertsmere’s decision to respect the scale of local opposition.
“I think it is right that councillors look again at how best to deliver new houses in the borough and draw up a new plan which places the protection of green spaces at its heart.
“I will continue my campaign to get the government to reconsider its approach to Hertsmere, where it is hugely difficult to meet housing targets without damaging the beautiful green spaces which make our area such a wonderful place to live.”
The Barnet Society’s opposition to the plan was just one of the 20,000 responses which resulted from a public consultation last year.
In its response, Robin Bishop, who leads on planning issues, said the society opposed ribbon housing development between Barnet, Borehamwood and Potters Bar to preserve the cohesion of these towns and to prevent the loss of “lovely countryside” north and south of the M25 motorway.
Hertsmere’s plan would have sacrificed ten per cent of its Green Belt, including plans for a new residential settlement at Bowmans Cross and proposals to build 2,770 houses in an around Borehamwood; 900 on fields south of Potters Bar; and 225 at South Mimms village.
Mr Bishop commented that, if these proposals materialised, many of the countryside walks published in the Barnet Society's guidebooks Rambles Round Barnet would be truncated or lost forever - a sad loss for residents of both Hertsmere and Barnet.
One of the commercial developments proposed in the draft plan was for the construction of a new media quarter at Borehamwood, to the north of the site of the new Sky Studios.
In his submission, Mr Bishop said there were strong economic arguments against building this huge complex, which would have five times more studios than currently exist in Elstree and Borehamwood.
Because of the withdrawal of the local plan, Hertsmere is now unlikely to have a replacement local plan in place before 2024, a year later than the government hoped.
The delay could pose problems for the council because planning applications would continue to be made and according to councillor Harvey Cohen this could result in decisions being made in favour of development which the council did not want.
This lack of clarity over planning within Hertsmere is a matter of concern says the Hertfordshire Council for the Preservation of Rural England, which welcomed the withdrawal of plan as a “victory for local democracy”.
To meet local concern about developments such as the construction of new television studio, the CPRE says there should be a moratorium on granting permission for all major development proposals in designated protection areas, including the Green Belt.