Local Liberal Democrats have welcomed comments from the government inspector who is conducting the current Examination in Public of the Council's Local Plan that it would be acceptable for the Council to plan to build fewer homes if it felt it was constrained by the Green Belt, and that a further Green Belt Review was required. "This is what we, and many others, have been telling the Council for a long time" says County Councillor Nigel Quinton.
The comments follow the second round of hearings into the soundness of the Local Plan, which covered the calculation of housing need, the overall settlement strategy and the Green Belt. The inspector had begun the week by telling the Council that he did not view the plan as 'sound' in its current form, and he ended the week by confirming that this was still his view, although he felt it could be made sound if the Council did additional work or made amendments.
Councillors Nigel Quinton and Malcolm Cowan both participated in the hearings on behalf of the Welwyn Hatfield LibDem party, who have submitted a considerable number of comments to the various consultations on the Plan over past years.
Commenting on the week's discussions, County Councillor Nigel Quinton said:
"We put forward a number of points for the Inspector to consider, some technical, some matters of principle. In particular we argued that the Plan should focus much more on the very real need for more affordable homes, that the Green Belt should be better protected, and that the Council should be looking to meet its future housing needs by working with its neighbouring Councils to build a new garden city outside the Borough."
Borough Councillor Malcolm Cowan added:
"It was refreshing to hear the Inspector echo our view that the Council did not have to accept that all the homes should be built within the Borough, and that it is perfectly acceptable to argue that more of the Green Belt should remain protected than the council advocated. The Inspector has several times questioned the Council as to why it had not done more to pursue the idea of a new garden city outside of the Borough, and to date we have not heard a convincing reply - clearly the Council should have listened to us before."