Head of Planning and Building Control
East Herts Council
12 October 2018
BISHOP’S STORTFORD SOUTH
I am writing on behalf of the Civic Federation about a planning application which is reported to have been submitted by Countryside Properties for the development of the whole of a site south of Whittington Way, which is described by them as Bishop’s Stortford South (BSS). At the time of writing, I have not found anything on the Council’s planning website to suggest that the application has been validated.
Although the Draft District Plan proposed that the site should be removed from the Green Belt and allocated for development, the Secretary of State has issued a holding direction preventing East Herts Council from taking any steps towards adopting the Plan while he considers representations made, by the Civic Federation among others, about its soundness. The representations that we have seen focus on whether the Inspector has correctly interpreted the guidance in the applicable NPPF about the circumstances in which Green Belt boundaries should be altered and we have highlighted BSS as a particular example which we feel the Secretary of State should re-examine.
We also note that on 20 September 2018, the ONS published new projections of household formation which for East Herts are nearly 14% lower than the figures on which the Inspector would have relied in reaching her conclusions about the Objectively Assessed Housing Need for the District, which also calls into question the judgment she has made about the sacrifice of Green Belt land for housing.
In these circumstances, we believe it would be most unwise for the Council to place any weight on the Draft District Plan in assessing this application. The relevant policies against which it should be judged are those which have been saved from the previous Local Plan, adopted in 2007. In the case of BSS, the site is within the Green Belt and therefore protected from any development other than the normal exceptions set out in the NPPF. Its Green Belt status was reviewed as recently as 2012 when the Secretary of State concluded that there were no special or exceptional circumstances which would outweigh the harm to the Green Belt which would be caused by developing only part of the site.
While the site remains in the Green Belt a proposal to develop the whole of it would therefore be even more inappropriate than the schools’ relocation proposal which was turned down on appeal. We therefore trust that if Countryside Properties are seeking an early determination of their application the Council will agree with us that the only course of action open to it is to refuse permission.
If in due course the Secretary of State were to conclude that the Council could adopt the Draft District Plan with BSS removed from the Green Belt, then the Civic Federation would wish to comment on the substance of the application, assuming that Countryside Properties still wished to pursue it. I trust that we would be given the opportunity to do so and would be grateful if you could advise me of the time when it would be open to us to make those representations.