Gilston: Communities urge Michael Gove to call in 10,000 home development that “slashes affordable homes, risks local NHS and ignores local voices”

News / Mon 27th Mar 2023 at 10:52am

EAST Hertfordshire community groups today have requested that housing secretary Michael Gove calls-in the decision on a 10,000 home development after it was “waved through” by local East Herts councillors.

The massive proposals for seven so-called “garden villages” have slashed their original affordable housing plans and pose a significant threat to local NHS services, while also ignoring the concerns of the existing community says a local community group.

They have added: “Residents have had to accept the allocation of 10,000 homes to land north of Harlow following the rare decision to release precious Green Belt land for development, and were promised homes of exceptional quality in sustainable communities in return.

But the final plans – approved by East Herts Council last night – completely ignore the principles on which the decision to release Green Belt land was made.

“Not only do the revised plans drastically reduce the number of affordable homes promised from 40% to 23%, put intolerable pressure on Harlow’s NHS and defy guidance on transport infrastructure, they crucially ignore the detailed statutory Neighbourhood Plan that was carefully designed and promoted by residents after rigorous public scrutiny

The Hunsdon, Eastwick and Gilston Neighbourhood Plan Group (HEGNPG) today submitted a detailed letter to the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, requesting that the Secretary of State use his discretionary powers to take a fresh look at the scheme.

The Group understands two other call-in requests have been lodged by other residents in the area – by the existing 200-home Terlings Park development and the owners of Grade 1 listed Hunsdon House.

“Mr Gove personally endorsed the HEGNPG and its award-winning Neighbourhood Plan in the House of Commons last year and warned developers they must ensure the “voice of local people is integrated more effectively into planning decisions”.

Anthony Bickmore, Chairman of Hunsdon, Eastwick and Gilston Neighbourhood Plan Group said:

“It is deeply disappointing to see East Herts Council give a green light to proposals that do not include anything like enough affordable homes, do not secure enough support for our local NHS and do not contain a plan to deal with the new transport pressures they will create.

“We accept the Gilston area is the right place for new homes but we cannot standby as developers ride roughshod over the views of residents – views we have checked and endorsed via a local referendum.

“At present the community, the Neighbourhood Plan, the Government’s policies, and the local NHS services are all being ignored. This is why we are asking the Government to intervene and ensure our voices can be properly considered.”

He added:

“We did everything asked of us by the Government in developing our Neighbourhood Plan. It is a robust document, backed by a rigorous public examination and a vote of local residents, which would provide for the same number of homes overall.

“If the Government is serious about the importance of the views of local communities, Michael Gove will call in this huge development and demand the plans are changed to make them better – better for the existing residents who will need to live with years of disruption during construction and better for the people who will become our new neighbours.”

The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has the power to call-in planning applications rather than allowing local authorities to decide. The power is rarely used and only applies where an application conflicts with national policy in important ways or is nationally significant.

In this case, the approved plans defy rules on respecting Neighbourhood Plans and will have an impact which cuts across local authority boundaries. Existing residents will also be cut off from any potential new bus services and also face competition for access to education, social services and healthcare for at least 5-10 years or even longer.

Neighbourhood Plans were introduced as part of the Localism Act in 2011, with the government touting them as a vital tool to give communities more control over the type, location, size, pace and design of development in their area.

Planning law states that once approved at referendum, a Neighbourhood Plan has the same legal status as a local plan and comes into force as part of the statutory development plan.

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4 Comments for Gilston: Communities urge Michael Gove to call in 10,000 home development that “slashes affordable homes, risks local NHS and ignores local voices”:

Kim Oconnor
2023-03-27 18:13:11

Perfectly put Charlie. In Harlow alone, 6,000 signatures from Latton lsland, 1,000 from Aliance. That's with out surrounding villages. No one wants this destruction. They were given alternative s, they didn't want to know.. SAVE OUR STORT.

Angela Kurton
2023-03-27 18:31:26

It’s astonishing that this application could’ve been waved through by councillors (opinionated amateurs at the end of the day). The green belt and Stort environments were sacrificed, and it was most shocking to learn that the local NHS was not even consulted and was expected to stump up millions for future care services. And the back-tracking on affordable housing is shameful. All these things amount to a highly unethical, profiteering endeavour that should be stopped.

Peter Linden
2023-03-27 22:40:20

These tories dont want affordable housing its all about money and profits. This whole country is falling apart socially, its in such a bad place. Our town and our services are past breaking point. The people that run our town its budgets and planning need sacking. Harlow has gone from a great town to grow up in with opportunities to work hard get a place to live and start a life. To a town with no hope of getting a good job to find a place to call home or anything else positive... Thank goodness i am not young now. Poor kids.

David Forman
2023-03-29 11:50:32

The Tory government introduced 'viability assessments' in the 2012 National Planning Policy Framework. This was despite complaints from the homeless charity Shelter and local government organisations that viability would provide a loophole that developers would exploit to avoid their affordable housing obligations. The award winning economist Liam Halligan gave highly critical evidence to the parliamentary Levelling-up Up, Housing & Communities Committee in May 2020 arguing that viability should be scrapped. Read his evidence at: https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/2743/pdf/

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