Gilston residents urged to “take back control” over housing plans
Politics / Mon 13th Nov 2023 at 09:18am
PLANNING applications for a giant development of more than 10,000 homes in East Herts were rubber stamped earlier this year despite serious concerns, and local residents are now being asked to urge their newly-elected representatives to take back control say representatives from the local community.
Crucially, the proposed affordable housing numbers have been slashed – despite specialist consultants Continuum re-assessing the viability appraisals from Places for People and Taylor Wimpey and appearing to find a possible £411m difference.
If correct, this sum is more than enough not only to meet East Herts Council’s 40% policy target and reinstate 1,700 affordable homes for local people, but also to provide additional infrastructure and improved health services.
The massive political shift at this year’s local elections was no doubt driven by disquiet over house building plans, not least the Gilston development, and the Hunsdon, Eastwick and Gilston Neighbourhood Plan Group (HEGNPG) urges the council to take control and deliver what they were voted in to do and stop hiding behind officials.
Anthony Bickmore, Chair of the NPG, said:
“We’ve proven time and again that we’re not NIMBYs or a ‘protest group’. We’re just a collection of local residents who want our elected officials to make sure the Gilston development actually makes good on the promises made and the Local Plan targets observed.
“So we welcome plans from the new local administration for a regular forum for community engagement, as well as renewed promises for a sustainable development and delivery of key infrastructure improvements.
“But we’ve been burned before by promises not being kept. We know that without oversight these pledges can be kicked down the road by developers or ignored altogether.
“So we’re calling on the council to bring back some of the key decision making to its duly elected Development Management Committee.”
“We’re also asking the council to scrutinise the disputed financial viability studies that have seen infrastructure investment cut back and affordable housing numbers slashed, in an open, transparent and public way.
“Neither of these entirely reasonable requests for democracy and accountability are at odds with the rules and limitations of the planning system, and we look forward to our local elected representatives taking back control.
“We urge our fellow residents to join us by calling on East Herts Council Leader Ben Crystall – and also their local councillors – to remind them there are still opportunities to improve the Gilston development.”
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