Herts district where house prices are ‘so stupid’ abandons plans for 1000s of new homes
A Hertfordshire council has abandoned plans for thousands of new homes in its district. After intervention from the Liberal Democrat majority at Three Rivers District Council, the authority has slashed the number of homes it wants to build on “strategic sites” in the green belt.
At a meeting on Thursday, August 24, the council’s local plan sub-committee had been due to debate plans for 7,463 homes – including 550 homes in Mill End, 618 homes in Batchworth Golf Course near Rickmansworth and 893 homes west of Kings Langley. But the sub-committee chair, Liberal Democrat councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst, altered the recommendation.
Councillors agreed to put a plan together for just 4,852 new homes, taking out a series of proposals. Cllr Giles-Medhurst, who represents Leavesden, claimed the new plan will protect 98 per cent of the existing green belt in Three Rivers.
He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The new sites and our new polices will help provide much needed schools, health facilities, more affordable homes and far fewer luxury 4+ bedroom ones.” Cllr Giles-Medhurst said the government will either “agree local views matter” by supporting the Three Rivers approach, or “impose” an 11,466-home target on the area.
He explained: “We will now consult residents on this new drastically different approach than the government wants. We know it’s a high risk – not submitting a plan based on the required government numbers.”
Leader: House prices in Three Rivers are ‘so stupid’
At the August 24 meeting, Conservative councillors tried to advocate for a number lower than 4,852 homes, by removing two sites which the Liberal Democrats agreed to retain. Liberal Democrat council leader Councillor Sarah Nelmes, of Penn and Mill End, said the borough has 136 live homelessness applications and 65 households in temporary accommodation.
“I know from my ward work – most of it is to do with housing issues,” she said. “Whilst I would love that every single piece of green belt could be saved in the whole of the district, I think we could get the best for our residents here by getting some of the extra infrastructure they need.
“We badly, badly, badly need to have better access to a doctor. I’ve had a doctors’ surgery who has approached me to help find a place for an extension to their practice.” Cllr Nelmes added: “We need right-sized housing in the right place in Three Rivers. Part of the reason house prices here are so stupid is there is such a shortage and demand grossly outstrips supply.”
Three Rivers strategic sites: what’s in and what’s out?
The local plan is a set of policies which should enable new housing and protect sites where development may be inappropriate. Before the meeting, there was a proposal for 618 homes at Batchworth Golf Course, which the sub-committee agreed to withdraw.
They also pulled plans for 893 homes west of Kings Langley Estate, where councillors feared access via Toms Lane and the narrow railway bridge and Station Road junction nearby would be difficult. Plans for 1,500 homes around Maple Cross have shrunk to 850, which will be put to a more senior committee ahead of a consultation. The sub-committee will also progress proposals for 550 homes in Shepherds Lane, Mill End, and a series smaller sites throughout Three Rivers.
Jon Bishop attended the meeting on behalf of the Three Rivers Joint Residents Association, which is independent of the council. He said: “I’m pleased to hear the revised recommendation which, subject to the provision of the proper infrastructure, we are happy to support.
“To us, the proposal seems to balance the need for new homes with the critical imperative to protect our green belt. Infrastructure will be key to ensuring new developments integrate with the existing community, rather than destroy quality of life.”
He said in Maple Cross, 850 homes could be “an opportunity to change what could be considered a housing estate into a true village and community”. Mr Bishop said Maple Cross needs “not just one shop but multiple shops”, a GP surgery, dentists, roads which do not go through existing estates, improvements to the A412 Denham Way and “more employment opportunities, please, not warehousing, which develops very few jobs”.
At Shepherds Lane, he called for shopping facilities and bolstered healthcare provision. “This can succeed, with infrastructure,” he said.
Plan has ‘problematic potential’ to change Three Rivers
Conservative Group leader Oliver Cooper, who represents Chorleywood North and Sarratt, urged his sub-committee colleagues to strike the large site at Maple Cross, and the 550-home proposal in Shepherds Lane. “There is no issue that preys on the residents’ minds more than the transformation of some of the communities across our district,” he said. “That is exactly what this local plan has the problematic potential to do.”
Cllr Cooper suggested the authority should assume new national green belt protections will be in place by the time it submits the local plan to the inspectors. “Once we have sent it to examination, we as a local planning authority can’t change it,” he said. “This means if we have prescribed too many units, it’s too late. We’re done for.”
Labour Group leader and South Oxhey councillor Stephen Cox said: “On balance, and I have agonised and I have listened, the administration had got this more right than the Conservatives who seem to wish we could get rid of this by just going away.” He added: “I’m quite happy to give the Liberal Democrats a good old caning when they certainly deserve it.
“But they do not deserve it on this. What we’ve got here from the Conservatives is opposition for opposition’s sake. Nobody wants to build a single house on the green belt, but we have got to build at least a single house. We can’t get them all on brownfield sites, so what is there to be done?” Cllr Cox said: “The inspector will be coming down hard on this council.”