Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, has revealed that government consultants now say the controversial West of Stevenage development could end up taking 26,000 houses. This compares with the maximum figure of 10,000 houses originally proposed when the then Labour/Lib Dem coalition originally inserted this site in Hertfordshire?s structure plan. Developers are currently seeking permission from government inspectors for an initial 3,600 houses on this Green Belt site but have been vigorously opposed by Peter Lilley, the now Conservative led County Council, North Herts District Council and the Campaign Against Stevenage Expansion (CASE).
Peter Lilley has written to the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, challenging him to come clean on how many houses he wants to build not only West of Stevenage but also on other Green Belt sites around both Hitchin and Harpenden.
Writing in his Westminster Report the local MP reveals: “Government consultants have been inviting developers to nominate sites on Green Belt land.? He adds: “This is an extraordinary way to go about strategic planning. Developers should be allowed to develop within rules set out in a local plan ? they should not be allowed to write the plan.?
“I accept that we should build more homes but I believe we can do so without sacrificing the Green Belt: by building on old commercial sites, plus limited infilling and some peripheral development. Indeed, Hertfordshire is well ahead of the original target set by the government for the period up to 2011 and the County Council has identified plenty more potential sites on brown field land for longer term needs.?
“The trouble is, as fast as Hertfordshire meets its targets the government moves the goal posts. That is why I have written to John Prescott challenging him to come clean once and for all, on just how many houses he wants to build on the vital Green Belt lungs between Harpenden and Luton and between Hitchin and Stevenage. What is more he must publish the Inspectors report and his decision on the West of Stevenage expansion before next year?s County Council and General elections. He will have that report by early next year but he is reportedly planning to withhold it until after the elections. He is obviously afraid that it contains electoral dynamite. He is right. The issue is even more explosive now we know that his consultants are considering further massive expansion on this site if the initial scheme gets the go-ahead.?
“I warned when the original scheme was steamrollered through the County Council by the then Labour/Lib Dem coalition that they were opening the floodgates for further development which would threaten to merge Hitchin into Stevenage. The electorate should be allowed to know what is in store. They will not forgive those whose actions could transform this area beyond recognition.?
“I shall campaign relentlessly to expose these government plans since I believe building on this scale is not necessary, is in the wrong place, is being imposed by underhand and undemocratic methods and derives from the most biased planning process.?