Welwyn Parish and the Local Plan

The Local Plan, created by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council (WHBC), is designed to allocate sufficient suitable sites for new housing development across the Borough for the next 20 years. ‘Sufficient’ is determined by the Objectively Assessed Housing Need (OAN) by an Inspector appointed by the Minister of Housing. The aim is to stop random and inappropriate development.

The process started more than 5 years ago, when the Inspector set an OAN target of 16,000 new homes.

The attached PDF shows the areas in the Parish which were considered.

In January 2020 WHBC put forward a plan for 13,200 houses which excluded most of the possible developments in Welwyn, Digswell, Oaklands and Mardley Heath. See attached map.

However, the Inspector was concerned that there were insufficient houses and that the new building should be spread ‘proportionately’ across the Borough.

He then held a series of hearings to examine each site which had been included or even proposed but not included. At this point, the sites in the Parish were reconsidered.

The Inspector submitted his final recommendations in May 2021. He reduced the OAN to 15,200 but concluded that all the sites should be reconsidered.

Attached: Oaklands Paras 36-41, Welwyn Paras 42-50 and Digswell Paras 51-59. He was particular to point out that Welwyn Parish had not justified why there should be no new building.

However, since this planning process has started Welwyn Parish has taken 5 times its ‘fair share’ of new homes. WHBC published a Proportional Distribution Report showing the population levels from the last available census and new homes completed or committed since 2015, which shows the following:

                                                Census population           Share of new and committed houses

Welwyn                                              3.43%                                    30.4%

Digswell                                               1.44%                                    3.94%

Oaklands & Mardley Heath          2.7%                                      4.93%

Total Parish                                        7.59%                                    39.27%

So where does that leave us?

a/ WHBC now has a Conservative majority. The Councillors could agree to meet the 15,200 target and come to a decision amongst themselves about where (politically?) would the extra housing be least damaging.

b/ Reject the Inspector’s advice on the OAN and submit another plan which would then be referred to the Minister of Housing, Robert Jenrick, for a decision. (Fortunately our own MP, Grant Shapps, is also in the Cabinet.)

What can you do?

The Amersham and Chesham bye-election results have reminded politicians of all stripes that Planning is a red hot local topic for their constituents. Our Local Plan is a ‘live’ issue now, so make your views known now.

So write to your Councillor objecting to the inclusion of your local sites.

Write to Grant Shapps your local MP

And stop our Parish being overrun.