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Hundreds of new homes planned for Cuffley

Letter from the Parish Council Chairman, Councillor Bob Stubbs

I want to put the community on notice of the plans that Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, WHBC, are proposing for new housing development in Northaw and Cuffley.

The good news is that no new housing development is proposed for Northaw. The bad news is that circa 400 new homes are proposed to be built on greenbelt sites in Cuffley in the next 10 years or so. This will increase the population of Cuffley by circa 30%.

We have been aware for over two years of WHBC’s emerging proposals which up to June were for circa 190 new homes – the major sites being 120 units next to Greenfields and 30 units at the end of the Meadway. The Parish Council has always accepted that there would have to be development on the Greenbelt and has not opposed the allocation of 190 additional units.

As part of the Local Plan development process WHBC are required to quantify their assessment of Housing Needs for the next twenty years and there is Government Guidance on the methodology and data sources to be used. It is important to recognise that the assessment of need is not the same as demand; the assessed need should reflect the needs of local businesses in terms of homes for workers as well as natural population growth. WHBC have computed that their area requires circa 13,000 new homes over the next twenty years.

In early 2015 the Parish Council engaged expert planning consultants to review the projection of a need for 13,000 new homes and they concluded that that 13,000 was an over estimate of need. The methodology underlying the computation takes historic trends and extrapolates them forward. In this case the WHBC methodology is flawed for the following reasons: In the last 10 to 15 years major residential development took place on redundant aerospace sites. These once off historic opportunities will not reoccur in the next 20 years

  • In the last decade there was a once off surge in international immigration which will not reoccur
  • In the last decade there was a significant increase in student numbers as a result of university expansion which will not reoccur

The above once off historic events are factored into the WHBC projections and are effectively assumed to reoccur and result in the over statement of need. This distortion and flaw can also be seen in comparative analysis of other Local Authorities needs assessment. For instance a comparison with Broxbourne shows that WHBC are projecting that its population will grow at twice the rate of Broxbourne’s, there is no obvious rationale behind the disparity apart from a flawed methodology.
We raised the above and other issues in pages 1 to 6 of a letter to WHBC over a year ago and have as yet received no response. You can download and read this below.

The WHBC Local Plan, including the need for 13,000 additional units, will be considered at a Public Enquiry in early 2017 where an independent inspector appointed by the Secretary of State will review the draft Local Plan in detail and hear objections. The inspector will make recommendations to the Secretary of State who will ultimately agree or otherwise the Local Plan. WHBC will at the Public Enquiry need to justify all assumptions and I will be proposing that the Parish Council make formal objections at the Public Enquiry which if agreed by the Parish Council will be presented to the inspector by the Parish Council’s retained expert planning consultants and barristers.

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Proposed additional housing sites in Cuffley

 

You can download the full content of the letter from here.