Campaigners sound alarm over shock new housing proposal on the Green Belt

Published: 02 October 2020

Campaigners sound alarm over shock new housing additions in Green Belt

Local campaign group Save Symondshyde have responded to alarm to proposals from Welwyn Hatfield council to increase the size of a proposed controversial new settlement in the heart of local green belt, close to Symondshyde Farm.

The controversial proposal put forward as part of the Local Plan in 2016 by Gascoyne Cecil Estates (GCE) a business jointly owned by titled landowner Lord Salisbury, sought to carve out 1,100 houses and a primary school from local Green Belt land. Over 400 residents in Welwyn Hatfield and neighbouring St Albans District originally objected to the plan.

In March 2020 the Local Plan inspector Melvyn Middleton stated: “I have significant doubts about the sustainability of the submitted proposals. Firstly because of the size of the proposals and secondly because of its accessibility in the context of other developments and facilities in the wider area.”

Last month Welwyn Hatfield Council and GCE attempted to answer these concerns by increasing the size of the proposed settlement from 1,130 to 1,500 – an increase of over a third, bringing it to within 700m of Hatfield.

Judy Shardlow, a spokesperson for the Save Symondshyde group said: “In January 2020 Welwyn Hatfield councillors agreed unanimously that the original proposals for 1,100 Symondshyde should be removed from the Local Plan. And yet we find that a despite democratic council meeting rejecting this site, the proposal is still forging ahead with a further 400 houses added. It appears that the Inspector also holds many of our concerns about this site in terms of sustainability, urban coalescence and harm to the Green Belt. However, we do not believe that these concerns can be addressed by increasing the size of Symondshyde by a further 35% bringing it 1,500 houses. This proposal has always sought to take a huge bite out well loved and well used amenity Green Belt, and now we find that a swathe of 26 acres is proposed to be taken out of the Green Belt bringing the total area lost to 176 acres.”

Many of the arguments made by Welwyn Hatfield Council about Symondshyde have been rebutted by campaigners, including the population figures used to justify the housing need for the future.

Judy explained: “Figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that population figures are declining. Welwyn Hatfield Council have already reduced housing need from a total of 16,000 houses to 14,300 houses, but our assessment using up to date ONS information is that the Council need to plan for 10,520 houses over the plan period. Welwyn Hatfield Council officers need to accept both the desire by local residents and councillors to rule out development at Symondshyde once and for all. There is clear evidence that sacrificing this beautiful heartland of Green Belt between Hatfield and Wheathampstead is both unnecessary and will cause irreversible harm to high quality amenity Green Belt.”

She concluded: “In the next few weeks we will be helping our supporters, particularly people who responded to the original Local Plan Consultation in 2016, to make clear their objections against the destruction of local Green Belt. We want to ensure that future generations are not robbed of the beauty, tranquillity and peaceful amenity of Symondshyde. This land is loved, well-used and engenders strong a feeling of community ownership. Both the Council and Planning Inspector must recognise the strength of local feeling on this matter and prevent it from being forced through by the narrow interests of local landowners.”

Find out more about the campaign to Save Symondshyde at www.save-symondshyde.co.uk