Let’s fight for a fairer Local Plan
Council leaders have refused to lobby for lower government house-building targets for Hertsmere borough.
That's one of the most significant outcomes from the full council meeting on Wednesday 27th April - where the agenda was dominated by the Local Plan.
The plan is the blueprint for future housing and commercial development - and will determine how much greenbelt will be built on, and at which sites.
Housing targets are the biggest factor in the pressure to use greenbelt land. That's why Hertsmere Lib Dems have long campaigned for lower, fairer numbers. But Conservative councillors voted to defeat a motion which would have required them to actively challenge the government and demand a better deal.
Meanwhile, they've also refused to make any guarantees about the dynamics of the revised plan. They won't even discuss the most crucial principle - that protecting our greenbelt is more important than vanity projects or reckless economic growth.
What's more, Tory council leaders won't reveal the timetable for the new plan. Almost certainly, they intend to hold back any announcements until after the council elections in May next year.
For all these reasons, we believe they have no intention of really altering their original plan. Their heart isn't in it. They want a developer-led scheme which will make Hertsmere's towns and villages bigger and richer.
The fear remains that they will simply wait, and if they win the election, bring back the original plan almost unchanged.
That original plan is for 12,000 new homes and the destruction of 3,000 acres of greenbelt. A furious backlash in the residents' consultation has forced them - for now - to u-turn.
At the 27th April meeting, councillors of all parties voted to shelve that plan and start again. We voted for it ourselves as the least worst option.
But the future remains uncertain. And none of the proposed sites are yet off the table.
The way forward is clear. Hertsmere Lib Dems will fight to respect the findings of the public consultation. This means:
- Confronting the government to reduce our housing targets and secure a fairer deal.
- Making greenbelt protection - not economic growth - the fundamental principle of the new plan.
- Prioritising truly affordable social housing over upmarket executive homes.
- Establishing the outline of the plan by January 2023, so residents can make an informed choice in the elections.
This will be a long battle.