Agenda item

Birchall Garden Suburb Masterplan


The Executive Member for Planning and Growth presented the Birchall Garden Suburb Masterplan report which recommended to Council the adoption of the masterplan as a material consideration for development management purposes. She said that the council had worked with the landowner and key stakeholders and had been prepared by East Herts Council and Welwyn Hatfield Council as the site straddled the boundary..


The Executive Member for Planning and Growth said that the masterplan process would normally come first but the landowner had submitted an outline planning application for the site in June 2022. She said that there was a steering group that had helped develop the masterplan with both representatives from East Herts and Welwyn Hatfield and they had met on four occasions. There were also three in-person engagement sessions for local residents to understand the process.


The Executive Member for Planning and Growth said the design approach was in chapter three of the masterplan which set out the key themes and a strong vision to ensure these were maintained as the proposals were developed.


Councillor Glover-Ward proposed that the recommendation in the report be supported. Councillor Hoskin seconded the proposal.


Councillor Dunlop asked why the only considerations for food production in the masterplan were allotments and orchards. He felt that the masterplan lacked ambition and that allotments were a token solution.


The Planning Policy Team Leader said that the masterplan did not preclude further opportunities for food growth. He said that the site would be made up of several planning applications but would take away Councillor Dunlop’s point and review.


Councillor Dumont said the report talked about the risks of the report not being agreed and that local stakeholders had been engaged in the process and were supportive of the document. He asked if the Executive Member could reassure Members that the report did have the support of the local community and expand on the risks of not approving the masterplan.


Councillor Glover-Ward said that if the council had a masterplan for the area, any planning applications would be judged against the plan. She said for example, they might not be able to place schools in the optimum sites for sustainable travel.


The Planning Policy Team Leader said that most masterplans set up a steering group with local members and officers and in this case, across two councils. He said the steering group had four meetings and in the final meeting, the final masterplan was presented to the group, and they were happy with the outcome. The steering group discussed engagement with residents and the council held engagement events so that local residents could come along and talk to officers to understand the process. He said the draft masterplan had been on the council’s website for six weeks with additional information.


Councillor Hopewell said that residents might get anxious when they see masterplans and proposals for development. She said the administration was keen that residents feel consulted and engaged with and asked what the council and members could do to support residents to feel that their voices were being heard.


The Planning Policy Team Leader said the team would take advice from the Executive and facilitate any options. He said that there was still a role for the steering group as the planning applications came forward.


Councillor Glover-Ward said that residents were able to comment and give feedback on the planning applications via the planning portal.


Councillor Hoskin asked for an overview of how the submitted planning application stacked up against the masterplan.


Councillor Glover-Ward said there were two planning applications, one to East Herts and one to Welwyn Hatfield as the site sat across two planning authorities. She said that the planning application was in the right order but may not be organised how the masterplan wants them.


The Planning Policy Team Leader said the team were discussing details, so the application aligned with the masterplan. He said the role of the masterplan was to set a strategy for a high-level framework and if the develop wanted to take a different approach, it was up to them to justify it.


Councillor Glover-Ward said if Council approved the masterplan, the council could use it as the bar from which to judge the planning application.


Councillor Stowe asked if the masterplan condition could be used to refuse the application.


The Planning Policy Team Leader said he expected all significant sites to go through the master planning process and this was why the council was looking to get the masterplan in place ahead of any decision on the application.


Councillor Hoskin asked if the masterplan could be amended.


Councillor Glover-Ward said the plan could not be amended but any planning applications would be assessed against the masterplan and there would normally be some negotiation with the developer.


The motion to support the recommendation having been proposed and seconded was put to the meeting and upon a vote being taken, was declared CARRIED.


RESOLVED – To recommend to Council that the Birchall Garden Suburb Masterplan for the strategic allocation known as EWEL1 Land East of Welwyn Garden City, as detailed in Appendix A, be agreed as a material consideration for Development Management purposes.


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