Agenda item

Birchall Garden Suburb Masterplan


The Executive Member for Planning and Growth presented the Birchall Garden Suburb Masterplan and said the report sought approval to adopt the masterplan as a material planning consideration. She said that the East Herts District Plan was adopted in 2018 and it allocated a number of strategic sites for growth. Policy EWEL1 in the District Plan set out the strategy for co-ordinated development of Birchall Green through a joint masterplan with Welwyn Hatfield Council.


The Executive Member for Planning and Growth said that the masterplan was developed by East Herts and Welwyn Hatfield working with the landowner and other key stakeholders. She said that the landowner had submitted an outline application in June 2022, so the councils decided to lead on the plan process and jointly appointed an external partner. A steering group was established with representatives from both councils and met on four occasions and three engagement events were held for local members and residents.


The Executive Member for Planning and Growth said that if it was adopted, it would become a material planning consideration for both councils and be a reference guide for Herts County Council with regards to transport, highways and education provision.


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


Councillor Cox said that he appreciated that the document was a masterplan and not a planning application but said that if approved, it would be an out of town housing estate serving a town that had huge amounts of brown belt land. He said that he felt the council should oppose the application.


Councillor Estop said that masterplans were an excellent policy and was pleased to hear that a steering group had helped officers work through the process. She said she felt that the masterplan process and document needed to be easier to understand so that the public felt they had joint ownership. She also said that the document started with aspirations for sustainable, high quality design which she said was an easy cliché and highly specific about high quality. She said that her overriding concern was that the landowner and developers were absent from the document yet they were the ones that needed to be ticking the box. She felt that a masterplan needed a statement from the landowner to demonstrate that they were committed to the process of the masterplan and its principles and there was not any information in the document about implementation.


Councillor Daar said she went to the resident engagement event with Councillor Glover-Ward and said she was impressed at the efforts being made on active travel within the development. She hoped that as the development came forward, active travels links would continue to Hertingfordbury and Sele and be promoted.


Councillor Hart said that the allocation for affordable housing within the document was on the low end. She said it was 40% for East Herts but said this was always normally watered down when development started. She said it was not financially or socially viable to build large housing estates and not provide sufficient housing for workers on low incomes. She said that the district needed to have an adequate and sustainable allocation of affordable housing.


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 - That the Birchall Garden Suburb Masterplan for the strategic allocation known as EWEL1 Land East of Welwyn Garden City be agreed as a material consideration for Development Management purposes.


Supporting documents: