This isn’t intended as a comprehensive guide to the UK planning process and planning law. The intention is to briefly explain some of the processes and policies that should be followed when considering this type of proposal and to explain some of the terms used.
In 2012, the coalition government introduced a National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The objective of the NPPF was to replace thousands of pages of disparate planning policy with one clearly written document (currently 65 pages). The aim was to replace decision making by remote bodies and enable people and communities to become involved with local planning issues.
The NPPF places a requirement on local ‘planning authorities’ to produce a Local Plan. Local Plans set out a vision and a framework for the future development of an area, addressing needs and opportunities in relation to housing, the economy, community facilities and infrastructure – as well as a basis for safeguarding the environment, adapting to climate change and securing good design. They are also a critical tool in guiding decisions about individual development proposals, as Local Plans (together with any neighbourhood plans that have been made) are the starting-point for considering whether applications can be approved.
Housing needs are assessed by consultants employed by the council and the Local Plan must address these needs, with sustainable developments. A Local Plan will include details of areas earmarked for development. Once an area is included within an approved Local Plan, subject to meeting other relevant planning requirements, a planning application will be presumed to be acceptable. It is therefore very important that we act now to prevent the inclusion of Symondshyde within Welwyn Hatfield’s Local Plan.
The Local Plan is approved by the ten members of Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council’s (WHBC) Cabinet Housing and Planning Panel (CHPP). On 13th June 2016, they voted (6 to 4, along party lines) to include a proposed satellite village at Symondshyde in the draft Local Plan. The draft Local Plan will be open for public consultation from 30th August 2016. You need to register with Welwyn and Hatfield Council to respond to their consultation.
It should also be noted that WHBC should consult with neighbouring authorities. The Symondshyde site is very close to St Albans District Council’s (SADC) border. SADC have not been consulted.
The draft Local Plan has now gone to its final consultation. This is the only plan that will include Symondshyde, as it was incorporated into the draft Local Plan very late in the process, without previous consultation. It is now essential that you object to the Symondshyde development. We will guide you with information on the how to object page of our website.
Once the Council has reviewed all the formal responses to the consultation and considered whether to make any changes to the Plan, it will be submitted to the Secretary of State for Examination at a public hearing by an independent Inspector. All representations submitted at the public consultation stage will be forwarded to the Inspector for consideration. If the Council makes any substantial changes, there will be a further round of consultation before the Plan is submitted for examination.
If the Inspector decides that an Examination is necessary, key objectors (including organised groups such as ourselves) are likely to be invited to take part in round table hearings. This is currently projected to take place in Autumn 2017.
Following the Examination, the Inspector will make recommendations on whether the Plan is ‘sound’ and should be adopted by the Council, or whether any significant changes should be made. In the latter case, further public consultation on the proposed changes and a re-examination would be required.