Councillor Michael Muir has issued this statement on behalf of all the councillors who represent Baldock. The meeting he refers to is the Council Meeting on Thursday, 27th November at 7.30pm, at which The Baldock Society will be making a representation.
Councillors were informed of the possible sites and housing numbers, on the day before the council's press release only two weeks ago. There has been much work carried out in a confidential environment for obvious reasons, ie the sites are commercially and financially sensitive and would be compromised if council planning officers were to have shared their work publicly in these early stages.
There is still much work to do, and the process will progress to the "preferred sites and numbers" following the cabinet meeting on the 25th November, and then full council debate on the 27th of November at the Leisure Centre, Baldock Road, Letchworth.
It is a fact that we as a council, are very reluctant to allocate numbers to many of the sites, and we are fully aware of the strength of Baldock residents' feelings regarding this process. Sadly we are forced to spread the numbers across the district, but the largest sites are around Baldock. 3414 houses are still to be built by 2031.
Government requires numbers as instructed by the Office of National Statistics which requires all councils to achieve housing numbers, and many, including NHDC, disagree with these figures required. The alternative would be not to produce a local plan, but this would put the council in a very hazardous position, where developers could insist on planning permission to build anywhere in North Herts as we would not have a five year land supply - this would be disastrous.
The decision of the full council on the 27th will be to publish our "Preferred options" for the emerging Local Plan up to 2031. This will then go out again to public consultation during December to the first week of February. The comments and observations from this will be collated and will permit the council to advance to a submission to a government inspector, where all residents can have their say for or against. If the inspector finds our local plan fair and sound we will be told in about the spring of 2016.
This will not be "carte blanche" for developers to just go ahead and build. The district council's planning policies and planning processes will have to be adhered to and I suspect that there will be a degree of disappointment to developers who would deem to take advantage of identified sites.
I hope this helps you to understand the process. Let me assure you all my Baldock colleagues and I who have the honour of representing the wish of our constituents will strive to achieve the best outcome for BALDOCK which may not make us the most popular councillors at NHDC , but I expect councillors from other areas to adopt the same attitude !! If you can, please come along on the 27th November.
Kind regards Michael
Cllr Michael Muir
Baldock Town Ward
North Herts District Council.