Rushing through a Local Plan with high housing targets means putting our greenbelt at risk

13 July 2023

St Albans Greens, along with greenbelt campaign groups, have called on St Albans District Council to pause the Local Plan process to wait for lower housing target figures which are expected soon from the government.
The Council launched the 'regulation 18' public consultation on 12 July 2023, publishing a document with proposed locations for 15,000 new homes and other buildings and infrastructure. Most of the proposed housing land is on the greenbelt.
The Council administration is claiming that the government “has a gun to our head”, giving us no option to plough on with the Local Plan process. The Lib Dem administration has talked in apocalyptic terms of “betrayal” if we don’t immediately proceed. This is in spite of 58 other councils choosing to pause or withdraw their Local Plans to wait for new, lower, housing figures, that are expected in the next few months. 
The lower figures could mean that very little or even no homes need to be built on the precious greenbelt.
The Council could easily approach the government to talk about pausing and gauge reaction. But they refuse. By starting this consultation, they are in fact giving more ammunition to aggressive developers, who will use the contents of the draft Plan to bolster their case for applications. When we get the lower housing numbers, we’ll have to go through this all again, so why waste time and effort on it now?
Councillors and residents have repeatedly asked for a nuanced, careful approach to this, and every time the administration comes back with black and white arguments and emotional warnings of doom. We need calm debate and collaboration, but instead we get fire and brimstone, with any criticism or questioning angrily dismissed out of hand.