Council to fast forward its Local Plan

Press ReleaseUpdated: 14 March 2024Planning

Following the recent public consultation by Three Rivers District Council on its Local Plan document, which will guide development in the area over the next 17 years, the council is speeding up the process with extra funding to enable the plan to be submitted for approval early next year.

This means that residents will get a final say on the plan - which proposes 4,852 dwellings over the next 17 years - in late September this year, before it is submitted to a government-appointed inspectorate.

Councillors agreed on Monday 11 March that a special Full Council meeting will now be held in early September to sign off the plan followed by a six week (Regulation 19) consultation.

After the consultation ends and officers collate and analyse the responses, it is anticipated that the Local Plan will be submitted in February/March 2025 – months ahead of what was originally planned – to a government inspector to review and consider whether it is legally ‘sound’.

In order to meet the new deadlines to get a detailed plan submitted as soon as possible, the council has injected a further £73,110, which was made available as part of the approved budget for 2024/25.

Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst, Deputy Council Leader and Lead Member for Planning Policy, said: “We have pushed ahead with a shortened time scale to submit the final plan by March 2025 so we can protect our area from excessive development. It is exciting to see the Local Plan reach the final hurdles, but we are required to consult on the final version following any changes which may arise from the recent consultation. We will then hope the government inspector will agree it.

“Our Lower Housing Growth Option will mean the plan will deliver the right type and amount of housing we need on previously developed land, green belt sites categorised as ‘lower to moderate harm’, while others will be built using granted planning permissions. This will mean it will protect 98% of the district’s green belt.

“The council’s Lower Housing Growth Option consultation show a strong support from residents of the council’s approach and the Local Plan has been backed by the Three Rivers Joint Residents’ Association, which represents 22 residents’ groups and the Herts branch for the council for Protection of Rural England and the campaign group ‘Can’t Replace Green Space’.

“Our plan could be rejected in the review stage as it is below the government housing figure, meaning we may have to start again with the high housing figure and sites not included in the plan imposed on Three Rivers. But we must push for what is right for this district. We are committed to prioritising development on brownfield sites and protecting as much green belt land as possible.”

The Local Plan guides decisions on future development proposals for thousands of new homes and associated infrastructure and employment to meet its future economic and population needs. The council’s Local Plan proposes less than half  (4,852 new dwellings) of the government’s target of 11,466 dwellings.