Examination in Public of NHDC’s Submission Local Plan

NHDC submitted their draft Local Plan for North Herts to the Secretary of State in June 2017; in due course an Inspector was appointed, and the Examination in Public began in
November 2017. The EiP is now expected to continue until at least 1.3.18, though
reserve days (19. – 22. March) have since been added to the hearings timetable in
case needed.

All individuals and groups who had responded to the SLP were given an opportunity
to submit additional statements to the EiP and/or to book a speaking slot at a hearing
session As you may remember from last year’s notes, Hitchin Town Action Group
(HTAG) submitted a very detailed response to the SLP in November 2016, and we
decided that we would not ask to make a statement or to speak, as we felt we had
already said all we needed to say in our initial response – the Inspector is duty
bound to give equal weight to original responses and additional ones. Anyone can
attend hearing sessions to listen to the debate, but no-one may contribute unless
registered in advance to do so.

On the afternoon of 6 February, the issue for discussion was Matter 10 – Hitchin,
and two members of your committee were present for this session. The issues under
examination were housing allocations and proposed settlement boundaries. As
Hitchin is surrounded by Green Belt, these are significant issues for the town. It must
be said that the Inspector was extremely thorough and patient, inquiring into every
detail of each site. There was questioning on infrastructure and deliverability, on
landscape sensitivity and, in the case of the Highover site (HT1in the Local Plan), on
whether or not a sufficient distance would be maintained between Hitchin and
Letchworth, in order to prevent the two settlements coalescing. Most infrastructure
discussion centred on traffic congestion, especially in the Oughtonhead area and on
the already overburdened A505; HT1, with 700 new dwellings, would only increase
that congestion. NHDC maintained that this could be dealt with by re-modelling and
amending junction layouts. Concern was also expressed about schools provision
and about the need for more car parking space in the town centre to accommodate
shoppers from the new developments.

Throughout the course of the EiP the Inspector gave no indication of approval or
disapproval of the plans – his opinion will be contained in the final Inspector’s
Report. At the time of writing a date for the publication of this is not yet known, but
going on the original timescale, it could be about three months after the end of the
EiP. However, as the EiP itself has been extended because the matters for
examination are so complex, we imagine that the report might well take longer too.