As many of you know, I grew up locally and understand how vital it is to protect our precious green spaces. The give freedom to enjoy the countryside, enhance our wellbeing, prevent unsustainable urban sprawl and preserve the distinct charm of our towns and villages.
Amidst an acute nationwide housing shortage, it is of course important that we build more houses for the future, so that our children and grandchildren have the same opportunities to buy their own homes that previous generations have enjoyed.
However, this must not be at the expense of what makes our area special, and we must not allow the importance of natural beauty to be forgotten. It is clear that areas like Hertsmere, which are overwhelmingly made up of green belt land, cannot withstand huge numbers of new houses without causing irreversible damage to our beautiful surroundings.
This was particularly pertinent as local residents were invited to comment on the council’s draft Local Plan, which included a proposed 12,000 new homes over the Local Plan period.
Throughout the process, I urged residents to engage with the council’s consultation and I frequently raised with councillors the scale of concern about the number of houses in the plan, as well as my own fears about the impact of this on the green spaces in the borough.
I am delighted that a record 20,000 residents engaged with the consultation, and that the council has listened and made the decision not to proceed with the plan in its current form. I think it is right that councillors look again at how best to deliver new houses in the borough and draw up a new plan which places the protection of green spaces at its heart.
Meanwhile, I am determined to continue pressing the Housing Department for more recognition of the unique pressures faced by areas like ours. I will be campaigning for a fairer approach to Hertsmere, with greater emphasis on beauty and protecting the environment, getting infrastructure in place and respecting local democracy.