As many of you know, I am extremely concerned about the burden being put on our green open spaces by development pressure. Growing up locally, I understand how vital it is to protect this.
It is, of course, important amidst an acute nationwide housing shortage that we build more houses for the future. We must ensure 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 so special. We are privileged to experience real natural beauty in Bushey and Radlett, and we must not allow this to be lost to urban sprawl.
I have been campaigning to get the Housing Secretary to look again at the approach to areas like Hertsmere. We are exceptional in that almost all the borough’s undeveloped land is green belt. Until now, we have been constrained by heavy handed housing targets, which force inappropriate decisions on local councils without any consideration of our individual circumstances in Hertsmere.
I am pleased to say that these concerns have been recognised in the revised approach being taken by the Housing Department. Mandatory top down targets that force councils to build houses regardless of the circumstances have been scrapped and replaced by advisory targets.
Crucially for areas like ours, local planning authorities will not expected to review the Green Belt to deliver housing. This delivers on a promise made by the Prime Minister in the Summer and about which I have already written.
In addition, greater emphasis will be placed on beauty and protecting the environment, getting appropriate infrastructure in place, and respecting local democracy, with brownfield land prioritised for development.
I hope that these changes will afford the borough council greater flexibility as they develop the new local plan and prevent planning inspectors from challenging the plan to force excessive development on our community. Of course, the council will still have to make difficult trade offs to meet our housing needs. However, I believe this is an important step forward.
Meanwhile, I will continue to make the case to protect the countryside that surrounds our towns and villages in Hertsmere for future generations. I likewise urge you to engage with the council as they take the next steps in developing the local plan for our area.