Plan to extend Borehamwood to the border of Barnet reject by councillors but could return

Hertsmere’s planning committee rejected plans for 220 homes at Woodcock Hill but a new borough masterplan could see it being reconsidered reports Will Durrant, Local Democracy Reporter

Plans for new homes in Woodcock Hill in Borehamwood
How developers could lay out new homes at Woodcock Hill, Borehamwood. (Credit – Pegasus Group / Hertsmere Borough Council

A plan to extend Borehamwood to the border of with Barnet could re-emerge – despite councillors blocking the move last week.

Hertsmere Borough Council’s planning committee threw out plans for 220 homes at Woodcock Hill – between A411 Barnet Lane and Furzehill Road – at a meeting on Monday, March 11th.

But a borough masterplan could strengthen developers’ case for housing on the site, if policymakers adopt it.

Cross-party councillors are set to debate the masterplan at meetings on Wednesday, March 20th.

Barratt David Wilson applied for permission to build 220 homes on the plot, with 50 per cent of them set to be “affordable”, and a biodiversity uplift of 10 per cent.

Deputy prime minister and Conservative MP for Hertsmere Oliver Dowden voiced his opposition to the project.

In a statement read by Cllr Morris Bright (Con, Elstree), the deputy prime minister said: “As I am sure many of you agree, we must protect our green open spaces that make our area so special, and I remain firm that we should not be building on green belt land, except in very special circumstances.

“I am not convinced that there are very special circumstances with regards to this development.”

Rishi Sunak’s deputy added: “Following the government’s major reforms to the planning system, Hertsmere Borough Council is no longer forced to set aside prime green belt land to meet future housing targets.”

Cllr Bright raised fears traffic in Barnet Lane and Furzehill Road could not cope with a 220-home development.

He said he spoke to one health worker who “cannot get out of her own house in the morning” as a result of traffic.

Cllr Bright noted the developer had agreed to stump up £300,000 for a Hertsmere Hopper bus route but added: “It’s alright having a bus unless you can’t get up Furzehill Road or Ashley Drive with it.”

Hertsmere Borough Council’s team received 1,996 public comments objecting to the project, with two in support.

Campaigner Pat Strack told the planning committee: “The green belt is our future and we owe it to the next generation to protect it for them.”

Strack said: “There would be a huge loss of habitats with disastrous harm to the environment and a loss of biodiversity.

“When you concrete something over, you take away habitats, you don’t actually promote them.”

Families risk ‘never, ever’ being rehoused

Committee member Paul Hodgson-Jones (Con, Shenley) warned the plan could not meet the “very special circumstances” test for green belt building.

Cllr Hodgson-Jones said: “The provision of homes in support of an application to build homes should not count as very special circumstances.

“There needs to be something far more than that to justify building on the green belt.”

He added one access point to the site is “not sufficient”.

But Cllr Alan Matthews (LD, Bushey North), who also sits on the planning committee and is the borough’s cabinet member for housing, warned of a “crisis”.

He said: “When you look at the number of people who are waiting for homes and how likely they are to get re-housed, in the three-bedroom social housing queue, there are 130 families in that situation.

“Over the last few years we’ve housed them at a rate of maximum seven per year.

“What that means is, if there are no more applications from that group, then it would take us 18 years to house the people who are currently waiting.

“A lot of those people will never, ever get re-housed.”

Cllr Matthews said the committee had “very difficult decisions” to make about what meets very special circumstances requirements.

The developer had promised “a sustainable, landscape-led and biodiversity rich residential neighbourhood in the proximity of the town’s local services”.

Planners added: “The design aims to provide a balance between open greenspace and built-up area, to create a safe, walkable neighbourhood with a strong sense of place that responds to the existing character of Borehamwood.”

The committee voted to refuse permission by six votes, to four in favour of granting outline planning permission for the development.

The previous Conservative administration set aside the site for around 250 homes in a draft Local Plan, which members of the public had the opportunity to comment on in 2021.

The plan remained on the drawing board following the consultation.

The Labour and Liberal Democrat joint administration which took over last May has redrafted the document.

The site remains in the draft Local Plan which was unveiled in March 2024 – again for around 250 homes.

The authority’s cabinet and the full council will debate the new draft from 5pm on Wednesday, March 20th.

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