West of Stevenage - 5,000 houses on the Green Belt?
The long-running saga of west of Stevenage has reached a new stage. On 18 February the pre-meeting was held in preparation for the Public Inquiry into the two planning applications - one for 3,600 houses and one for 5,000 houses - to be built on green belt land west of the A1(M) at Stevenage. These planning applications were called in at the end of last year to be determined by the Deputy Prime Minister following the Public Inquiry.
The Inspector said she wanted to start the Inquiry this September, but submissions by barristers representing a range of public authorities showed that an enormous amount of work was still required, particularly on developing a realistic transport model. Eighteen months after putting in the applications, the developers are still attempting to produce such a model, and there is little credibility that it can be completed quickly. Even then, the County Council and others have to assess and validate the model, and take its findings - for public transport, road changes etc - through the democratic process. All this suggests that the Public Inquiry should not start before March 2004.
The developers' barrister argued that they had a legal right to a speedy determination of their applications. Other barristers claimed that any delay was of the developers' own making by not producing the necessary information at the right time.
A representative of CASE (Campaign Against Stevenage Expansion) argued that the legal rights of the general public would be prejudiced if they were not given adequate time to evaluate the environmental and traffic data, and if the Inquiry were held at the same time as the forthcoming Examination-in-Public into a new County Structure Plan covering much the same ground - and showing that the development is simply not required.
The Inspector said she would announce her decision shortly on the timing of the Public Inquiry.
Wanted Urgently - Transport expertise
Once the Traffic Model is published it is essential that objectors - including ANTAS member societies - are able to analyse the proposals and produce highly credible Proofs of Evidence in support of their objections.
If any member of an ANTAS society has traffic and roads expertise, preferably at a professional level, and is willing to join with other volunteers in undertaking this important work, please make contact through the ANTAS Message-board.