Running Ahead of the Local Plan
Pound Fields had been in the ownership of Osprey Homes for 12 years while they were waiting to promote the site for development. The CCP had to conduct a very comprehensive engagement campaign in order to gain support, as this controversial site was a Green Belt release. It had been on hold for many years due to policy reasons.
The site was adjacent to Hitchin but fell within the boundaries of the rural parish of St Ippolyts, and was very much seen as a part of St Ippolyts rather than Hitchin. The CCP’s consultation strategy had to reflect this community identity and respond to the needs of this community that was changing from a rural parish to a more suburban character.
The North Herts Local Plan was a long, drawn-out process that was further prolonged when the Council changed political leadership in 2018. The CCP’s strategy put a lot of focus on the Parish Neighbourhood Plan and its requirements, in order to address local concerns and make a case for the development.
Support was achieved by giving people a real say about the benefits the site would deliver for local people, in addition to the housing. This convinced the majority of residents that the proposed development was to the greater benefit of the whole community. During consultation, the site received 90% support from local residents.
What the CCP did:
- Conducted early engagement with the new Leadership of the Council who encouraged us to start the application process.
- Utilised modern technology to engage with a very large number of local residents and to conduct an interactive vote on local benefits.
- Simplified the message and made this large application with numerous aspects very easily understandable for local residents, thereby getting local support.
This resulted in local consent. Furthermore, the Planning Committee at NHDC agreed that this site is a logical step and the benefits outweigh any potential harm.