Dacorum councillors slash new homes target in latest draft local plan

But Hemel Hempstead could be taking on more new homes than originally proposed
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Councillors in Dacorum have agreed to slash the number of new homes proposed on green belt land in Chiltern towns and villages.

But with slower growth in Berkhamsted, Tring and the surrounding villages, Hemel Hempstead could take more new homes than the authority originally planned.

At a meeting on Wednesday (October 25), councillors agreed to ask residents what they think about the proposals – one of several consultations which Dacorum Borough Council is holding as part of the plan-making process.

Hemel Hempstead could be taking on more new housing than originally planned. Image by Will Durrant/LDRS.Hemel Hempstead could be taking on more new housing than originally planned. Image by Will Durrant/LDRS.
Hemel Hempstead could be taking on more new housing than originally planned. Image by Will Durrant/LDRS.

In a previous draft local plan, Dacorum Borough Council proposed setting aside land for 16,899 new homes between 2020 and 2028 – around 940 new homes per year for 18 years.

The new draft proposes 14,345 new homes between 2024 and 2040, or roughly 900 new homes per year for 16 years. The proposals have taken into account concerns over loss of green belt in the Chilterns.

This new figure falls short of the government target of 1,018 homes per year until 2040.

On Dacorum’s draft local plan, Council leader Ron Tindall told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We have considered what the number would be under the government target.

“We have come to the conclusion that we should agree the figure of around 900 homes per year.

“Whether the construction industry has the capacity to meet this target, let alone the government target, is questionable.

“We can justify the lower figure because of the amount of green belt we have, and that we have done our best to use our brownfield sites first.”

While the proposed number of new homes has decreased overall, Hemel Hempstead is set for 11,742 homes – nine per cent more than the 10,688 previously proposed.

A report notes that the last local plan consultation found that targets from the government calculation ‘inflated’ the borough’s housing target.

“The method did not adequately consider the borough’s constraints such as the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty,” the report reads.

It adds respondents feared the authority had not done enough to consider where houses could go on urban or brownfield land.

Dacorum Borough Council officers wrote: “Additional opportunities have been identified at Hemel Hempstead, with capacity for around 500 additional homes to be delivered in the town centre and in Two Waters or Apsley.

“No major brownfield opportunities have been identified in the other key settlements, including at Berkhamsted and Tring.”

Conservative Group leader Cllr Andrew Williams, despite the new proposals, agreed it would be ‘a challenge’ to achieve the number of new homes proposed by 2040.

He said: “There was support across the chamber for going out to consultation.

“But we do have concerns, whilst recognising that we need to make changes after the last draft, which went out to consultation in 2020.

“There are challenges we need to square.

“For example, we have concerns about the number of homes going in Hemel Hempstead.”

Cllr Williams added he feared some policies fail to meet local infrastructure needs, particularly around school places.

“We need to be robust in our arguments because we are coming in with a slightly lower number than the standard method,” he warned.