A campaigner says she and her fellow residents are “overjoyed” after councillors put a halt on plans to build 58 homes on green belt land.

The planning committee at Hertsmere Borough Council decided more information was needed about the delivery of a primary school before it could agree to building new houses.

Applicants Wrotham Park Estates returned to the council chamber last Thursday to revise their development plans on green belt land off Potters Lane in Well End.

In October 2018, outline planning permission was granted for 58 homes on the condition Wrotham gave up adjacent land for a primary school – and the school had to be almost complete before work on the homes could begin.

Two years on, there is no sign of a school and data suggests Hertfordshire County Council may not need a school until post 2025.

Borehamwood Times:

There are proposals for 58 homes, and a primary school, on land off Potters Lane, owned by Wrotham Park Estates

Wrotham were seeking an amendment to a Section 106 agreement that would allow them to build the homes before a school was built – but some councillors had doubts about this amendment.

In Thursday’s meeting, councillors Anthony Spencer, Glenn Briski, Brett Rosehill, John Graham, Jeremy Newmark, and Jerry Evans all raised concerns about what guarantees there were of a new school being built.

They were echoing councillors Michelle Vince and Rebecca Challice, who spoke against the scheme as community advocates, and Julia Dunsford, an Alexandra Road resident, who also spoke against.

In her speech, Ms Dunsford told the committee the application they were deciding on “was nothing like” 2018 (application), saying the new application “gives no guarantee of a primary school ever”, and that “the only thing guaranteed is development on green belt”.

She added: “We cannot gamble losing precious green belt land on the notion that there might be special circumstances post 2025. These circumstances must exist today, or in the very near future to approve this application.”

The council's policy is a development must show special circumstances to justify building on green belt land - in 2018, the school was a special circumstance.

Borehamwood Times:

Julia Dunsford was among those who protested last weekend in Well End

Borehamwood Times:

Protesters pictured in Potters Lane in 2018 opposing the plans on green belt land then

Three councillors – Farida Turner, Seamus Quilty, and Sarah Hodgson-Jones publicly showed their support for the scheme.

Cllr Turner described having 58 “much needed homes” and a school as a “win-win situation” adding “it’s just a question of timing” over when the school is delivered.

Cllr Seamus Quilty said he feared this application could be an “opportunity missed” if in years to come residents look back and ask why the area does not have enough school places.

He suggested the opportunity for a new school should be taken now.

But he later agreed to defer the scheme, along with the rest of the committee, pending further information on the date when the school will be built.

As part of a Section 106 agreement drawn up by council officers, the land set aside for a school would be transferred to Hertsmere Borough Council until a time when the county council were ready to take land on - planning documents state the county council does still see the need for a school in this area.

The land would be safeguarded for educational use for 12 years, and if by that time no school has been built or been needed, the land would be used for community use.

The deferral means, as it stands, there is now no planning permission for a school or homes. Councillors neither supported nor rejected the latest application, and it is very likely the application will return to committee at a later date.

Borehamwood Times:

Council officers at Hertsmere Borough Council, pictured, will now reflect on the committee's decision

Speaking after the decision to defer, Ms Dunsford said: “I am absolutely delighted it didn’t get passed. I thought at one stage it might even be rejected.

“This shows councillors are listening to residents and protecting the green belt. You’ve got to have a guarantee of a school and the councillors were saying the same. We definitely do not want any houses unless there is a guarantee of a school.

"It was good to have the opportunity to speak - I put hours and hours into getting that speech right. It was delightful to hear residents views are being heard and residents are overjoyed. We’re going to see what happens next.”