Hertsmere Borough Council’s leader has rejected calls to pause progress on a masterplan for 12,000 homes in the borough, saying it could leave the area open to speculative applications from developers.

Following renewed hope of Government housing targets being lowered for councils in the south east, there had been mention of suspending the current local plan consultation until local authorities were given more clarity.

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson and new Secretary of State Michael Gove both suggested changes could be made to national planning policy to take the strain off green belt sites and councils in the south east.

However, at a meeting of the full council on November 17, leader Morris Bright defended the decision to continue with work on Hertsmere’s local plan, which maps out new developments up to 2038.

The Conservative politician added not progressing could leave the door open to "planning by appeal", which would allow developers to take advantage of the lack of an adopted plan. 

Instead, he said believed the council could reduce the target of 12,160 new homes, but it was important the consultation continued so the council was "armed with the very evidence of the public strength of feeling" when making their case to Government.

The comments came in response to a question by Bushey Liberal Democrat councillor Alan Matthews, who urged the council to seek a suspension of existing targets until the Government’s position is clarified.

Cllr Matthews and his colleagues Cllr Evans and Richards previously voted against sending the draft local plan out for public consultation.

Borehamwood Times: Bushey Liberal Democrat councillor Alan Matthews. Credit: Hertsmere Liberal DemocratsBushey Liberal Democrat councillor Alan Matthews. Credit: Hertsmere Liberal Democrats

Cllr Bright added he had expressed his concerns about the borough’s housing targets to MP Oliver Dowden, who committed to raising the issue with the Secretary of State.

Mr Dowden, who was recently appointed Conservative national party chairman, recently wrote to Mr Gove to ask him to look again at Hertsmere’s housing numbers and consider whether the targets are "up-to-date and appropriate".

Cllr Bright said if any changes to planning policy are introduced these would be reflected in Hertsmere's final Local Plan.

The public consultation on the draft local plan runs until December 6, before a second consultation is expected in next Spring.

The borough council will then need to submit the plan to an inspector for public examination, and are expecting to adopt the final plan in 2023.

At the end of September, more than 100 people marched to the council offices in Borehamwood holding banners and placards that read 'save our green belt'.