Purpose of the Plan

1.1 This document is the new local plan for the district of Welwyn Hatfield for the period up to 2011. It replaces the current statutory local plan, the Welwyn Hatfield District Plan Alterations No.1. It contains the local planning framework, policies and proposals, which will guide the development and use of land in the district over the next 10 years and against which the Council will consider planning applications.

1.2 This document is the result of a full review of the current District Plan. There are several reasons why a comprehensive review was necessary:

  1. The former Plan was first prepared in the early 1990s. Although alterations to it were adopted as recently as 1998, these were limited to certain parts of the Plan to roll it forward to 2001, pending the completion of the Structure Plan Review. The former Plan was therefore reaching the end of its 'lifetime' and needed a complete review.

  2. The County Council adopted a new Structure Plan in 1998 (shortly after the alterations to the current District Plan were adopted) setting out a revised strategic framework for Hertfordshire for the period through to 2011 based on the principle of sustainable development. The new Plan has been updated to accord with this.

  3. There have been significant changes in Government planning policies. In particular, sustainable development, design quality, maximising the use of 'brownfield' land and reducing the need to travel have become central objectives of the planning system. Greater emphasis has also been given to diversifying the rural economy and development in town centres. These have required a fundamental review of the Plan's strategy, objectives and key policy areas.

Scope and Status of the Plan

1.3 This Plan is a legal document. Together with the Structure Plan, the Waste Plan, and the Minerals Local Plan, it forms the statutory development plan for the district. The Structure Plan provides the strategic policies for the district; this Plan provides the local policies. This plan must be in general conformity with the Structure Plan and accord with national and regional planning guidance. The Plan has been prepared within this overall policy context, which is summarised in paragraphs 1.14 -1.18 below.

1.4 As the adopted statutory local plan, its policies and proposals may only relate to the development and use of land. This is stipulated by planning legislation. However, a wide range of social, economic and environmental issues were taken into account in preparing the Plan, including the objectives of other non-land use strategies mentioned in the policy context below. Where appropriate, relevant non-land use issues and strategies are explained in the supporting text to policies.

1.5 The Plan only deals with those planning issues that are the responsibility of Welwyn Hatfield District Council. It does not cover mineral excavation and waste disposal, which are 'county matters' and are addressed in separate Minerals and Waste Local Plans produced by the County Council.

1.6 In accordance with Section 38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 applications for development must be determined in accordance with the policies in the adopted development plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise. This does not mean that every planning decision should be made in strict accordance with the policies in this Plan, but it does mean that there must be a good planning reason to justify relaxing or departing from a policy. All decisions taken as a consequence of the policies and proposals set out in this Plan will be made having regard to any relevant provisions of the Human Rights Act.


1.7 The Plan is made up of two parts:

  1. Written Statement - this document, which sets out the overall strategy of the Plan and contains all of its policies (printed in bold) and their supporting text or 'reasoned justifications'.

  2. Proposals Map - based on an Ordnance Survey map of the district showing the site-specific proposals and policy areas to which the Written Statement refers. It is made up of 5 sheets at 1:10,000 scale covering the whole district and a series of inset maps at 1:2,500 scale for Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield Town Centres, the former Hatfield Aerodrome site and the Major Developed Sites in the Green Belt.

1.8 The Written Statement is divided into four main parts - District-Wide policies, policies for Urban Areas, policies for Rural Areas, and the Appendices. The purpose of this structure is to offer a more coherent grouping of policies, based on the land use characteristics of the district. However, the Written Statement should be read as a whole; policies are often interdependent and satisfaction of one policy does not guarantee satisfaction of others.

1.9 The adopted Plan is supported by supplementary planning guidance and a number of technical reports which contain much of the detail upon which policies are justified and which have been excluded from the Written Statement to keep it as concise as possible. Where relevant the guidance or reports are referred to in the policies or supporting text. The key ones include - the Residential and Employment Land Availability statements, a Study of Urban Potential for Housing (urban capacity study), a Housing Needs Study, Retail Capacity Study, Economic Profile, Habitats Survey, an Open Space Survey, a Playing Pitch Study, the Interim Car Parking Standards, the Supplementary Design Guidance and Town Centre studies. In addition, a number of site-specific proposals in the Plan are supported by supplementary planning guidance in the form of planning briefs or master plans which provide the detail of the proposals. It is important that the Plan is read in the context of these supporting documents.

1.10 Finally, the Plan has been subjected to a full Sustainability Appraisal, in line with Government advice in PPG12, in order to assess the likely environmental, social and economic impact of the policies in the Plan. The results of the appraisal and the methodology used have been published in separate documents that sit alongside the Plan.

Plan Period

1.11 This Plan has been prepared to cover the period up to 2011, in accordance with the time period for the adopted Structure Plan Review. Its housing allocations were drawn up to satisfy the housing requirements in the Structure Plan for the period 1991-2011, which in turn are based on household forecasts and housing requirements for the south east region for this period.

Timetable and Process for the Review

1.12 Since this is a statutory plan, the procedures for its review are legally defined in the Town and Country Planning (Development Plan) Regulations 1999. The key stages in the preparation of this Plan were as follows:

Quality of Life Community WorkshopsMay-Sept 1998
Public Consultation on Key IssuesSept-Nov 1999
Plan 'on deposit' for formal representationsJan-March 2001
Consideration of objections by CouncilMarch 2001-April 2002
Revised Plan 'on deposit' (second deposit)June-July 2002
Public Local InquiryMay-November 2003
Inspector's Report receivedApril 2004
Proposed Modifications to Plan 'on deposit'Autumn 2004
Adoption of PlanSpring 2005

Policy Context

1.13 The adopted Plan has been prepared in the context of a wide range of existing plans, strategies and guidance. In particular, the Council has had regard to national and regional planning guidance and the Structure Plan, but it has also taken account of the plans of other agencies and other Council strategies, where these are relevant to land-use planning and need to be co-ordinated with the District Plan.

1.14 National planning policies are contained in a series of Planning Policy Guidance Notes (PPGs) and Planning Policy Statements (PPSs) issued by the ODPM, on behalf of the government. These set the national priorities for the planning system and give guidance on policies which should be included in local plans. In particular these give guidance on how plans should contribute to achieving sustainable development. Where relevant, PPGs and PPSs are referred to in the supporting text of the Plan. A full list of the current relevant PPGs and PPSs is attached at Appendix 7.

1.15 The current regional planning guidance for this area is contained in the Regional Planning Guidance Note for the South East (RPG9) published in March 2001. This supersedes the earlier version of RPG9 published in May 1994 which set the regional framework for the current Structure Plan and in particular for its housing requirements up to 2011. The new RPG9 has been prepared for the period up to 2016. It sets a regional framework for sustainable development and a new housing requirement for Hertfordshire for the period from 1996-2016. The District Plan has been prepared in the context of both the 1994 and 2001 versions of regional guidance. However, with specific regard to its housing requirement, the reference point is the earlier RPG9, published in 1994, upon which the housing requirement in the adopted Structure Plan for the period 1991-2011 has been based. Until such time as the new RPG9 has been incorporated into a new Structure Plan, the District Plan cannot take account of its housing requirements.

1.16 The current Structure Plan for the district is the Hertfordshire Structure Plan Review 1991-2011, which was adopted in April 1998. This provides the strategic policies for Welwyn Hatfield. Amongst other things, it requires that all development in Hertfordshire should be consistent with the principles of sustainable development and sets the housing requirement for the district for the period from 1991-2011. The District Plan has been prepared to conform with its policies. They are not repeated in this Plan, but are referred to throughout wherever they provide a strategic context to a particular policy.

1.17 There are a number of other plans and strategies, which have provided an important context in the preparation of this Plan:

  1. Local Transport Plan (LTP) - prepared by the County Council, this sets out a rolling 5-year programme for transport improvements in Hertfordshire. It is reviewed and published annually. PPG12 advises that development plans and local transport plans should complement each other to ensure integration of transport and land use policies. The current LTP is for the period 2001/2 to 2005/6, published in July 2000. It includes countywide programmes for road safety, cycling, passenger transport and rural areas and an area plan for Mid-Hertfordshire, which contain proposals affecting Welwyn Hatfield. Policies in this Plan for Movement, Town Centres and Hatfield Aerodrome, in particular, have taken account of the LTP.

  2. Local Environment Agency Plans (LEAPS) - these are non-statutory plans, prepared by the Environment Agency, which set out an integrated programme of action for environmental improvement, dealing with water resources, floodplains, air quality, pollution controls, biodiversity and waste. They are based on river catchment boundaries. Welwyn Hatfield falls into three catchments - the Upper Lee, Colne and North London. Account has been taken of relevant proposals in the LEAPS for these three areas in preparing the policies in this Plan, in particular for Resources.

  3. Welwyn Hatfield Environmental Strategy - published by the Council in 1996 as an early Local Agenda 21 strategy and action plan for sustainable development, this provides a broad framework for actions by the Council and its public, private and voluntary sector partners on environmental, social and economic issues. It covers biodiversity, woodlands, water, the atmosphere, rural and urban environments, transportation, waste management, public health, economic development and environmental education. In particular, it has provided a context for the Resources policies in the Plan.

  4. A 50 Year Vision for Wildlife and Natural Habitats of Hertfordshire - the local Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) for Hertfordshire published in 1998, which sets the overall targets and framework for the conservation and enhancement of species and habitats in the county. The BAP has provided a basis for the review of policies on biodiversity in the Plan and in turn these policies should help to achieve some of the BAP's objectives.

  5. Nature Conservation Strategy for Welwyn Hatfield - published by the Council in 1996, this provided a strategy and action plan for the protection, management and enhancement of nature and wildlife resources. It formed a context for the policies on Biodiversity in the Resources section of the Plan. This Strategy has now been superseded by the Welwyn Hatfield BAP.

  6. Watling Chase Community Forest Plan 1995, Forest Plan Review 2001 and Forest Plan Landscape Supplement 2001 - prepared by Watling Chase Community Forest. The 1995 plan is a visionary blueprint for the period 1995-2025 containing policies and proposals for implementation. The Review is a supplement to the plan, assessing achievements to date and setting the agenda for the next decade. The Landscape Supplement completes the landscape study and assessment of parts of the Forest not covered in the original plan.

  7. Housing Strategy - prepared by the District Council, this sets out the objectives of the Council as the local housing authority for meeting housing needs and managing its housing stock, including any building or improvement programmes. The strategy is reviewed annually and covers a five-year period. The current version is for 2001-2006 and was published in September 2000. The policies in this Plan for the development of housing are consistent with this strategy.

  8. Economic Development Strategy - this is a statutory plan produced annually by the District Council, which sets out the steps to be taken to promote the development of the local economy. The current strategy, published in March 2000, covers the period from 2000-2005. It proposes action to attract and support businesses, encourage an adequate supply of business premises and revitalise town centres. It is important that the policies in this Plan on employment, retail and town centre development are consistent with the strategy.

  9. Town Centre Strategies - strategies for both Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City town centres have been prepared by the Council and its partners. These provide the overall vision for the future of the two town centres. The Plan has been prepared alongside these strategies, particularly the policies for Retailing and Town Centres, and will be important to achieving their objectives.

  10. Leisure Strategy - again prepared by the District Council, this assesses the need for facilities and sets out the strategy for leisure provision, and increasing participation in sports and leisure. The current version was published in 1999 and covers the period 1999-2005. It contains proposals affecting leisure and cultural facilities, tourism, parks and open space and has informed relevant policies in this Plan. This Strategy was updated in 2003 by the Cultural Strategy for the district titled 'Enjoying Life'.

  11. Health Improvement Programme - prepared by the Welwyn Hatfield Primary Care Group, this contains the local plan of action to improve health and modernise health services. It has links with housing conditions, employment and health facilities and is therefore relevant background to policies in the District Plan.

Consultation and Public Participation

1.18 In preparing this Plan, the Council has consulted widely with the local community in Welwyn Hatfield and with local businesses, landowners, voluntary organisations, conservation and amenity groups, statutory agencies and other local authorities. Throughout this the Council's aim has been to give people the opportunity to have their say in shaping the pattern of development in their area. Six stages of consultation have taken place:

  1. Community Workshops

    At the start of the process, between May and September 1998, a series of consultation workshops were held with local community groups and organisations. The purpose was to consider the principle of sustainable development and identify the key elements contributing to quality of life in the district, which the District Plan should seek to address.

  2. Key Issues Papers

    From the results of the Community Workshops, a set of Issues Papers was published in September 1999, defining the key issues which the new Plan should address. The papers covered Sustainable Development, Resources, Rural Issues, Housing, Design and Open Space, Movement and Economy. A leaflet summarising the key issues was sent to every household in the district and comments were invited up to the end of November 1999. Comments received were taken into account in preparing the deposit version of the Plan.

  3. Deposit Version of the District Plan

    The deposit version of the District Plan, containing the proposed land use policies and proposals for the district, was published in February 2001. A six-week period for formal consultation on the Plan took place between February and March 2001. These representations were all formally considered and taken into account in preparing the second or revised deposit version of the Plan.

  4. Revised Deposit Version of the District Plan

    The Revised Deposit Version of the District Plan was published in June 2002. A six week formal consultation period ran from the 19th June to the 30th July 2002. These representations were all formally considered and taken into account when preparing the Pre-inquiry Changes to the Plan.

  5. Pre-inquiry Changes to the District Plan

    Pre-inquiry Changes (PICs) to the Revised Deposit Version of the District Plan were published in December 2002. An extended consultation period to allow for the Christmas season ran from the 11th December 2002 to the 24th January 2003. Representations to the PICs were formally considered by the Inspector in his report.

  6. Proposed Modifications to the District Plan following the Inspector's Report

    The report into the objections to the District Plan was released by the Inspector on the 13th of April 2004 and was later published by the Council. The Council's Statement of Decisions with regard to the Inspector's recommendations was published alongside the proposed modifications to the Plan and a period of six weeks given for public comments on the documents. The representations were all formally considered prior to the adoption of this Plan.

1.19 The content and results of the pre-deposit consultation exercises (points i and ii above) have been summarised more fully in a separate document entitled 'Statement of Public Consultation', which was published alongside the deposit version of the Plan, in accordance with Regulation 21 of the Town and Country Planning (Development Plan) Regulations 1999. The schedule summarising the representations received to the deposit version of the Plan and the Council's response was also published alongside the revised deposit version of the Plan.

Statement of Conformity With the Structure Plan

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