Politicians have unanimously agreed a government inspector’s recommendation to strip Three Rivers sites of their Green Belt status to make way for housing and schools.
At an executive meeting yesterday (Monday), councillors approved the recommendation to alter the area’s local plan, which will mean that five sites in the district will no longer be protected under Green Belt status.
A horse field in Baldwins Lane, Croxley Green, and land between Maple Cross and Mill End have had their Green Belt status taken away to make way for schools.
Fields off Woodside Road, in Leavesden, have been allocated to build a Primary School, as well as 100 houses.
And Fairways Farm, off Bucknalls Lane, in Garston, and Killingdown Farm, off Little Green Lane, Croxley Green, have both had their Green Belt status stripped to make way for hundreds of houses.
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Councillor Martin Trevett, environment portfolio holder, told the committee that they "don’t have a leg to stand on" in regards to rejecting the government’s recommendations, because, if they refused these sites for development, they would have to find others in the district to accommodate homes and schools.
The Liberal Democrat representative for Chorleywood West, said: "We don’t have to accept these sites but we have got to find other sites. Now, we have trekked through every single site in the district and I don’t know where we would find other sites in the district anyway.
"A developer knowing that an inspector thought these would be quite good sites would be in a very strong position to put in an application and we would be in a very weak position."
He added: "He (the inspector) has actually said these are good sites so we don’t have a leg to stand on in my view."
In reports submitted to the council, officers stated: "In the context of the Inspector’s letter of November 28, 2013 there is no reason to withdraw or choose not to propose the modifications required.
"To do so would leave the council without an up to date Development Plan and place it at risk of being unable to successfully defend the refusal of what it considers to be inappropriate development."
Liberal Democrat councillor, Keith Williams, said: "It would appear that companies with vested interests have gone behind the back of local residents and secured an agreement with the local inspector to remove the Greenbelt status.
"This decision flies in the face of democracy and it’s with a heavy heart that I will be voting for this recommendation."
Leader of the council, Ann Shaw, referred to the inspector’s recommendation as "as form of blackmail".
Council documents state that: "The Inspector has identified the following sites that should be allocated and which, he determines, will ‘direct more development to sustainable locations and which would allow revisions to the Green Belt boundary which are effectively minor’."
Councillor Stephen Cox, leader of the district’s Labour group, said the alternative to agreeing to these sites would make it "open season" across the district.