Parishes join forces to oppose 'unsustainable' housing idea near Hatfield Heath

Signs for Hatfield Broad Oak, Takeley, Harlow and Sawbridgeworth in Hatfield Heath, Essex

Land between Hatfield Heath and Hatfield Broad Oak could be designated as suitable for development featuring around 6,500 homes - Credit: Google Earth

Parish councils have joined forces to oppose a 6,500-home garden village proposal near Hatfield Forest.

After 876 hours of sewage flowed directly into the River Stort in 2020 and frequent jams on the A1060 in Bishop's Stortford, four parish councils have criticised a Hatfield Garden Community plan as "unsustainable".

To voice their opposition against the proposal, the councils - covering the two Hallingburys, Hatfield Heath and Hatfield Broad Oak - have created the Unsustainable Sites Action Group (USAG).

At the moment, the 6,500-home development has only been suggested in the Uttlesford Local Plan "Call for Sites" process.

The council is yet to decide whether the land is suitable for new homes, which would only be built if a developer goes through the normal planning process at a later date.

A map showing Bishop's Stortford and a large purple splodge to represent a proposed new community in Essex

A 6,500-home development would be "unsutainable", say parish councillors in Hatfield Heath, Hatfield Broad Oak, and The Hallingburys - Credit: Uttlesford Local Plan

But Councillor Sue Meyer, Little Hallingbury Parish Council chair, said infrastructure must be considered before any new housing is suggested.

She highlighted Rivers Trust research, which shows that a storm drain in the village overflowed 59 times pumping 876 hours-worth of sewage into the River Stort in 2020.

Cllr Meyer said: "Our sewage system cannot cope, and cars speed through Hallingbury. When drivers reach Bishop's Stortford, they face gridlock.

"The area should be healthy for residents' benefit - old and new."

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Cllr Meyer said that countryside should also be thought of as infrastructure, and that nearby hedges and trees act as eco-friendly "lungs".

She added: "We certainly don't want huge mansions which are built to make money.

"So many locals cannot afford to buy in this area - that's what we need to address."

Cllr Terry Marsh, Hatfield Broad Oak Parish Council chair, said: "We need new housing, but as a parish council we must reflect the views of our parishioners and ensure the infrastructure is in place to make new housing work."

Uttlesford District Council will publish its draft Local Plan in March 2022.

District councillor for Broad Oak and The Hallingburys, Cllr Geof Driscoll, said: "The proposal is only in the Call for Sites.

"There is no guarantee that it will go ahead or become a site suitable for development."