I have heard on the grapevine that the Government is to confirm that it is delaying issuing the final version of the East of England plan with its threat to build over the Green Belt round St Albans.
Apparently they have now received legal advice which endorses all of our attacks on the proposals – in particular that the housing numbers had been arbitrarily increased by the minister without any proper review of the sustainability and ecological implications.
This is thoroughly good news.
Madam in Whitehall certainly does not know best – particularly when she is Ruth Kelly who commutes between her office tower in London and her parliamentary seat in Bolton, simply waving at Hertfordshire out of her railway carriage window.
There will now be a new consultation period, which they cannot this time cynically make coincide with Christmas – but watch out for it being in the summer holidays instead!
We don’t yet know the full details, but at the very least there will be a new minister who surely cannot be worse than Ruth Kelly.
The Hands Off Herts Downing Street e-petition is already at 165th position out of nearly 7,500 petitions logged on the Downing Street website. It has been signed by councillors of all parties and also by local MPs including Anne Main.
We will now be stepping up the Hands Off Herts campaign and I call on everyone who reads this to register their objections.
We can expect the Government and its local supporters to argue that there must be more houses to bring down the cost for first time buyers. I agree and St Albans has already committed to 7,000 more homes by 2021 - but that is not the same as selling the family silver in terms of the priceless green lungs round our city and villages.
If London had the same population density as Paris, its boundaries could accommodate 33 million people. That is where major new housing development of the scale envisaged by the minister should go.
Let us build where there is public transport infrastructure and adequate water supply – not on green field sites. The current arbitrary Government proposals will simply exacerbate environmentally unsound car use on already over-crowded roads, over-stress an already struggling water supply and irreversibly take away farmland which may be vitally necessary to the future survival of the UK.