Speculative ‘plotlands’ at Digswell, Box Wood, and Little Gaddesden, 2020
Some years ago we coined the term ‘plotlands’ to describe a number of sites in the Green Belt that were being actively marketed as potential house building sites.
Yet these sites were not allocated for development in any Local Plan and were protected from development by local and national planning policies, and were thus unlikely to gain planning permission. We identified about twenty sites including those at Warrengate Farm in Tewin, Green End near Ware, and Kimpton Bottom. The BBC did an undercover investigation and there was much media attention. We thought we had seen the last of this. However, in 2020 we saw a resurgence of this practice. This time the sites put forward were at Digswell in Welwyn Hatfield underneath and adjacent to the historic Grade II listed Digswell Viaduct; in the woodland at Box Wood on the eastern edge of Stevenage in East Hertfordshire; and at Little Gaddesden in Dacorum. This last site is within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Beauty and in the lee of the Grade I listed church of St Peter and St Paul. CPRE Hertfordshire along with local community groups drew public attention to the threat and urged the relevant local planning authorities’ Council Officers to quickly implement Article 4 Directions on these sites. Article 4 Directions prevent the landowner from erecting fences, gates or other infrastructure. Such infrastructure would harm the openness of the site and potentially lead an unwitting buyer to believe that permission for development was in place.