St Albans District Council has denied it will “lose control” of making decisions about its local plan through Government intervention.

The council will begin consulting on its Strategic Local Plan in January, which will decide where around 16,000 new homes will be built in the coming years.

The local plan has been reviewed over the past year after a planning inspector’s ruling that the council did not meet its duty to co-operate with neighbouring local authorities was upheld by the High Court in July.

Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, recently said he had written to 15 local authorities which had not finalised a Local Plan.

St Albans District Council was one of the authorities asked to explain to Mr Javid by the end of January what progress they are making.

Members of the Campaign For Colney group have been concerned the council could “lose control” of its local plan if the government intervened.

There is a fear that the government will “take over” and make all decisions regarding where and how the new houses will be built, which could infringe on homes in neighbouring areas.

However the council has since responded that it is in the process of drawing up that response and said The Secretary of State will only intervene and appoint his own officials to draw up the plan if he is not satisfied with the answers.

Councillor Mary Maynard, who represents Planning for St Albans City and District Council, said: “We are disappointed at the Secretary of State’s concerns about the lack of progress made on the Local Plan and will give a detailed reply by the deadline he has set.

“In doing so, we will highlight the substantial work that we have already undertaken in developing our new Local Plan. We were on schedule to adopt a plan in May this year.

“This draft Plan was based on extensive technical analysis and public consultation and had the support of all three main political parties on the Council. It was published by the council two years ago.

“However, it was challenged at the last minute by neighbouring local authorities and a Planning Inspector eventually found in their favour, saying we had not met our duty to cooperate with them on assessing housing need.”

Cllr Maynard added the council is now underway with working with neighbouring authorities to deal with “strategic cross border issues”.

“We strongly disagreed with that decision and were given leave to appeal to the High Court with the appeal being refused only this summer.

“We are now well underway with cross party work on a new Local Plan.

“As part of this we are working closely with some neighbouring local authorities to develop a joint Statement of Common Ground that will be beneficial in helping us deal with infrastructure and strategic cross border issues.

“We are undertaking a public consultation to start in January that will engage a wide range of residents to seek their views and opinions on how land in the District should be used.

“Our new timetable would see us submit a Local Plan to the Secretary of State in March 2019. Given the procedures demanded by the Secretary of State that is the earliest, realistic date it can be done.”