Huge Housing Development in St Albans Approved Through Appeal

PUBLISHED: 15:29 06 April 2010 | UPDATED: 15:02 06 May 2010

DEVELOPERS have got the go-ahead to build 150 homes on former playing fields despite huge concerns about the impact on traffic at an already heavily congested junction nearby. Only three weeks after a public inquiry, Government planning inspector Robert B

DEVELOPERS have got the go-ahead to build 150 homes on former playing fields despite huge concerns about the impact on traffic at an already heavily congested junction nearby.

Only three weeks after a public inquiry, Government planning inspector Robert Barker has granted permission for the scheme in King Harry Lane to Hallam Land Management Ltd on appeal and has ordered the council to pay the developers' costs.

The district council had turned down the outline planning application on the basis that the additional traffic created by the scheme would cause even more problems at the bottle-necked King Harry junction.

Ahead of last month's two-day public inquiry, Hallam worked with Herts County Council to come up with mitigating measures for the traffic problems and offered £1.7million in Section 106 money to be paid in full when the 90th property was occupied.

Their preferred option - and the one which was costed - is to create a new link road running behind St Stephen's Church between Watling Street, which would be closed to through traffic, and St Stephen's Hill.

A similar proposal was first developed at the time of the Griffiths Way retail development and was quietly dropped even though £1.3 million in Section 106 money had been received.

Alternatives included sustainable transport measures to encourage people to stop using cars and building a bypass between the A4147 and the former M10 - identified as the council's preferred option in their draft planning blueprint.

Other proposals involving the demolition of the King Harry pub to make way for a signalled junction but that was not considered to be a serious option.

During the inquiry, chairman of the Verulam Residents' Association, Barrie Mort, argued that the extra traffic caused by the scheme was the worse of a range of infrastructure problems including local GP surgeries and schools running full to capacity.

The district council said that no planning permission should be given for the site - where a retirement complex has already got the green light - until detailed plans for traffic improvements were presented.

Mr Barker acknowledged that the scheme would cause increases in traffic during peak times - estimated at between five and six per cent - and said it was reasonable to seek appropriate mitigation.

But he said it was "unduly harsh" for the council to argue that the increase in queuing at the King Harry Junction as a result of the scheme would be unacceptable, adding that the proposals would have less impact than other committed developments in the area for which no mitigation has been sought.

And he said that the link road proposal would mitigate the traffic impact.

Mr Barker also labelled the council's demand for Hallam to pay the entirety of the Section 106 funds upfront as "perverse."

He announced last Thursday that outline planning permission for the scheme had been granted with 26 conditions attached including a clause stating that no properties could be occupied until access arrangements are approved for the construction traffic.

Mr Barker also ordered the district council to pay Hallam's legal costs, agreeing with the developers that they had behaved unreasonably and caused unnecessary and wasted expense in the process.

MP for St Albans Anne Main said she was "disgusted" that the views of local people had been ignored.

Planning portfolio holder Chris Brazier also voiced deep disappointment at the decision.

A disappointed Mr Mort said he felt "utter fury and frustration" pointing out that the highways improvements that the inspector has ordered before the 90th house was occupied could merely consist of laying on an extra bus service as it was up to the sold discretion of the county council.

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