Residents to have their say over Harpenden allotments sale

PUBLISHED: 20:01 22 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:36 06 May 2010

OPPONENTS of the sale of former allotment land worth more than £1 million have met with Harpenden town councillors to discuss plans for the site. Many of the residents are angry that the former allotment land has been neglected and allowed to go to grass

OPPONENTS of the sale of former allotment land worth more than £1 million have met with Harpenden town councillors to discuss plans for the site.

Many of the residents are angry that the former allotment land has been neglected and allowed to go to grass at a time when there is a resurgence of a demand.

Town Cllr Mike Wakely, who chaired Monday's meeting, said: "We want this to be an example of open government at work, which is why we were happy to tell residents about the process of selection with regard to potential developers. Obviously we did not reveal any commercially sensitive information."

He said the council, which owns the land, has secured 11 expressions of interest from developers for a site which would be 100 per cent affordable/social housing. These had now been whittled down to six possible options after carefully scrutinising responses to questions.

A decision needs to be made about which organisations should go forward to the final stage. These organisations will then be invited to submit a tender to purchase the site

Some of the developers sent in outline plans for a mix of housing to include three and four bedroom homes along with two bedroom homes and flats.

Local children's writer Carol Hedges of Coldharbour Lane, who wants to see the land restored to allotments, questioned whether this mix constituted "affordable housing".

She said: "Since when have three and four bed houses been affordable?"

But Cllr Wakeley said: "St Albans Council is the housing authority and as such they have been consulted by these developers asking what blend of housing would best meet with their approval. My understanding is that whichever developer is chosen would have to work closely with housing associations and the district council's planning officers."

Town council clerk John Bagshaw said discussions have already started with St Albans Council about the information required in the final stage of selection. Further discussions are necessary to finalise the tender document.

The 0.7 hectare site could provide around 22 homes if the bigger three and four bedroom houses are included.

Developers have not yet been asked to submit an offer for the site at this stage but the land is thought to be worth in excess of £1 million which would be used for community projects.

n In 2006 after the town council received approval from former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott to take the land out of allotment use, the town council was refused planning permission when it tried to build 42 flats on the site.

At that time the district council decided that there was sufficient housing land available without the need to develop a greenfield site and they also felt the two blocks would have an overbearing impact on the area.

The district council has now indicated it would look more favourably on the application.

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