£136,000 fight against St Albans housing scheme

The proposed site of Sewell Park

The proposed site of Sewell Park - Credit: Archant

Stubborn developers have forced St Albans’ taxpayers to shell out a whopping £136,000 to fight against variations of the same major housing scheme for just one Green Belt site.

And there are most costs to come.

St Albans district council has yet again rejected another bid to build Sewell Park to the rear of 112-156B Harpenden Road, on a 12-acre site between Woollams playing fields and St Albans Girls’ School.

The latest application from Hunston Properties was for 85 homes, new accessways to Harpenden Road, two tennis courts and public open space.

It comes shortly after an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate against its rejected bid to build 71 homes and 14 flats.

And in 2011/12 it was twice denied permission for 116 houses and a 72-bed care home.

Both rejections went to appeal and were dismissed, with one rejection later challenged in the High Court and then the Court of Appeal.

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As a result of a judgement from the latter, and a recent decision by the Planning Inspectorate, a conjoined public inquiry is due to start on both the 71 and 116-home applications on July 22 this year.

But in the meantime costs are continuing to mount to protect the Green Belt site from development.

A spokeswoman for the council said that £103,000 had been spent on external legal costs and witness fees for two public inquiries, the High Court challenge, Court of Appeal case and other work.

That figures does not include officer time.

The council also had to pay £47,500 to Hunston after costs were awarded against the authority.

While it did recover £14,280 in partial costs in connection with legal proceedings, the net cost to taxpayers is £136,000, with further costs in connection with the forthcoming public inquiry.

A planning referrals committee recently refused the 85-home scheme on the basis that the scale of development was inappropriate for the Green Belt and would “encourage urban sprawl”.

Hunston’s application again attracted many objections including from St Albans Civic Society, St Albans Green Belt Association, Campaign by Locals Against Sewell Housing (CLASH), St Albans and District Footpath Society and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England.

After the meeting a spokesman for CLASH welcomed the rejection.

He said it was “hardly unexpected” given the Government had recently told planning inspectors that while Green Belt land could be released via authorities’ strategic local plans, it should not be considered on an ad hoc basis for a single application.

What do you think about the cost of the council’s fight against developers? Have your say on the campaign against the Sewell Park development and email us at hertsad@archant.co.uk