Campaigners have responded angrily in the wake of a public exhibition on plans for hundreds of homes on the edge of Harpenden.

Legal & General wants to develop a Green Belt site, located off Luton Road north of the town, close to King’s School, Spire Hospital and The Oval, but not including Cooters End Farm.

The scheme proposes up to 550 new homes of which 168 will be affordable, and 130 will be integrated retirement living.

The project will feature a community hub including restaurant, gym and an early years setting, all overlooking a public square with opportunities for work hub, community meetings, plus more than 11ha of new public open space including additional play areas to meet local need, new junior sports pitches and a pavilion.

A public exhibition on the outline plans has been held at the town's Eric Morecambe Centre, with residents able to see first hand what was proposed.

A spokesperson for the new Stop L&G campaign group said: “This ‘outline’ proposal could generate estimated profits of £250 million for L&G, but it will have a hugely detrimental impact for Harpenden residents.

"It will place massive and potentially unsustainable pressure on already strained local infrastructure and services such as traffic, parking, healthcare, schooling, water and sewage.

"We aim to ensure the L&G proposal undergoes the full detailed scrutiny it deserves, and ideally is considered as part of the new District Local Plan which is currently being prepared.

“It is already clear to us that L&G’s plan is hugely unpopular with local residents. Nobody we spoke to at the public exhibition supported the proposal. On the contrary most of them asked to join our fast-growing campaign group.

Herts Advertiser: The green space at the centre of this image will form the NW Harpenden development.The green space at the centre of this image will form the NW Harpenden development. (Image: Google)

"They all thought that L&G failed to answer their detailed questions, are trying to whitewash over the many issues with their plan and want to create the impression it is a ‘done deal’.

"However the fact they are rushing this through before a new Local Plan is in place shows how worried they are that it will not stand up to proper scrutiny. We will ensure that local residents fight this all the way.”

Jeff Phillips, chair of the Harpenden Society, has responded on behalf of their members: "While acknowledging the nationwide need for more housing, the Harpenden Society contends that the L&G group’s proposed North West Harpenden development, notwithstanding its planned mix of large and smaller ‘affordable’ homes, would bring minimal benefit to the town’s housing shortage, as those ‘affordable’ units in practice, and in today’s property market, will be quite unaffordable to first-time buyers in the immediate area."

The Society said there were a number of vital issues which they felt have not been sufficiently addressed.

In terms of traffic impact, the proposed 500-plus new dwellings would likely generate up to a thousand more cars on Harpenden roads, with implications for racking up, to unacceptable levels, the already serious traffic congestion at peak periods and at weekends, moving in and out of the town on the A1081, and which would be further exacerbated by the limited ingress/egress of the new housing estate.

Such an increase in the car population would inevitably add to the already formidable parking problems in the town, along with a highly negative effect on local air quality.

The density of the non-retirement housing as proposed is substantially higher than the surrounding area, and the plan is silent on how the maintenance of the extensive green space will be funded.

Drainage along the adjacent Luton Road is often overwhelmed by surface water and agricultural land run-off, but there are no details on how this will be mitigated.

The Society said suggestions that residents of the new estate should travel in and out of the town in all weathers by alternative means, i.e. by walking, cycling or by bus, are quite impractical.

Given the traditional layout of the town along – or close to – the narrow Luton Road (A1081), including the obstructive archway bridge at Park Hill, the provision of a safe cycle route along the main roadway is totally unrealistic.

Furthermore, in discussion with L&G representatives at the presentation, it became obvious that the alternative cycle route quoted, along Ambrose Lane, had not been investigated at all as Tennyson Road was in fact a very narrow road with parking on
both sides.

At a time when environmental concerns are ever more prominent on the ‘public agenda’, the loss of 62 acres of countryside so close to Harpenden was considered by the Society to bring an intolerable level of environmental degradation, to the detriment of the character of the town.

The L&G group proposals make minimal reference to the
need for supporting infrastructure, by way of health facilities in

Harpenden’s three main GP surgeries are already fully stretched in handling the health issues of the existing population. In addition, deletion from the plans of the initially proposed primary school in the development remains controversial, and the town is already seeing pressure on the availability of Year 7 places.

L&G have not responded to a request for comment.