400 new homes a year proposed for St Albans district

St Albans Cllr for Harpenden West Julian Daly looks over the councils housing growth forecasts

St Albans Cllr for Harpenden West Julian Daly looks over the councils housing growth forecasts - Credit: Archant

St Albans could expand by over 400 homes a year after councillors took another crucial step in finalising their planning blueprint setting out the district’s future shape.

At a planning committee meeting last Friday, district councillors agreed to consider having 436 homes built annually over 20 years.

That figure is one of the lowest in a range of possible scenarios published recently in an independent assessment of housing need.

Councillors have been examining how many homes should be built and where as they continue finalising the Strategic Local Plan (SLP).

They hope to consult upon the updated plan, which sets out future development in the district, in July this year and, all being well, have it adopted in May 2016.

But before then, council officers must investigate whether building 436 homes annually is actually achievable.

They will weigh up factors such as whether building thousands more homes over two decades is sustainable in terms of impact upon the environment, along with employment, community and infrastructure development needs.

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Two possible options will be probed further – having 2,500 homes built on strategic land enclosed by east Hemel Hempstead and the M1, along with 1,500 more homes on an additional two or three sites.

Alternatively, there could be over 4,000 new houses spread across six locations, including Oaklands College in Smallford, north of St Albans along Sandridgebury Lane, two sites in Harpenden and Chiswell Green.

However questions were raised at the meeting about the possible siting of homes with Cllr David Mitchell, chairman of Redbourn parish council, saying a large-scale development by the M1, and the village, would be of “little benefit” to St Albans.

But Bob Selwood, a representative of the Crown Estate which owns the site, told councillors that such development would be welcomed, particularly as the council’s consultants had described the area as contributing little to the Green Belt.

He was corrected by the council’s spatial planning manager Christopher Briggs who said a recent independent review concluded the site at east Hemel Hempstead did protect the countryside.

St Albans MP Anne Main has previously said the district’s housing needs might lie on the 3,000 acre Crown Estate.

The council’s executive leader Cllr Julian Daly admitted: “It is not an easy area to debate.”

He said officers would also need to look at housing density on the sites pinpointed in the Green Belt review.