Access barred to St Albans meadowland as fencing goes up

Concerened local residents Cllr Fred Wartenberg, Johanna Motzkau, Caroline Ciric and John Morison st

Concerened local residents Cllr Fred Wartenberg, Johanna Motzkau, Caroline Ciric and John Morison stand on the footpath next to where the fence is being erected - Credit: Archant

Only a few weeks after residents were celebrating a decision not to give permission for a meadow to be turned over to the grazing of horses, fencing has started going up around it.

The wildlife meadow runs between Bedmond Lane and Mayne Avenue in St Albans and is popular for all kinds of recreational use including family play and dog walking.

It has been described by the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust as being of significant ecological importance because of the plant species and the quality of the habitat.

But it is owned by property company Banner Homes, which is now part of the Cala Group, and they had submitted a planning application for change of use of the land for the keeping of horses and fencing to keep them in.

That was seen by surrounding residents as the first step towards building on the site because if it had been successful, the meadow would have been cleared of the trees, shrubs and wildflowers that grow there.

But the application was turned down by the district council last month and no sooner had they breathed a sigh of relief but eagle-eyed residents of the Verulam Estate spotted that fence posts were being sunk in the ground.

Earlier this year the meadow was designated an Asset of Community Value (ACV) which imposes conditions on the owners of the land if they wish to sell it.

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Banner/Cala are contesting the ACV decision at a hearing scheduled to be held on September 26.

They will argue that use of the meadows by residents amounts to trespass and it is not realistic to think there can be non-ancillary use of the land.

County councillor for the area, Sandy Walkington explained this week that should the ACV be upheld, it would give residents first call on buying the site. But he and others had spoken to a director of Cala Homes who had been on the site this week and had been told that the intention was to build housing there.

Both he and district councillor Fred Wartenberg had questioned whether Cala could put up fencing around the site but were told by district council officers that provided public footpaths were kept open and protected trees not disturbed, the property company was within its rights.

Cllr Walkington said this week: “They aren’t doing anything wrong but residents are being very vigilant and we have to see what happens when the hearing into the ACV goes ahead.”