Action group launched to fight St Albans Oaklands College homes plan

RESIDENTS still reeling after learning of a massive housing development planned for green fields at Smallford have launched a campaign group to protest against it.

They have formed the No Oaklands Housing Development Action Group to fight St Albans district council’s inclusion of Green Belt land off Sandpit Lane in its draft Strategic Local Plan to provide a site for up to 350 homes.

The blueprint details the future shape of the district until 2028.

In it, the council has earmarked several locations for major residential developments to pave the way for the building of 4,250 homes, including on fields at Oaklands College.

Kim Braden, of Barnfield Road, attended the launch of the action group on Monday, October 8.

She said: “There is a strong feeling among residents that these decisions have been taken behind closed doors with a total lack of transparency or consultation.

“This is an area of Green Belt land that has never been previously developed; we have huge concerns about traffic congestion and pollution as well as a total lack of any additional infrastructure to make the development sustainable.

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“There is no talk of additional schools or health services when there are already not enough school places for the children in the area.”

“There is huge local opposition and it is growing fast.”

Kim added: “We feel that neither the Lib Dems or Conservatives have been clear on what they would do to support the local residents that oppose these plans and to protect the Green Belt land around St Albans.”

Fellow campaigner Geoffrey Bean, who has lived on Sandpit Lane for 15 years, said he had been surprised by the council signalling it wanted hundreds of homes built at Oaklands. He added: “It’s outrageous.”

More than 360 people have signed an online petition opposing the development.

At a scrutiny committee meeting last Thursday, Marshalswick north councillor Geoffrey Churchard said: “Quite a number of my residents weren’t fully aware of what stage the draft plan had got to and were clearly shocked.

“I am very unhappy about this. I don’t want to see houses coming over the brow of the hill, down to Sandpit Lane.”

He added that while there “might be a case” for homes to be built next to the college and on the old greenhouse site, he did not want to see the, “Green Belt taken over by a large estate”.

A report tabled at the meeting said that all money raised from the sale of land for housing at Oaklands would be reinvested at the Smallford campus.

Three years ago the college was given the go-ahead to construct a new hub, but the loss of a substantial grant meant those plans fell through.

The draft plan proposes the rebuilding or refurbishing of various educational facilities and new homes for supported disability living and key worker housing for college staff.

The council’s portfolio holder for planning, Cllr Teresa Heritage, said that while Oaklands had been earmarked for future development, no planning application had been submitted. But should one be lodged, “any impact from potential traffic will have to be dealt with within the design and access and transport assessment”.