Application for retirement care village on St Albans Green Belt refused

The Burston Garden Centre on the North Orbital Road. Picture: Google Maps

The Burston Garden Centre on the North Orbital Road. Picture: Google Maps - Credit: Archant

A proposal to construct a new retirement community at the back of a garden centre in St Albans has been refused.

Castleoak Care Partnerships applied to St Albans district council (SADC) to demolish horticultural buildings on Green Belt land at the back of the Burston Garden Centre on the North Orbital Road.

In its place, the proposal was seeking to build a 64 bedroom care home, 125 assisted living bungalows and apartments, and a community clubhouse.

None of the homes proposed would be classed as affordable.

At a meeting of the Planning Referrals Committee on March 18, a spokesperson for the application described it as “unique”: “Young families understand how the care village will free up much needed family housing in the local area.

“Pedestrians, cyclists, and equestrians understand that this is the only proposal that will deliver a safe and accessible means of crossing the A405 duel carriageway, which has long been coveted by St Albans residents and the highways department.

“Perhaps most importantly, the St Albans community, both young and old, see that the benefits the Castleoak Care Village concept provides enables families in St Albans to live together for longer.”

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There are a number of buildings for growing plants currently on the site, including glasshouses, but SADC officers stressed the land is still technically Green Belt.

Cllr Day said: “It seems to me to be all very well for wealthy people in the district who are selling houses, but for people who live in the district who are renting houses, where would they fit in?”

Highlighting a separate issue, Cllr Geoff Harrison said facilities might be too far away for the less-mobile population of a retirement village.

Some councillors supported the proposal, including Cllr Sue Featherstone who said “nobody has taken into consideration” the local support.

One letter said: “This development appears to help with that need [of the older population] and at the same time free up larger housing for family use.

“And it is not in Green Belt, really, as the public can’t use it and there is nothing pleasing to view, just concrete, disused area of scrub land.”

The committee voted equally for and against the proposal, with chairman Cllr Jock Wright holding the deciding vote.