As St Albans Local Plan flounders, another Green Belt homes scheme emerges

Option one of three which includes hotel, park and ride, care home and up to 100 homes

Option one of three which includes hotel, park and ride, care home and up to 100 homes - Credit: Archant

Proposals for a major new mixed-use development scheme on a Green Belt site in St Albans have been circulated to alarmed nearby residents.

Hallam Land Management and planning and design consultancy Barton Willmore have leafleted residents living close land east of Watling Street where it runs down to the Park Street roundabout with their options to develop the site.

And local county councillor Sandy Walkington said this week that a lot of people had contacted him with concerns about the proposal, particularly those living in and around Holyrood Crescent.

In a glossy leaflet, Hallam says that developing the site seeks to redress the imbalance that St Albans experiences as a result of people commuting to high paying jobs outside the district, primarily in London but also in neighbouring towns.

It suggests that the site could provide “more high quality employment opportunities for existing residents to work in st Albans thereby reducing ther need to travel whilst recognising the need to improve the visitor economy and to deliver both affordable and open market family homes.”

Hallam have put forward three options for a site which they describe as adjacent to the strategic highway network, with good accessibility to the town centre and adjacent to existing residential, education, community and local retail uses.

The options propose a varied mix of a hotel, a care home, a park and ride facility, business use and residential units - and the leaflet suggests that a ‘mix and match’ of different aspects of each option could be included.

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Among the positives, according to Hallam, are that there would be a limited extension into the Green Belt, the provision of much-needed open market and affordable family homes and landscape and biodiversity improvements.

East of Watling Street did not make the long list of sites that St Albans council considered as suitable for release from the Green Belt when it was preparing its planning blueprint, the Strategic Local Plan.

Appeals against the district council’s refusal to release a nearby parcel of land from the Green Belt have been dismissed by the Planning Inspectorate on five occasions.

Cllr Walkington described the proposal as ‘a try-on’ by Hallam Land. He went on: “They are the development arm of Henry Boot and this will really put the boot into St Albans.

“Not only does this green space ‘set the scene’ for people entering the city from the motorway network, it fulfils the fundamental purpose of Green Belt in preventing coalescence of communities, in this case St Albans and Park Street. That is why it has never been identified for possible development in any of the planning exercises over the years.

Cllr Walkington said that it was ‘bonkers’ to suggest access from one of the busiest roundabouts in the county and went on: “The whole scheme looks like it has been dreamed up by a planning intern on a wet Wednesday afternoon – hotel tick, offices tick, care home tick, park and ride tick, houses tick, ‘amenity area’ tick, job done. It should be a joke but it isn’t.”

He warned that St Albans could expect to be under siege from similar speculative development until the SLP was finalised and approved.