Backlash against plans for 1,130-home village adjacent to St Albans and Wheathampstead

Save Symondshyde screenshot.

Save Symondshyde screenshot. - Credit: Archant

Prime Green Belt land earmarked for destruction - to make way for a new 1,130-home village near St Albans district - should be protected instead, local councillors have insisted.

Symondshyde Lane images

Symondshyde Lane images - Credit: Archant

Only a few days remain for people to have their say on neighbouring Welwyn Hatfield borough council’s draft local plan, which controversially proposes a satellite village at Symondshyde Farm, between St Albans, Wheathampstead and Hatfield.

The plan allocates strategic sites for future development until 2032, including locations for more than 12,000 new homes.

But plans to build at Symondshyde have hit a nerve locally, with Wheathampstead parish and St Albans district councils recently spurning the neighbouring council’s surprise inclusion of the site in the draft plan.

In its strongly-worded objection to the strategic blueprint, the district council (SADC) declared the document was not sound because its implications “have not been agreed, or even discussed” with the local authority.

It slammed the “very sudden jump in housing and employment development targets now included in the plan and the emergence of proposals for a new major development in the Green Belt at Symondshyde”.

SADC said that the new village and gipsy and traveller site proposal for Symondshyde had an ‘unacceptable impact’ on the Green Belt and the choice of location to accommodate such a major development was ‘not well justified’.

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The council added: “Creation of a new village in this location will damage the Green Belt by urbanising countryside.”

The site, part of a large tract owned by the Gasgoyne Cecil Estates, is close to a strategic gap between St Albans and Hatfield, identified in a joint independent Green Belt review to help neighbouring local bodies plan where to build homes in future - and where not to.

SADC pointed out that the gap has already been “significantly eroded by other recent development. The distance between Hatfield and Wheathampstead is only four kilometres.

“The Green Belt gap that would remain between Hatfield and the new village is narrow, approximately one kilometre, and is compromised by the proposed lengthy new access road and gipsy and traveller site. This Green Belt will be vulnerable to future development pressure for infill and merger with Hatfield.”

In its objection, the council warns the new village proposal would be “too small to justify provision of significant infrastructure, particularly road access improvements and secondary schooling.

“It will effectively become an inaccessible satellite suburb of Hatfield and Welwyn, within the borough council’s area, and secondarily St Albans, Wheathampstead and Harpenden within SADC’s area.

“There will be poor access to local jobs. Locating residential development away from the main urban areas and their services and facilities will encourage additional and longer car journeys.

“This will result in serious traffic volume and environmental character pressures on unsuitable rural roads.”

SADC’s objection adds that Welwyn has undergone a “dramatic shift” from initially consulting on a target of 6,800 homes in 2012, to an increased development of over 12,000 proposed homes in 2015.

The district council said: “This decision has not been subject to sufficient step by step consultation, including under duty to cooperate.”

Wheathampstead parish council was critical of the lack of community engagement and consultation with people from St Albans district over the plan.

It said: “We consider that Welwyn Hatfield has failed to engage in early and thorough consultation in relation to this significant proposal. Its assessment has failed to recognise the special character and nature of this area, and its intrinsic value in the eyes of local residents and those from other districts.”

• Consultation ends at 5pm next Monday, October 24

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