Battlelines drawn again over precious green space in Harpenden

Members of the Westfield Community Group by the land

Members of the Westfield Community Group by the land - Credit: Archant

There is fury over a renewed push to turn a green space in Harpenden into apartments, despite it being home to protected snails.

Harpenden town council has only recently informed locals that it intends pursuing plans to have apartments built on former allotment land on Westfield Road.

The site has long been a source of controversy as neighbours have for years fought against any such development and have called for it to be returned to community use.

The council is seeking outline planning permission for 24 two-to-three-bedroom units on the 0.075-hectare site.

They would be aimed at meeting a need for social and affordable housing in the town, which has continued to see house prices soar over recent years.

But despite the authority holding two public exhibitions on its scheme next week, it only posted information about the meetings on its website on Monday (23).

Long-time campaigner Carol Hedges said: “I’m hopping mad.”

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The former allotment land is the habitat of Roman snails, which are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Carol accused the council of being “intent yet again of taking public green space away from local residents and selling it off to a developer.”

She added: “This will then be ‘sold’ to residents as meeting the need for affordable housing – a need that has so far been ignored by most developers who put in planning permission for just under the legal amount needed to mitigate the provision of cheaper accommodation.”

Fellow Harpenden resident Elissa Baird said: “There is no such thing as affordable housing in Harpenden. We live near this little green strip of land and would like to continue to access it.

“There is no infrastructure. Access is proposed to be going down Willoughby Road, however it’s already parked out and busy. What about schools?”

But Harpenden Town Mayor Cllr Mary Maynard defended the push to build at the site, saying: “There is an absolute need for affordable homes in Harpenden, especially if you are a key worker, a young nurse or teacher – there is nowhere they can afford to live here.”

The Herts Advertiser understands that after next week’s exhibition a scheme will be submitted to St Albans district council to consider. If approved, the town council will advertise for a developer to become involved – most likely a housing association.

Spokeswomen for North Herts Homes and Hightown Praetorian and Churches Housing Association said they had not recently been approached about the former allotment site.

• Exhibitions are being held next Wednesday (1), at the Red Cow pub, Westfield Road, 6pm-8pm, and Thursday (2), at Park Hall, Leyton Road, 3pm-8pm.