Bid to build gypsy site and thousands of new homes on St Albans’ doorstep

GREEN fields separating St Albans from Hatfield are under threat of being turned into a new gypsy and travellers’ site, along with a major housing development for thousands of homes.

Welwyn Hatfield borough council (WHBC) hopes to pave the way for 175 homes to be built on a 10.4 hectare area off Wilkin’s Green Lane and, off Coopers Green Lane, 2,000 homes and a gypsy and traveller pitch on a 131.4ha site.

The green buffer between Hatfield and St Albans would be compromised as a result according to St Albans district councillor for Colney Heath Chris Brazier.

Hatfield’s urban footprint looks set to sprawl closer to the St Albans district after WHBC released its planning blueprint, the Emerging Core Strategy, outlining its hopes for 7,200 new homes by 2029.

St Albans Civic Society has warned that the document, released for public consultation at the same time there has been a furore locally over plans to build up to 350 homes on Green Belt land at Oaklands College, “will bring little or no benefit to St Albans”.

While WHBC also highlights a 14.8ha Green Belt location next to Alban Way, near Nast Hyde Farm, it said the land, with capacity for 370 homes, is not suitable for development.

The council is updating its 2005 district plan and will conduct a Green Belt boundary review around both Welwyn and Hatfield to identify a supply of land for the next 17 years.

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There is more than one landowner involved in putting forward a large chunk of land currently used for agriculture, horse grazing and light industry off Coopers Green Lane for possible development.

The council said while there were concerns about coalescence and sewerage and transport capacity for 2,000 additional homes the land, between Astwick Manor Cottages on Hatfield Avenue and Stanborough, was considered suitable for growth.

Cllr Brazier warned: “They are looking at extending the former airfield site. It is going to lead to Hatfield becoming part of St Albans. It’s a no-goer.”

In its recent newsletter the Civic Society exhorted St Albans’ residents to “wake up” to the threat of expansion.

The organisation said: “It seems that we are sleep-walking towards the greater St Albans-Hatfield-Welwyn linear city. Wake up!”

The owner of a 10.4ha Green Belt site around Great Nast Hyde House, near Notcutts in Smallford, proposed 230 homes, but WBHC said 175 was “more realistic”.

Just over seven hectares of that site is within the Welwyn/Hatfield area, with the remainder in St Albans district.

The council said there was capacity for 115 homes within WBHC’s boundary so land within St Albans’ jurisdiction would need to be identified and brought forward as part of the district council’s Local Plan for the other 60.

Cllr Brazier asked what schools children would attend if the housing schemes came to fruition, and how infrastructure in east St Albans would cope.

Consultation on the borough council’s strategy ends on Thursday January 31. There is a public exhibition on the blueprint at Green Lanes Primary School, Hatfield, from 2-8.30pm on Tuesday January 15.