Bricket Wood’s Building Research Establishment homes plan back on agenda

A CONTENTIOUS housing scheme which was taken out of the district council’s planning blueprint is back for consideration.

In April, St Albans cabinet backed a recommendation that the scheme for 100 to 150 new homes on the BRE site in Bricket Wood should be taken out of its deliberations on the core strategy of the Local Development Framework (LDF).

But a meeting of the council’s planning advisory panel has reinstated the potential housing scheme in the pre-submission draft document which is being prepared to go out for consultation.

Councillors felt that the scheme, should it go ahead, should include some age-restricted housing to meet the need for elderly care provision and steps taken to reduce the impact on local roads at peak hours.

Bricket Wood Residents Association had raised a petition against the housing scheme because of the depth of concern in the village.

They argued that residential development was not only inappropriate for infrastructure and traffic and transport reasons but it would lead to coalescence between their village and Garston.

Cabinet subsequently agreed to take it out of the plan after the then planning portfolio holder, Cllr Chris Brazier, said that BRE did not want housing on the site but needed it to fund a sustainable eco park for green businesses.

Most Read

Cabinet agreed instead to help BRE seek additional funding to enable the improvements to the site to go ahead without the need for new homes and look into making up the housing shortfall by expanding the Harperbury Hospital site by 150 homes.

Cllr Brazier this week accused the new Tory-controlled council of “burying” the reintroduced housing scheme under the economic strategy section of the core strategy.

“I think that is a sneaky way of doing it,” he said. “There was a very strong lobby against it.”

But new planning portfolio holder, Cllr Teresa Heritage, defended the inclusion pointing out that although many potential development sites had been identified within the district’s urban areas and brownfield sites, the council still had a shortfall in the land required to deliver its housing targets.

“In order to meet this shortfall the council has to identify larger sites that could potentially be used for housing development in the future.

“At this time the broad location of such sites are at Harperbury Hospital, Oaklands College campus in Smallford and the BRE.”

Cllr Heritage stressed that it was only the first step in delivering an up-to-date LDF to provide the policies which were needed to protect the district from inappropriate development and provide the council with the mechanisms for ensuring that the appropriate infrastructure was delivered when development took place.

She added: “However the core strategy is a living document and no firm decision has been made as to its final content.

“It will be for full council in September to make that decision.”