Campaigners fight to protect St Albans countryside from housing development

Cllr Mary Maynard.

Cllr Mary Maynard. - Credit: Archant

Campaigners are fighting a development which will see 11,000 homes built between St Albans and Dacorum.

Cllr Maynard with the draft Local Plan. Picture: SADC

Cllr Maynard with the draft Local Plan. Picture: SADC - Credit: Archant

The government gave St Albans District Council and Dacorum Borough Council £750,000 to fund further studies for the Hemel Garden Communities Development, which will cover countryside and Green Belt land to the north and east of Hemel Hempstead.

Members of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) argue that the development contradicts the National Planning Policy Framework’s long-term commitment to protect the Green Belt.

CPRE Hertfordshire director Kevin Fitzgerald said: “We should stop wasting public money, protect this open countryside and prioritise greatly enhanced public transport between Hemel Hempstead and St Albans as a boost to their town centres, local economies and to reduce congestion.”

The proposed development includes a new orbital road from Junction 8 of the M1, which the CPRE believes will extend traffic noise over a large area. They also argue that the Green Belt location does not support sustainable development or align with the need to address climate change and carbon reduction targets.

St Albans District Council’s Local Plan is required to meet mandated housing targets to address the current housing crisis. The council’s target is to build around 14,500 homes between 2020 and 2036.

Cllr Mary Maynard, portfolio holder for planning, explained that 5,000 homes can be delivered on brownfield sites within the district, with 9,500 still to be built elsewhere. As 82 per cent of St Albans is Green Belt, and the rest is built on, she explained that the council has no choice but to build on the Green Belt.

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She said: “Personally, I would prefer not to use Green Belt. However, the lack of housing, particularly affordable housing, is causing significant social and economic issues for people.

“Families are trapped in housing where they have no security of tenure, many are living in overcrowded, damp, unhealthy conditions. Young people are unable to find somewhere decent to live. How we handle this crisis will shape the future of housing in this country for generations.”

The public will have a chance to comment on the Local Plan at future public inspections.