Could St Albans end up merging with neighbouring Hatfield?

Land off Coopers Green Lane

Land off Coopers Green Lane - Credit: Archant

While London Mayor Boris Johnson talks up controversial plans to offload capital city dwellers to the likes of St Albans, our nearer neighbours are seeking to populate Green Belt land close to home.

Although Mr Johnson’s draft London Plan shows that he does not mind the gap, Welwyn Hatfield borough council (WHBC) is not just eyeing up the gap between St Albans and Hatfield - it wants to build thousands of homes and gipsy pitches on it.

As revealed in the Herts Advertiser several years ago, WHBC also hopes to pave the way for new travellers’ and gipsy sites.

Tomorrow (Friday) sees the release of its Local Plan for public consultation, with the council seeking views on whether it should - and can - build 12,500 homes, at a rate of 625 a year in the borough until 2031.

But that is 5,000 more houses than the 7,200 proposed in WHBC’s Emerging Core Strategy in 2012, its draft planning blueprint which drew more than 6,000 responses from people.


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That target has been inflated from two years ago, on the back of consultants’ advice.

Then, it was suggested 175 homes could be built on a 10.4 hectare Green Belt site off Wilkin’s Green Lane, near Notcutts in Smallford.

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Now, the council considers such development is not ideal as it would lessen a “narrow strategic Green Belt gap between Hatfield and St Albans”.

And the figure of 2,000 homes on a 131.4ha tract of land off Coopers Green Lane has been decreased.

WHBC now suggests building 1,350 houses on the strategic site, to provide affordable housing. It is still the proposed location of gipsy and travellers’ pitches.

And the council would also like a new primary school built there, but admitted additional “stress” would be placed on the nearby A1 (M).

There are also hopes of building 1,100 homes at a strategic site near Smallford, which would include a travellers’ and gipsy pitch.

The plan warns that sites beyond the borough boundaries “including 1,000 dwellings anticipated in St Albans adjoining Oaklands College will need to be factored in when considering infrastructure requirements.”

Welwyn Hatfield is bordered by St Albans to the west - nearly 80 per cent of the borough is designated Green Belt.

In 2012 St Albans Civic Society warned that WHBC’s draft strategy was of no benefit to this area, while the district council frowned upon the risk of coalescence.

To comment on the plan see www.welhat.gov.uk/localplan

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