Council calls in Harpenden allotment site decision

A RAFT of reasons have been given for a decision to scrutinise the granting of a right of way over district council land which will allow former allotment land to be developed.

St Albans council’s overview and scrutiny committee has “called in” a decision by the Conservative-controlled cabinet to overturn a decision made under the previous Lib Dem administration not to allow access to the Westfield allotment site in Harpenden.

The latest cabinet decision will enable Harpenden Town Council to develop the land for affordable housing and potentially provide accommodation for Mencap.

The meeting, which is being held on September 5, will look at a number of issues around the latest decision including the overturning of the previous cabinet’s decision to work with the town council to provide allotments and a community garden on the site.

It will also examine the lack of consultation with local residents on their views about the restoration of the land to allotments, the “undue haste” with which the decision was overturned by the new cabinet and the lack of explanation and reason for the decision.

Cllr Robert Donald, chair of the scrutiny committee, was chair of cabinet before the May election, said: “Local residents have been arguing for some time that this open space should be returned to its former allotment use to meet local demand.

“The previous cabinet agreed with this and was committed to working with Harpenden town council and residents to restore this site as allotments and community garden.”

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He said that without consulting local residents, the new cabinet had “immediately reversed this decision in favour of housing development.”

Cllr Donald maintains that there are a number of questions that members of the scrutiny committee will want answering about the lack of consultation, the right of residents to determine their local environment and the financial arrangements which he believes will benefit the town council but not the district council.

Anyone wishing to speak at the scrutiny meeting can register their interest from next Thursday afternoon, August 25, until 3pm on the day of the meeting by telephoning Paul Warne on 01727 819520 or Catherine Comfort on 01727 819529 stating whether or not they are in favour or against the call in. Four people will be allowed to speak at the meeting – two for and two against.