Countryside group warns of hidden threat to St Albans Green Belt

Green belt land near Hatfield Business Park, off Coopers Green Lane and Hatfield Avenue

Green belt land near Hatfield Business Park, off Coopers Green Lane and Hatfield Avenue - Credit: Archant

THE threat of thousands of homes and a new gypsy and travellers’ site to possibly be built on green fields separating St Albans from Hatfield has prompted countryside campaigners to urge residents to oppose the idea.

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.

But there are fears that Hatfield’s urban footprint would sprawl closer to the St Albans district as a result of the council’s planning blueprint.

WHBC has released two documents for public consultation, setting out its hopes for 7,200 new homes by 2029.

But the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Herts director Kevin FitzGerald warned that the true threat to the Green Belt was not spelt out in the council’s draft plans.

He has urged residents in St Albans, East Herts and Welwyn Hatfield to respond to the proposals, because of their potential impact.

Kevin said he hoped the council would be “persuaded to be up-front about their proposals and reconsider them”.

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While 6,800 of the target 7,200 new homes WHBC wants built would be in the council’s jurisdiction, 400 would be on adjoining land in St Albans and East Herts districts.

The council also wants to set a further target to provide land for an additional 2,000 new houses which would be built on the Green Belt, bringing a total of more than 5,000 new homes in the Green Belt.

The information is contained in two documents out for consultation until January 31 – the council’s Emerging Core Strategy, and Land for Housing Outside the Urban Areas, which details Green Belt development sites.

WHBC has indicated it is keen to have 175 homes built on a Green Belt site around Great Nast Hyde House, near Notcutts in Smallford – 115 of which would be in that borough, and the remainder under St Albans’ jurisdiction.

St Albans district council’s portfolio holder for planning, Councillor Teresa Heritage, said: “We were concerned to see that WHBC had included building within St Albans district.

“However, we should make it clear that there will no building within the district without the approval of St Albans district council.

“We have spoken to WHBC and will respond to the consultation, and we would encourage local residents to do so also.

“But given the district council’s decision to undertake an independent Green Belt review in St Albans, the study will have to look at these sorts of sites [mentioned in WHBC’s consultation] and consider what is best for the entire district.”

St Albans Civic Society recently asked St Albans’ residents to “wake up” to the threat of expansion.

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

Consultation on the planning blueprint ends on Thursday January 31.