County defends sale of St Albans open space

Peter Cook. Bernards Heath housing development.

Peter Cook. Bernards Heath housing development. - Credit: Archant

A DECISION to market a piece of land used by dog walkers and children as part of a redevelopment scheme has been defended by the county council.

Last week it emerged that expressions of interest had been invited for the former Ariston Works in Harpenden Road, St Albans, and the adjoining Lower Field, a popular recreational area.

Although the county council had been expected to market part of the former Ariston Works for some time, the decision to include the Lower Field in the development brief led to fears that it too could be built on.

Peter Cook, chairman of the Friends of Bernards Heath which had unsuccessfully applied to get Village Green status for the Lower Field, questioned why the county council would be including the land in the sale package if it was not capable of redevelopment.

He argued that a developer would be unlikely to purchase the whole site if they could not develop the Lower Field because they would have to take on its maintenance costs.

But a county council spokesperson said this week that the Lower Field was not officially public open space at the moment.

In order for St Albans council as the local planning authority to designate it as public open space, it has to be part of the package of land sold by the county council for that designation to be required as a planning obligation for any planning application received for the Ariston Works site in the future.

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The district council vowed to defend the Lower Field for recreational use in its 2001 Planning Development Brief and has since said it will continue to protect it.