Crown Estate housing scheme would change St Albans district forever

The Crown Estate

The Crown Estate - Credit: Archant

An exhibition on proposals to build 2,500 new homes on the borders of the St Albans district has done nothing to allay fears about the scale of the development and its local impact.

Crown Estate land in the Green Belt to the east of Hemel Hempstead but within the St Albans boundary has been earmarked by the district council for a major development as part of its new housing requirement in its Strategic Local Plan (SLP).

The Crown Estate held an exhibition of its proposals for 2,500 new homes and 8,000 jobs at consultation events last month attended by a total of 600 people.

But the proposal has caused even more dismay to residents of Redbourn who have long feared the impact on their village - and to add to their concerns, they have discovered that a new spine road is proposed to run parallel with the M1 up to Redbourn at Junction 9.

They fear it will result in a huge increase in traffic in and around the village and add to the problems created for Redbourn by 1,500 of the new homes which will be built north east of the oil refinery Buncefield on fields separating the village from Hemel Hempstead.

The remaining 1,000 homes are earmarked for land near Leverstock Green which forms part of the Gorhambury Estate.

Cllr David Mitchell, chair of Redbourn parish council, said that people in the village were up in arms about the proposal and the one good thing which had come out of the Crown Estate exhibition of its proposals was that it had served as ‘a wake-up call’ to people in Leverstock Green who had previously been unaware of the impact on them.

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He said that nothing in the exhibition had changed people’s views about the likely impact on the village. “Redbourn parish council hasn’t changed its position and is still very much against the loss of so much Green Belt for development which means Hemel Hempstead and Redbourn grow ever closer. The public exhibition hasn’t changed that position.”

Cllr Mitchell said that the main concern of the exhibition appeared to be the preferred route of the spine road. He went on: “If that gets built, it is going to be a very busy road and enable people to make their way up to Junction 9 without using the motorway.”

He went on: “I can see Redbourn becoming a bit of a a giant roundabout. The whole thing could be a nightmare and a lot of this was fed back to the Crown Estate.”

Redbourn already has a proposed development of up to 1,000 new homes, Spencer Park, on its doorstep and Cllr Mitchell questioned at what stage major infrastructure such as schools would be built if the additional new homes went ahead.

He warned there would be enormous pressure on schools in Harpenden and north Hemel Hempstead if the additional homes were built at the density proposed.

He added: “The Crown Estate is doing its best to put a positive spin on it but the reality is that people in Redbourn don’t want this development and see it as the wrong use for the Green Belt and have serious concerns about the lack of information about how it is to be done.

“The big danger is that if the development goes ahead in the way it is proposed, in the next few decades it will be just like Greater London.”

The Crown Estate described the exhibition as ‘a great opportunity for us to listen to residents’ feedback and understand local issues.”

Strategic land manager, Steve Melligan, said: “We will use the feedback to help us produce a draft masterplan which we intend to consult on in spring next year.”