Appeal against planning refusal for St Albans school site

A BID to build new houses as well as installing sports pitches and an all-weather pitch on land at a St Albans secondary school is going to a public inquiry in April.

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the county council are appealing against St Albans council’s decision to refuse outline permission for a mixed use development on land at Beaumont School and to the north of Winches Farm on Hatfield Road.

District councillors controversially decided to refuse the most recent planning application for sports facilities and new homes while at the same time retaining it as a possible housing site in its core strategy of the Local Development Framework (LDF) – the council’s planning blueprint for the future.

Although a decision has since been made to take all educational sites out of the core strategy for the time being, the two parties have decided to go to appeal over the planning refusal because they do not believe the reasons for turning it down have been substantiated.

Councillors cited its Green Belt location, the impact on the proposed housing – up to 75 new homes – on the character and appearance of the locality and the lack of affordable housing and financial contributions to the local provision of such requirements as road improvements, educational needs and leisure facilities.

The applicants maintain that the “very special circumstances” of the application clearly outweigh the harm to the Green Belt and single out the problems the school faces on an overcrowded site coupled with a lack of accommodation for teaching, sports and recreation.

They point out that in the absence of funding to either rebuild or remodel the school, it is not possible to remedy the deficits without enlarging the site.

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A financial appraisal had shown that the residential development would enable the improved facilities for Beaumont to be built and the applicants say that benefits to both the school and the wider community from the scheme would endure for many years to come.

They do not accept that the new homes would harm the character and appearance of the locality with the housing layout redesigned to separate school-related traffic from the new residential area.

On the question of affordable housing and financial contributions to the provision of services, they expect agreement to be reached with the council before the appeal is heard.

The planning inquiry is due to be heard on April 5 in the St Albans council offices and run for four days.