Extra 4,000 homes could be built on St Albans and Harpenden Green Belt

Green Belt land in Harpenden along Luton Road, earmarked for possible urban expansion in St Albans d

Green Belt land in Harpenden along Luton Road, earmarked for possible urban expansion in St Albans district council's draft Strategic Local Plan - Credit: Archant

Thousands more homes than St Albans council is planning for look likely to be built in the Green Belt.

Instead of the 9,000 new homes over the next 20 years that the council is working on in its draft planning blueprint, the Strategic Local Plan (SLP). revised figures from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) suggest that it could be as high as 13,000.

With a finite number of brownfield sites, That suggests an additional 4,000 homes would have to be built in the Green Belt - on top of the 4,000 already being proposed in the SLP - doubling the number required on greenfield land.

Currently the council is proposing that, should it become necessary to build in the Green Belt, 2,500 new homes would be constructed on land east of Hemel Hempstead and close to Redbourn, 1,000 at Oaklands College in Smallford and 500 in north west Harpenden.

The issue of the new housing target was raised by Brian Parker of MLP Planning at a recent meeting of St Albans council’s planning policy committee which has been looking at responses to the draft SLP.

He pointed out that the DCLG was projecting 637 new homes per annum as a ‘starting point’ for calculating the district’s housing needs in the period 2011-31 covered by the draft SLP. That is a considerably higher number than the 436 new homes in the district on which the council is working.

He was told that the council was still working on the possible impact of the figures.

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Cllr David Mitchell, chairman of Redbourn parish council and speaking on behalf of RAGE - Redbourn Against Greenbelt Erosion - set up to fight the proposals to build 1,500 new homes east of Hemel Hempstead, said that the owners of that land, Crown Estates, wanted to build an additional 1,000 homes there.

He warned: “Potentially there would be no fields between Redbourn and the new housing. At the moment there is ribbon development along Hemel Hempstead Road but this would in fact be building another village the same size as Redbourn.”

He went on: “It is easy for St Albans council to say build on land to the east of Hemel Hempstead but this would just add to such horrendous problems as infrastructure and the environment.”

He pointed to the Highways Agency response to the draft SLP which had been highly critical of the lack of information about potential infrastructure measures that might be required as a result of large-scale new housing in the district.

Calling for transparency over the exact number of new houses the district would be required to build, David added: “My feeling is that if the district council says we are happy to build on the Green Belt it will happen but if they say we don’t want to, the government will say you don’t have to.”

Chris Briggs, St Albans council’s spatial planning manager, confirmed that the DCLG had recently increased its household projection figures for the district for 2011 to 2031 from around 11,000 to 13,000.

He said: “These figures are based on a number of historic trends, including births, deaths and movement of people around the country. An independent demographics expert has already produced a Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) on behalf of the council setting out an estimate of the district’s future housing need based on the earlier DCLG figures.

“We have now commissioned the same expert to analyse these latest figures and he will provide a report updating the SHMA to the planning policy committee in the coming months.”