Fears over future of St Albans wildflower meadow

The wildlife meadow adjacent to Bedond Lane

The wildlife meadow adjacent to Bedond Lane - Credit: Archant

A protected wildflower meadow used by dogwalkers and families for years is being earmarked for the grazing of horses.

The meadow, also a haven for wildlife, borders Mayne Avenue and Bedmond Lane, St Albans, adjoining the Verulam Estate.

Now the owners, Banner Homes, has applied for planning permission to change the use of the meadow from agricultural land to the grazing of horses.

The situation is complicated by the fact that the meadow was successfully nominated as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) earlier this year which imposes certain conditions on the owners if they want to dispose of the land including treating a community group as a potential bidder should they wish.

Banner Homes, which was recently bought by Cala Homes, has appealed against the granting of an ACV and a hearing is scheduled for September.

A number of residents have objected to the application to graze horses and Cllr Fred Wartenberg, who represents Verulam Ward, has called it in for a committee decision.

Among those opposed to the grazing scheme is Dr Robert Wareing whose family has lived 50 yards away from the meadow for over 40 years and described it as having stunning flora and rich and diverse fauna.

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He went on: “There are many varieties of birds, including jays, goldcrest and green woodpecker and the meadow is often overflown by red kites. It is not uncommon to see pheasants and partridges, even heron.

“Foxes, rabbits, voles and field mice are in abundance together with muntjac deer.

“Butterflies also flourish in this natural environment.”

Robert described the meadow as one of the few examples of a true natural wildflower and wildlife meadow remaining in the country, access to which would be denied to local people should chain link fencing go up around it.

And he voiced fears that as the application had been received so soon after the meadow was listed as an ACV, it might be a tactic by the developers to protect their land bank.

A number of objections have already been received by the council voicing fears that by turning the meadow into horse grazing land, the value would rise and it would be out of reach of community groups like the Verulam Residents Association should they wish to try and purchase it.