Fears that failed St Albans Strategic Local Plan has put district in a 'vulnerable position'
PUBLISHED: 15:00 01 December 2016
There are fears that St Albans council's failed Strategic Local Plan (SLP) has put the district in a weak position when it comes to building major housing developments.
After planning inspector David Hogger this week signalled his likely rejection of the document, St Albans MP Anne Main said: “I am very disappointed that the SLP has stalled. This puts the district in a vulnerable position.
“Without the plan progressing on to the next stage, we can’t know if the housing totals are acceptable. This could have a significant knock-on effect on where is best to build in St Albans.”
She urged: “I hope that the council can move forward rapidly to resolve the outstanding issues to get the plan back on track.”
The inspector’s reaction came as no surprise to villagers in Redbourn, who have spent years fighting the council’s moves to pave the way for 2,500 homes in the parish’s Green Belt – including near to the Buncefield depot.
Parish council chairman, Cllr David Mitchell, said: “The whole thing is an utter mess. The draft SLP may have failed the duty to cooperate issue, but it’s clear the government inspector also has serious doubts about the soundness of the plan.”
Cllr Mitchell added that, “time and time again” he had asked the council why it had chosen land near the rural village as a future strategic housing site “and how they would provide all the necessary infrastructure, but I was fobbed off with evasive answers.
“I came to the conclusion that the decision to build so many houses in Redbourn was a political one rather than the result of good planning. Having seen the inspector’s damning report on the SLP, I think I was right.”
Cllr Mitchell went on: “Unfortunately it’s ended up a dog’s breakfast and it’s going to take some sorting out. I hope the district council won’t continue to say they are right and everyone else is wrong because that won’t help matters.
“They need to take a fresh look at their approach and move forward in a fair and honest manner, engaging fully with all those with a particular interest in the outcome.
“At the end of the day, we all want the same thing: a good development plan for the district with the right housing in the right places.”
A spokesman for the Harpenden Green Belt Association said members had “long warned the council that the job of drafting a local plan had to be approached with care.”
He said this was particularly the case in places such as St Albans district where the Green Belt “is so much valued by residents” and was to be protected.
The spokesman added: “However, the council has been resolutely determined to press ahead with a plan designed to put the achievement of political consensus among councillors above compliance with planning law and policy or the objective collection and assessment of evidence.
“The result is a shocking waste of council taxpayers’ money.”