Flood plain redevelopment will change face of Batford

St Albans district council is considering a housing and office scheme for Lea Industrial Estate in H

St Albans district council is considering a housing and office scheme for Lea Industrial Estate in Harpenden. Part of the site is on a flood plain. - Credit: Debbie White/Archant

A push to demolish derelict buildings to pave the way for about 70 apartments and office space along the banks of the River Lea has divided opinion in Harpenden.

Jarvis Homes and Plowman Craven have lodged a joint application with St Albans district council to build at the run-down Lea Industrial Estate, Lower Luton Road, in Batford.

Michael Margereson, spokesman for Jarvis, said the mixed use scheme included river restoration, a river walk and 20,000 sq ft of office space, 2,500 sq ft of which would be for community use.

He said it would regenerate the estate, improve public access to the river and provide 67 one and two-bedroom apartments.

The majority of the commercial buildings on the 1.3-hectare site stretching along the River Lea are currently empty and several have smashed windows.

But local resident Carol Hedges said she was concerned about the proposal as the riverside site was on a flood plain.

She added: “It should be given to the community to use as local green space because the scheme is for too much development and it does not address the risk of flooding.

Most Read

“Plus there are huge traffic problems on Lower Luton Road, which will get worse if other proposed developments in Batford go ahead, such as a new secondary school.”

Carol added: “I know it is a brownfield site but the question is, should it continue to be so?”

And Anne James, committee member of Batford Community Action Group, warned that the scheme was one of several mooted for the area that, if approved, “will change the face of Batford”.

She said the group, while “not anti-development”, was concerned about infrastructure and services needed to meet additional demand.

The scheme has also attracted support, mainly from people connected with Plowman Craven – which operates on the site – who said the estate has been neglected.

Harpenden town council has also supported the proposal as “the district is under pressure to provide housing”.

The River Lea has been described as one of the most important sources “for our understanding of the development of prehistoric Britain” by the council’s district archaeologist Simon West.

While recommending approval, Simon said that the area was located between two significant burials, a cremation burial at the Pickford Roman barrow and a Late Iron Age chieftain burial, which was recovered during the building of Harpenden railway station.

Cllr Mike Wakely has called the scheme in to be decided by a planning committee but said he “very much welcomed opening up the riverside”.