Forewarned is forearmed about Green Belt homes for Harpenden residents

Green Belt land to the rear of Harpenden Road

Green Belt land to the rear of Harpenden Road - Credit: Archant

Green Belt campaigners briefed Harpenden residents who attended Strategic Local Plan (SLP) meetings in the town - before they went in.

The Harpenden Green Belt Association had a team of people handing out a briefing note to everyone who attended the sessions held in the Town Hall from Thursday to Saturday last week.

And the feedback that the pressure group received was that the planners had problems answering the questions resulting in some of the exchanges with residents becoming heated.

St Albans council has identified four Green Belt locations across the district which could become housing sites should Green Belt land have to be released to meet government targets.

One of them is land to the north west of Harpenden bordered by Cooters End Lane and Ambrose Lane which it is estimated could take up to 500 new homes.

Harpenden Green Belt Association has led the outcry which has greeted the proposal, arguing that the town cannot cope with more vehicles and is already bursting at the seams.

They also fear that if the requisite number of homes cannot be built on the land to the north west of Harpenden, further Green Belt sites in the town will be put forward for possible development.

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Among the issues that the Green Belt Association asked residents to question before last week’s meetings was for whom the homes would actually be built - the children and grandchildren of existing residents or people coming in from outside the town?

They also urged residents to question the impact of extra journeys on the A1081 Luton Road adjoining the potential site and to point out what extra homes could mean for school places, GP surgeries, dentists, hospital beds and even an upgraded sewage system.

A spokesperson for the association said that residents had complained about only receiving ‘stock answers’ from the planners at the meetings who said that they did not have responsibility for further congestion on the trains, on the roads, a shortage of school places or the provision of medical services.

He added: “There is, therefore, very obviously no encompassing ‘strategy’, only a desire to build houses without assessing the environmental consequences first and having the power to control the rate of house building.”

The SLP is the council’s planning framework, naming potential sites for thousands of homes to be built throughout the district at a rate of 436 annually for 20 years until 2031.

The council is hoping to avoid the release of Green Belt land but has identified the Harpenden site, two sites adjoining Hemel Hempstead to the west of the M1 and land at Oaklands College, St Albans, as having the potential to be released if necessary.