Former allotment land in Harpenden debated

Residents’ human rights not respected claims councillor

ALLOWING houses to be built on former allotment land in Harpenden could set a dangerous precedent and pave the way for developers to build on recreational land elsewhere in St Albans, a district councillor has warned.

Speaking at a lengthy, at times fiery, St Albans council overview and scrutiny committee meeting on Monday, the former portfolio holder for planning, Lib Dem Cllr Chris Brazier, said he was concerned about the possibility of homes being built on the Westfield Road plot.

Harpenden town council has long wanted to build affordable housing on the site but the issue of access to the site has proved a bugbear.

The controversial site was discussed yet again after committee chairman, Lib Dem Cllr Robert Donald, called in a recent decision of the new Tory-led administration’s Cabinet, which overturned a previous decision to have Harpenden town council (HTC) reinstate the land back to allotments and community garden land.

Instead, it has agreed to permit HTC access over district council land to the former allotment site which it owns and transfer ownership of the Westfield recreation ground to the town council.

Cllr Donald warned that the human rights of residents who wanted to see the land restored to allotments instead of being developed had not been respected.

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Harpenden resident Carol Hedges, speaking in support of the call-in, handed out empty snail shells and said protected Roman snails lived at Westfield and would present a “major flaw to anyone wanting to develop that site.”

And Cllr Brazier added: “Harpenden may have a need to build housing but how is that going to affect me in my area [Colney Heath] if developers start coming in and saying they want wayleaves to allotments to build housing. I think you are going down a very dangerous path here.”

He suggested that six electors or council taxpayers living near Westfield could write in to the council demanding allotments be reinstated close to their homes, exercising their rights under the Small Holdings and Allotments Act (1908) as the local authority has a statutory duty to provide a sufficient number of plots.

A series of rows erupted between Cllr Donald and Cabinet chairman, Tory Councillor Julian Daly, who was asked to explain the decision to allow the town council right of way to the former allotment site.

Cllr Donald also alleged there was a possible “conflict of interest” as some members of cabinet were on both the town and district councils but that was scotched by the council’s head of legal services, Mike Lovelady.

After a mammoth three-and-a-half-hour-long debate Cabinet’s decision ended up being endorsed by the overview committee.