Former St Albans mental health hospital could be homes site

ID shots for stories on the Green Belt and future expansion of St Albans, Harperbury, Harperbury hos

ID shots for stories on the Green Belt and future expansion of St Albans, Harperbury, Harperbury hospital, Harper lane, Meadow Avenue, Kingsley Green Hospital - Credit: Archant

WHAT was once home to a large mental health hospital could soon be turned into a major housing development now that the land has been put up for sale.

The 242-acre former Harperbury Hospital site in Harper Lane, St Albans, is being sold on behalf of the Department of Health (DH) as a potential residential development area.

But the county and district councillor for the area, Aislinn Lee, is concerned about the shortage of facilities near to the Green Belt site, and the current lack of infrastructure such as bus routes.

The site has already been identified in St Albans district council’s draft Strategic Local Plan (SLP) as a piece of land that could have between 300 and 400 new homes built on it and an 80-bed healthcare facility.

In addition, it has been earmarked as a suitable location for a new secondary free school which is due to open in September 2014. The DH is currently in discussions about the proposal and if it goes ahead some of the area would be excluded from the initial purchase.

Since the 1930s the site has been used as a mental health and learning disability centre and more recently was renamed Kingsley Green. While some buildings are still being occupied, at least half of them are now vacant and boarded up.

In the draft SLP the council outlined its intention to integrate the hospital with the wider community and introduce shared facilities including a gym, recreational space and allotments.

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Cllr Lee said that while she would like to see it used for alternative healthcare facilities, infrastructure would have to be put in place for it to be used for residential purposes.

She said: “I would have no problems whatsoever in having replacement health provision there because that is a given but what the district council seems to forget when it looks at Green Belt sites is the sustainability aspect. There are no facilities nearby.

“I know there is a suggestion that there should be a secondary school there but frankly I am very unhappy about that.

“There is no question in my mind that there is a need for a new secondary school but I am concerned that the parents in my locality, if that school was to become a reality, could see themselves having to get their children to that site as there is no public transport.”

Potential purchasers are being told they would need to “maximise the potential for the site” through securing planning consent, as well as uphold existing arrangements with the bowls and junior football club.