Fresh challenges for St Albans' Oaklands housing scheme
PUBLISHED: 12:30 27 January 2014
A bid to build hundreds of homes on the Green Belt has been dealt a further blow after countryside campaigners and the county’s highway authority called for its refusal.
Oaklands College and house builders Taylor Wimpey are jointly seeking planning permission for a mixed education and residential development at the college’s Smallford campus, off Hatfield Road, St Albans.
The scheme includes refurbishment of college buildings, funded through an “enabling” development of 348 homes, 643 parking spaces and new accessways.
But Herts county council has recommended that St Albans district council refuse permission because of road safety concerns as there has been a fatality and serious accidents nearby.
And Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Herts has described the site as a “highly sensitive part of the Green Belt”.
Campaigners said it helped to maintain the separation of St Albans from Smallford and Hatfield.
The group also questioned the need to build homes as an enabling development to provide the college money to fund the “entire £51 million cost of the project”.
CPRE said that while it accepted the need to refurbish the college, it was “out of proportion with what is acceptable given that it constitutes a substantial incursion of inappropriate development into the Green Belt”.
The county council warned the development could “interfere with the free and safe flow of traffic”.
The proposal is to make the current driveway the only means of vehicular access to the campus, off busy Hatfield Road, near Colney Heath Lane.
The council said that a pedestrian had been killed nearby, and five cyclists and four motorcyclists had recently suffered injuries between the Ashley Road mini-roundabouts and Smallford roundabout, “which indicates some concerns over vulnerable road users”.
It pointed out that the high volume of vehicles turning in or out of the college’s entrance was well above the threshold for a right turn lane.
With regard to the residential development, proposed for a site bounded by Sandpit Lane, the college campus and Verulam School playing fields, the council said it was not easily accessible by public transport as there were too few buses travelling that route.
It added: “The site is currently used as arable land and therefore all trips associated with the housing development will be new trips on the local road network.”
A pedestrian was killed on Oaklands Lane, which links Sandpit Lane to the Smallford roundabout.
The scheme, which is still under consideration by the district council, has had scores of objections from residents.