Further tracts of Green Belt in St Albans and Harpenden are under threat

Green Belt land for St Albans' SLP near Broad Colney lakes

Green Belt land for St Albans' SLP near Broad Colney lakes - Credit: Archant

Developers eyeing up tracts of Green Belt land near schools, lakes, tourist attractions and sports fields are to be invited to discuss their plans with the district council.

The local authority is opening the door to developers because of fears that four parcels of land pinpointed for future growth in its draft Strategic Local Plan (SLP) might not meet specific infrastructure and housing needs.

The four extra sites are located near Butterfly World in Chiswell Green, the Broad Colney Lakes in London Colney, Woollams playing fields in St Albans and a Harpenden primary school.

The surprise admission came as councillors spoke about the draft planning blueprint, which sets out where the district is likely to expand to cope with future population growth.

Four thousand homes are already earmarked in the plan at four Green Belt sites, at Oaklands College, two sites to the east of Hemel Hempstead and north west of Harpenden.

But during a recent planning policy committee meeting, chairman, Cllr Julian Daly, said there were many factors to take into account before releasing those parcels from the Green Belt.

These include whether the four sites could offer a range of housing, particularly affordable, as well as contribute to infrastructure needs, such as educational, community, sport and recreation facilities.

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Cllr Daly said: “At the moment we have officers’ views saying the four sites could deliver these but we don’t have a great amount of detail on what they could deliver.”

When planning consultants initially looked at possible strategic housing sites in the Green Belt for the SLP, they suggested eight parcels of land could be built upon which would not significantly reduce gaps between settlements.

The council then stated its preferred four sites and consulted the public upon them.

But at the planning meeting on June 11, it was agreed that talks be held with developers of all eight strategic parcels of land, because there is no certainty that those proposed in the plan could fund expensive water, wastewater and transportation work.

The additional four areas include land earmarked north of St Albans, along Sandridgebury Lane.

With a total area of around 38 hectares, the arable land is north of Porters Wood, near Woollams playing fields and St Albans Girls’ School, which would be suitable for about 900 homes. Part of the site, known as Sewell Park, is at the heart of several failed planning applications from Hunston Properties.

A second parcel is north east of Harpenden, where around 750 homes could be built 1.6km from the town centre. The 32-hectare tract, which checks sprawl from Luton and Dunstable, includes land off Common Lane in Batford and is situated along Lower Luton Road, near Sauncey Wood Primary School.

The council also wants to speak about land in London Colney, earmarked for a potential 300 homes by consultants.

The 14-hectare site is located near St Bernadette Catholic Primary School, the Broad Colney Lakes Nature Reserve and the River Colne.

London Colney is the third largest settlement in the district and has grown substantially in recent years.

There is also a potential development site close to tourist attractions Butterfly World and Gardens of the Rose as well as St Albans Polo Club. The Chiswell Green site could provide 400 homes.

Cllr Daly explained that talks would be held with developers of all eight sites, as “we have to seek the views of different developers and take the most attractive offer”.

He said development sites could not be taken forward if those promoting them were not prepared to make a financial contribution towards expensive infrastructure such as wastewater and transportation.