Controversial Harpenden home scheme on wildlife habitat granted extension

PUBLISHED: 17:00 20 October 2018

Westfield Road allotment Harpenden.

Westfield Road allotment Harpenden.

Archant

Plans to build homes over a protected snail habitat in Harpenden is on track to be realised, after being granted an extension.

Westfield Road allotment Harpenden.Westfield Road allotment Harpenden.

Fierce battles have been waging for years over the former Westfield Road allotments site because Harpenden Town Council (HTC) want it for housing and campaigners want it left undisturbed.

Although it has not been used as allotments since 1999, a 2km diameter of the site is home to breeding birds, toads, frogs, slow-worms, grass snakes and Roman snails - or helix pomatia, which are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

An HTC commissioned investigation in April to May 2016 and May 2017 found 66 snails living on the space.

The report stressed that figure is most probably higher as the area could not be extensively searched by hand.

Westfield Road allotment Harpenden.Westfield Road allotment Harpenden.

However, on July 16 HTC obtained outline planning permission for 24 homes on the 0.6 hectare space, under the condition that a Section 106 agreement is provided by October 15.

This is despite problems determining who owns the strip of land vital for site access - a problem campaigners have pointed out on numerous occasions.

As part of the application, the breeding snail population will be split up and relocated.

It was promised that 100 per cent of those houses would be affordable, although only eight socially rented.

Westfield Road allotment Harpenden.Westfield Road allotment Harpenden.

St Albans district council (SADC) Planning Referrals Committee has just granted an extension on that Section 106 document, to December 15.

HTC missed the deadline due to a disagreement over the definition of affordable housing.

In July, Cllr Eileen Harris, said: “If you go and visit the site you will see it is a complete, overgrown jungle.

“Even if it was allotments, the snails probably wouldn’t exist because of that blue stuff and I think it’s very good use of this land because we haven’t had anything affordable for as long as outside of my time as a councillor.”

Westfield Road allotment Harpenden.Westfield Road allotment Harpenden.

Campaigners have been fighting to save the snail habitat for nearly two decades, but despite this, councillors were joking in the July meeting.

Cllr Lyn Bolton said: “I’m not sure that the Roman snails really want to be moved from Harpenden to Hemel Hempstead mind.”

Cllr Jock Wright added: “I’m sure there is a Roman road they can wander along.”

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