Harpenden campaigner fights development

Affordable housing could be built in Harpenden

A CAMPAIGNER has warned the district council that it has “ignored and trampled” the feelings of Harpenden residents after potentially paving the way for a controversial development on a former allotment site.

St Albans district council (SADC) has backflipped yet again over the future of the former Westfield allotment site, owned by Harpenden town council (HTC), after cabinet on Tuesday agreed to give the latter right of way to the land.

However Carol Hedges, who has lived in the Westfield area for 23 years, told cabinet that there was strong opposition to proposed development of the site.

Cabinet agreed to grant HTC right of way over district council land to enable access via Willoughby Road and Beeching Close to the former allotment plot on Westfield Road subject to legal formalities.

The decision enables the town council to pursue plans to have the site developed to provide both affordable housing and adult residential care accommodation.

SADC had previously given right of way to HTC to access the land, but this decision was revoked by cabinet in September last year.

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After the meeting Carol said: “I think that the decision completely flies in the face of what the community wants; I don’t think the councillors are listening to the local community, because we have not been included in the decision-making process. They have altered the ‘spec’ yet again.”

However the cabinet’s decision has been welcomed by Patrick Fisher, a trustee of Harpenden Mencap, a local independent charity for people with learning disabilities and their families.

He said: “We are enormously relieved because the development that is proposed fulfils community needs, not just for people on low income, but also for learning disabled people.”

The town council has held informal discussions with both Mencap about the possibility of using half of the site for adult residential accommodation and the district council about using the other half for affordable housing.

It is envisaged that some of the affordable housing would be shared ownership while the remainder would be rented to people nominated by SADC from its housing waiting list.

Cllr Julian Daly, executive leader of SADC, said: “Cabinet was mindful of the need for affordable housing in Harpenden and of Mencap’s requirement for new facilities to continue to provide adult residential accommodation in the area.

“Harpenden town council can now decide whether to proceed with putting forward a planning application for its site.”

• Cabinet also agreed to transfer the Westfield recreation ground to HTC subject to legal formalities. However the land must continue to be used as a public open space, and HTC must come up with ways to minimise anti-social behaviour.