Harpenden councillor appeals against planning decision

A SCHEME to build a detached home with new access across Harpenden Common has landed a town councillor at odds with St Albans district council.

Cllr Lee Jackson wants to build a four-bedroom house and four-bay garage on a site currently used as the rear garden of his home Greygates which is within the Harpenden conservation area.

St Albans district council, which rejected his application, said the proposed new driveway to the site over common land from Eastmoor Park, an unclassified local road with a 30mph speed limit, was wider than the road it would join as Eastmoor Park had a width of five metres and the proposed access would be six metres wide.

The council felt it would have a negative impact on the rural character and appearance of the area and would effectively become an urbanising feature.

Neighbours had voiced concerns about safety, further erosion of the common, potential loss of wildlife and suggested that access be provided from the existing driveway instead.

A former Harpenden resident, Martin Hockridge, said he was “shocked” at Cllr Jackson’s planning bid to create an access road “through part of our common land.”

Mr Hockridge, a gardener whose mother still lives at Eastmoor, said he had fond memories of growing up in the area and playing on the common as a youngster.

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The 47 year old said: “Local children have always played in this overgrown area which is rich in wildlife, formerly home to muntjac deer, pheasants and even the occasional fallow deer.”

He said he had been amazed recently to see workers clearing that part of the common, which he remembered as a “haven for wildlife.”

Mr Hockridge recalled: “It was a wild bit of common, overgrown with brambles, ferns, it was pretty inaccessible. I have seen workmen up there on this little stretch of common which has been manicured like it’s someone’s private garden. It will take years to recover.”

Cllr Jackson has now appealed against the council’s decision to the Secretary of State, saying that the proposed driveway is not an unusual let alone a unique feature in the landscape of Harpenden Common.

His appeal continues: “The proposal for the driveway is supported by the Town Council who are the guardians of the Common Lands and who carry the responsibility for their management and maintenance. They perceive the proposal as an opportunity to open up and rejuvenate a neglected and thus unusable corner of the common.”

Cllr Jackson refused to comment on either the application or the appeal although he confirmed that he had lived at Eastmoor Park for 23 years. He also pointed out that the town council had agreed to give him wayleave across the common.

Harpenden council’s town clerk, John Bagshaw, confirmed that the wayleave across the common land had already been approved in principle but was dependent on the Secretary of State’s decision. He went on: “It’s not unusual to have wayleaves across common land.”

Mr Bagshaw explained that scrub and deadwood had been cleared in the area to enable people to walk safely across the land, rather than be forced onto the road.

He added: “We have been clearing lots of areas of the common to make it traversable. We want to manage the common, so people can walk through it. We are very conscious of the fact there is wildlife and we are very sensitive to ensure any work that we do doesn’t compromise habitat.”