Harpenden Green Belt housing review was ‘unsound’, say campaigners

Green Belt land to the rear of Harpenden Road

Green Belt land to the rear of Harpenden Road - Credit: Archant

Strong criticism has been levelled at the methodology used by the district council when proposing to take land out of the Green Belt to meet housing targets.

Harpenden Green Belt Association (HGBA) has hit out at the ‘unsound’ methodology of the council’s Green Belt review which is part of its consultation into its draft planning blueprint, The Strategic Local Plan (SLP).

HGBA is particularly concerned at the potential release of land in a strategic area on the northern outskirts of Harpenden in the vicinity of Luton Road, Cooters End and Ambrose Lane. The council anticipates that the land could take in the region of 500 new homes.

It is one of four sites in the district as a whole which could lose their Green Belt designation and HGBA maintains that the process by which the sites have been selected is ‘patently unsound: illogical, inconsistent and unsupported by, or flatly contrary to, evidence and previous assessments.”

The association accuses the council of selecting the four sites without reference to the impact on the Green Belt and without any weight given to the extent to which they fulfil Green Belt purposes.

Among the issues they single out for criticism is the council’s failure to have detailed discussions with Herts county council before scoring the sites on traffic and access grounds and the use of ‘as the crow flies’ distances rather than measuring walking routes.

HGBA accuses the council of completely ignoring a report it drew up on the Harpenden site which was more recent than the 2009 highways consultation carried out by the county council.

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It maintains that the 2009 HCC consultation was summarised in a misleading way and the district council had reached conclusions ‘wholly at odds’ with both that and a 2011 traffic consultants report commissioned by the county’s education department which emphasised the difficulties associated with traffic and access,

There is also criticism of the failure to take account of published Luton Airport projections and data collated and presented for recent developments along the Lower Luton Road.

With land likely to be taken out of the Green Belt for schools in Harpenden, HGBA points out that it is wrong to consult with residents about Green Belt changes for housing without identifying, “consequential changes to the Green Belt which will be required to accommodate schools and other infrastructure for that housing”.