‘Harpenden ignored’ for homes development
POTENTIAL housebuilding sites in Harpenden and the north of the district have been ignored in the rush to build in the south according to angry councillors.
The comments came in the wake of last week’s full St Albans council meeting at which a controversial blueprint setting out the location of new homes in the district until 2028 was put on hold.
Several councillors criticised the preference for sites in south st Albans for future development omitting areas such as Harpenden.
All three of the sites which the council has been examining for potential housebuilding are in the south of the district - at Smallford, Park Street and Bricket Wood.
After the meeting Lib Dem group leader, Cllr Robert Donald, said: “The distribution of houses between the north and south of the district isn’t fair.”
And the party’s planning spokesman, Cllr Chris Brazier asked: “Why are we under enormous pressure in south St Albans to take the bulk of new houses and yet Harpenden isn’t? There is pressure to built on the Green Belt in this part of St Albans because of the cabinet’s decisions in the plan.
“Harpenden has no housing development proposed for it in the document, why is that? They [the Conservatives] haven’t looked at Harpenden or the rest of the district.”
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Labour group leader, Cllr Martin Leach, added: “They [Cons] haven’t done the job properly. The problem is that the plan is avoiding building in Harpenden.”
The council’s cabinet has come under fire in recent months because five of the six councillors who sit on it represent wards in Harpenden which has led to claims of bias in favour of the north of the district.
But planning portfolio holder, Cllr Teresa Heritage, insisted that the most sustainable locations had been chosen.
The fiery full council meeting ended with councillors voting by the narrowest of margins to independently review Green Belt boundaries and conduct a study on potential housing sites.
It followed the presentation of a petition by campaigners representing local residents objecting to fields off Sandpit Lane, St Albans, being earmarked for future development in the draft Strategic Local Plan – the council’s planning blueprint which includes the building of 4,250 homes, until 2028.
St Albans Mayor Cllr Eileen Harris used her casting vote in favour of the review, which also effectively puts the long-awaited local plan on hold, until the survey is complete.
While councillors voted for Oaklands to retain its Green Belt status in any future policy review or boundary change, the site will have to be looked at again as part of the Green Belt/housing survey.
After the meeting, Cllrs Heritage and Dean Russell (Con) accused opposing councillors of “putting the Green Belt at risk”.
Cllr Russell said delaying the pre-submission phase of the draft plan “placed St Albans in a vulnerable position”.
Cllr Heritage warned that the survey played into developers’ hands and would result in the opening up the Green Belt to building schemes.
She said locations mooted in the draft plan for future development had been carefully chosen to benefit St Albans, including education facilities at Oaklands and provision of mental health care at Harperbury.