Harpenden’s Westfield allotment site up for tender

Westfield allotments site, Harpenden

Westfield allotments site, Harpenden - Credit: Archant

Former allotment land in Harpenden controversially earmarked for a future housing development is to be put up for tender in the new year, it has been confirmed.

John Bagshaw, town clerk of Harpenden town council, said the one-acre site, off Westfield Road, is currently being valued.

The impending disposal of the land comes three years after allotment campaigners celebrated victory after a bid to build at least 20 affordable homes there was rejected by St Albans district council (SADC).

In 2010, SADC ruled the former gardening zone should be restored to future allotment use.

But the next year it backflipped, agreeing to give the town council right of way to the land, paving the way for development of the green space.

Mr Bagshaw said there had been a delay in advertising the land as the council had to wait for a decision on a village green application for the neighbouring Westfield recreation ground.

This was rejected following a public inquiry, and the appeal deadline has only recently passed.

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Mr Bagshaw said legal costs associated with fighting that application were close to £26,000.

He added: “The ultimate benefit to the Harpenden council taxpayer will be the capital receipt that will be received upon the sale of the land, and the opportunity this will provide for investment in the town.”

Despite objections from campaigners fighting the bid to turn the site into housing, Mr Bagshaw said: “In 2009, the council with the mandate of the local community, as it was part of their election manifesto in 2007, started the process of disposing of the site. To date the costs associated with this have been £11,147.41.”

There have been two separate occasions when the site has been considered for development. The first was in 2003, when a planning application for flats was refused – costing the administration at the time about £43,000.

The current Tory-led town council administration is keen to have the majority of the land turned into affordable housing with about one-third used by Harpenden Mencap for supported housing units and educational facilities.

However Mr Bagshaw said this would be subject to the charity successfully bidding for part of the green space.

Access would be provided from the end of Willoughby Road, to the eastern edge of the recreation ground, across the field to the site.

He said that any scheme submitted in future would need to address the issue of Roman snails on the allotment land.