Harpenden town proves resistant to call for Green Belt homes

Green Belt land in Harpenden next to Sauncey Wood school

Green Belt land in Harpenden next to Sauncey Wood school - Credit: Archant

No homes should be built on Harpenden’s Green Belt sites to help accommodate some of the 15,000 new houses needed in the district, say campaigners.

Green Belt land in Harpenden next to Sauncey Wood school

Green Belt land in Harpenden next to Sauncey Wood school - Credit: Archant

There is provision for 128 new homes in the Harpenden Neighbourhood Plan (NP), a blueprint for future planning guidelines and infrastructural policies.

But St Albans district council’s recently published Local Plan (LP) announces its intention to build 15,000 homes across the district from 2020 to 2036.

Although SADC’s proposal pinpoints eight Green Belt settlements for 6,500 homes and provision for 5,000 houses on brown field sites, it still needs to find room for 3,000 new builds on the Green Belt.

Harpenden Town Council (HTC) cannot release Green Belt sites for building, but any pieces of land offered by HTC would have been considered by SADC to lighten the load. However, no extra Green Belt sites were suggested in the Neighbourhood Plan.

Green Belt land in Harpenden along Luton Road.

Green Belt land in Harpenden along Luton Road. - Credit: Archant

HTC said it chose not submit any Green Belt land because it wanted to wait for St Albans’ LP plans to be more concrete.

Chairman of the Harpenden Green Belt Association, David Rankin, said he believes the town is at full capacity and extra cars on the road alone will bring Harpenden to a grinding halt: “If 500 houses are built on North West Harpenden and 770 on North East Harpenden that is 2,540 cars at two per household.

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“If you add in the growth within Harpenden and thus within the Green Belt, which is proceeding apace, add on another, say, 800 homes to give a grand total of 2,070 new homes.”

He asked: “Where would even 10 per cent of 4,140 cars park?”

David said SADC’s Green Belt review was flawed: “The scoring of Green Belt sites by SADC has been one long exercise in deciding what result is politically required and adjusting the scores as necessary to achieve that result.”

Planning portfolio holder at SADC, Cllr Mary Maynard, worked on the NP before she moved into her current role working on the LP: “They haven’t looked at the Green Belt in Harpenden and there’s a surprising amount of Green Belt in Harpenden.

“It’s actually all around one side and they have the power, if they wished, to identify Green Belt sites.”

She added: “I think there’s a fear that if they identify sites then there will be more building, but the NP cannot be used to prevent development and everybody is aware of that.

“I know that work has been done on how people can be allowed to build, what houses would look like, what should be business and what should be domestic, and partly that was to protect the High Street from development.”

A spokesperson from HTC said: “Having taken advice from our planning consultant and national experts, the Neighbourhood Plan steering group decided not to recommend sites in the Green Belt.

“The reason for this is that there is no guarantee on when the Local Plan will be adopted and so there could be a considerable time gap between the adoption of each document, during which the favourability and deliverability of allocated sites could change.

“The Harpenden NP recognises that new development in the Green Belt may be approved by SADC and so has looked at contingency measures. These are in the form of infrastructure policies that will aim to reduce any impact on communities.”

The Harpenden Neighbourhood Plan will soon be presented to the steering group for approval.

Although the Harpenden plan consultation is over, there is still time to view and comment on SADC’s Local Plan here until February 21.