Harpenden watchdog asks why it is so difficult to comment on St Albans Strategic Local Plan

Green Belt land for St Albans' SLP in Harpenden next to Sauncey Wood school

Green Belt land for St Albans' SLP in Harpenden next to Sauncey Wood school - Credit: Archant

Harpenden’s civic watchdog has criticised the district council for making it “hugely difficult” to comment on its draft Strategic Local Plan (SLP), which proposes large sites - including in the Green Belt - for future development.

The authority has given people until February 19 to comment on the planning blueprint during its current six-week consultation, before it eventually goes before the Secretary of State.

The SLP sets out overall development policies for the district until 2031, and identifies land for housing, social amenities, commerce and infrastructure.

But a frustrated Ron Taylor, of Harpenden Society, said: “You need the patience of a saint just to go through the process and the knowledge of a qualified planning expert to stand any chance of making your voice heard.”

He said that answering the first part of the feedback form - providing your name and address - was the only easy section.

But it was all downhill from there, as the next part asked respondents to give the number or name of the paragraph or policy their comment related to.

Ron said: “That means you have to read in detail either the SLP publication draft, or the [consultant’s] sustainability appraisal report.”

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People are asked whether the plan is legally compliant and sound, and five questions each require separate sheet responses with detailed factual information to support responses.

Ron added: “Your average resident has little chance of making a realistic response that will be given due consideration.”

The Harpenden Society has been a leading critic of the scale of the proposals, and lack of infrastructure provision to the implementation of the draft SLP in Harpenden, by providing information and holding public meetings on how it could diminish residents’ quality of life.

A public meeting is being held tomorrow, February 4, in the Fowden Hall at Rothamsted conference centre, to enable residents to hear two experts and two local county councillors give their views on its implications. The doors open from 7.30pm for an 8pm start.