Harpenden Westfields access road plan is dumped at the 11th hour

Westfield playing fields

Westfield playing fields - Credit: Archant

CONSERVATIONISTS in Harpenden are hailing a decision to ditch a controversial scheme to build a new access and dump the excavated soil onto the habitat of rare, protected snails.

Harpenden town council (HTC) sparked outrage when it applied to St Albans district council (SADC) for approval to create a 3m-wide, and nearly 60m-long track across Westfield recreation ground.

Next door to the playground is a former allotment site – home to protected Roman snails.

As part of its proposal, HTC wanted to dump soil dug to create the access onto the neighbouring land.

But following objections from local campaigners and national wildlife organisations, HTC has now withdrawn the scheme.

The move has been hailed by outspoken local critic Carol Hedges and Cllr Simon Grover, who called-in the application for consideration by SADC’s planning development control committee, rather than by planning officers.

Cllr Grover explained that the scheme had been withdrawn as HTC realised it did not need a big access road to allow a large lawnmower on the site for maintenance work.

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But he said that he understood a new application would be submitted on a much smaller scale, which would not threaten local wildlife.

Cllr Grover said he was delighted the scheme had been ditched as the large accessway was unnecessary and the application itself was “deeply flawed, missing out crucial information about local wildlife.

“The plan is deeply unpopular locally.”

Carol said: “It looks like all our lobbying and efforts have paid off, for now.”

Meanwhile, Judith Wright, of Lea Road, Harpenden, has hit out at a local Tory newsletter for being out of touch with residents’ concerns over whether the former Westfield allotment site might be developed.

The newsletter, recently delivered to Harpenden north residents, quotes Town Mayor Cllr Nicola Linacre as saying that no affordable houses had been built in the town since 2008.

She added: “The derelict allotment site which the Secretary of State agreed could be used for other purposes back in 1998 is the only area of land within Harpenden that we own which could be used to provide this housing.

“The present town council was elected on this manifesto so despite vocal opposition from a very small number of residents, we feel that we have the mandate to pursue this ambition and recognise the benefit to the whole community.”

Judith said the scheme to build an accessway on the playground site next to the former allotment ground was “an underhand way to sow the seeds for a housing development on the disused allotments”.