Have lessons been learned in the wake of St Albans’ rejected Local Plan?

The settlement being considered by DBC crosses the St Albans boundary to the right of the picture.

The settlement being considered by DBC crosses the St Albans boundary to the right of the picture. - Credit: Archant

A frustrated Green Belt defender is concerned St Albans district council (SADC) has not learnt any lessons from the mistakes of the debunked local plan.

SADC has responded to the Local Plan (LP) consultations by neighbouring councils Dacorum and Hertsmere.

One of the suggested sites in Dacorum’s plan crosses the SADC boundary into Green Belt land near Redbourn which is owned by the Crown Estate. Dacorum is considering 4,500 homes for the site.

The site was also earmarked by St Albans district council (SADC) for a major development as part of its own failed LP.

Hertsmere’s includes developments north east of Radlett and bordering London Colney by the M25.

Redbourn Parish Council chairman David Mitchell is asking why the north Hemel Hempstead site is not explicitly mentioned in SADC’s response to Dacorum but the Radlett and London Colney site are specifically addressed in the Hertsmere reply.

He said: “It makes you wonder if there’s a deal being done behind closed doors. I was very surprised that they haven’t addressed it at all. Which given that St Albans themselves were proposing to build to the east of Hemel Hempstead [in the now debunked SLP] means we would be looking at in total something like 7,000 houses in the area.”

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David said the points made about transport links and infrastructure issues raised to Hertsmere would also be valid for Dacorum, but are not argued.

He added: “It makes you wonder whether the planning system at St Albans is fit for purpose. All the evidence points to the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. After the debacle of the last LP you would have thought we would have been more honest and transparent.”

Responding to Hertsmere, SADC said the justification for the potential creation of a new settlement at the boundary with SADC is unclear: “Normally, a fundamental part of considering a potential new free standing settlement would be its location with regard to the strategic road and rail network and opportunities to enhance these connections; access to and provision of jobs etc. This location would appear to depend entirely on road access.

“Further, that road access appears to depend heavily on direct access to the M25 motorway, which is designed to facilitate long distance movement, not local access.”

Dacorum’s cross boundary development is mentioned, just not explicitly: “Cross boundary development in SADC’s area appears to still be being considered by DBC as an option for accommodation of DBC generated need.”

SADC’s last LP was rejected in High Court for not co-operating fully with neighbouring councils, in particular with regard to proposed settlements close to their borders like east Hemel Hempstead.

Both Dacorum and Hertsmere were part of the South West Herts Group that challenged SADC on this point.

Portfolio holder for planning at SADC, Cllr Mary Maynard, said: “There is nothing unusual about our LP talks with neighbouring local authorities.

“Indeed, we have a legal duty to co-operate with them during the plan-making process which means talking with them about possible plans. Our talks include potential strategic cross-boundary issues such as the possible housing options east and north of Hemel Hempstead and near London Colney and the need for more infrastructure as we grow.

“Councils are all putting forward options for consideration at this stage and are holding these discussions in order to produce effective and deliverable policies.”

She stressed SADC’s new LP consultation will start next month and all views have been taken on board before the document is put before a meeting of the full council.