Hemel MP wants more than 6,000 homes to be built next to Redbourn

MP for Hemel Hempstead Mike Penning in front of the Crown Estate land

MP for Hemel Hempstead Mike Penning in front of the Crown Estate land - Credit: Photo supplied

The number of homes proposed for the district’s rural outskirts near Redbourn should be more than doubled to 6,000 according to an outspoken politician.

St Albans district council (SADC) has already courted controversy by proposing to ease the way for the construction of 2,500 homes on Green Belt land east of Hemel Hempstead through its draft Strategic Local Plan (SLP).

But that number, says Hemel MP Mike Penning, could be increased to 6,000, particularly as Hemel Hempstead would have all of the pain, but none of the gain if the proposed housing went ahead on the town’s borders.

One of the most controversial proposals in the SLP is to have 1,500 homes built on most of a 57-hectare piece of land northeast of Buncefield - scene of a major explosion a decade ago - while a further 1,000 are earmarked for a site near Leverstock Green which forms part of the Gorhambury Crown Estate.

It would bring the new development very close to Redbourn which fears it would become ‘joined up’ with Hemel.

Mike said that while ‘technically’ the proposals affected land in St Albans’ jurisdiction, people living in Hemel considered some of the earmarked land as part of Dacorum and there had never been any steps to work together on the joint development of the land.

It is not the first time Mike has pushed for homes to be built at the location in conjunction with St Albans council.

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In 2013, Dacorum council said that while the land fell within the St Albans boundary, it would effectively be an extension to Hemel Hempstead.

Mike wants more talks held between both authorities, and says that 6,000 homes should be built, with Dacorum allowed to build hundreds of homes to count towards its own future housing needs.

Last week the MP told the Herts Advertiser: “I really don’t understand why we are not developing the land. It is a perfect place for a new hospital.

“I want a lot more housing than they are proposing.”

He said: “You can’t just build 2,500 homes east of Hemel and then say to Hemel, ‘you build somewhere else’.

“Make us an offer. I have shown the Secretary of State the situation – I took him [Greg Clark] to the sites last year, and he thought they belonged to Hemel. My concerns have been passed on to his officials to look at.”

And Mike has a warning for SADC: “They should either do a deal with us, or [risk] have a deal imposed upon them.”

But Cllr Julian Daly, the district council’s portfolio holder for housing, has rejected Mike’s calls.

He said the density proposed for tracts of greenfield land for the urban extension of Hemel Hempstead stood at about 40 homes per hectare which was denser than Hemel was building at Spencer’s Park [a large new housing development north of Hemel].

He added: “So, the question for Mike is, how does he justify that level of density? No one has explained to me how you would get that many more houses built there, without increasing the density.

“Is he suggesting that the boundaries [between the two areas] should be shifted?”