St Albans north-south divide over call for new housing sites

Highfield Farm. Picture: Google Maps

Highfield Farm. Picture: Google Maps - Credit: Archant

Disgruntled politicians are worried that the majority of Local Plan development will be forced onto the south of the district.

Herts county council (HCC) have submitted eight separate sites, which it owns, for potential inclusion in St Albans Local Plan - the majority of which are geographically south of Albans city.

The closest HCC site to northern Harpenden is 0.8ha of land in Redbourn, which could accommodate just 30 houses.

Combined housing projections for the southern HCC sites adds up to at least 3,500 new builds - not including 97ha Highfield Farm for which HCC did not suggest a figure, except to say building should be low density.

It is now up to St Albans district council (SADC) to decide which pieces of land it wants to use. The authority needs to find space for 3,000 homes not currently accommodated in its Local Plan, and many private landlords have also submitted sites.

National Planning Policy Framework guidelines say that already publicly owned sites should be given priority in this process.

Cllr Simon Calder represents London Colney ward, which includes the north and south of Napsbury sites.

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He said: “Green Belt is a sacred cow, everyone is very against building on Green Belt but there is Green Belt you can build on.

“But London Colney seems to be getting the brunt of the proposals which I think is unfair. It’s all on our doorstep.

“Part of the Napsbury site is something we have campaigned against quite a while ago when it came up as part of the Green Belt review for the last Strategic Local Plan. I will definitely campaign against it again because it’s such a beautiful area, it’s farming land and I walk my dogs there.

“I know the residents don’t want housing there either.”

A committee member for the Napsbury Park Residents Association, Malcolm Mark, said: “We are all very concerned about all this building, we appreciate it needs to be done but no-one is talking about infrastructure.

“Nobody, however right-minded, wants everything built on their doorstep - but if there is infrastructure, if there were local shops, if there were schools, doctors, all these things, it would mitigate it.”

District councillor Chris Brazier represents Colney Heath - the ward housing east of Kay Walk and Highfield Farm.

He said the village could be swamped with housing: “I don’t think housing needs are being shared by the north of the district. The pressure is being put on the south.

“They might ask us to take all these sites and I feel the north should be offering up sites in a more equitable share of the housing needs of the district, and I don’t think that’s being respected.”

Cllr Jamie Day, also representing Colney Heath, added: “It is a well-used green space that both contributes to UK food production and to local health and recreation - its network of footpaths and bridleways provides an important and popular chance for local residents to get out in the fresh air.”

He said he will fight against releasing Highfield Farm from Green Belt.

Chairman of Colney Heath Parish Council, Peter Cook, said the south is being overwhelmed: “Harpenden has not had any development since 1970 and although there is a possible 1,000 homes at Rothampsted the infrastructure needs could be solved by providing 2,000 dwellings to create Harpenden Garden Village which would fund the complained about infrastructure deficit.”

He added: “A major concern is that the south of the district is a dumping ground for development so as to protect the north of the district.”

Portfolio holder for housing at SADC, Mary Maynard, said: “The first thing we consider is how do the sites in the Green Belt meet Green Belt purposes, and which will do the least harm to be released from the Green Belt.

“The next thing we will be looking at is if it meets a number of criteria and what the developer is offering in terms of community benefit.”

She dismissed concerns that south of the district will be loaded with a disproportionate number of developments.