High Court victory over homes for St Albans Council

PUBLISHED: 09:33 27 May 2009 | UPDATED: 14:07 06 May 2010

A LANDMARK High Court ruling has seen St Albans become the first district council to successfully challenge government house-building figures. It went to court to contest the East of England Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) which allowed neighbouring counc

A LANDMARK High Court ruling has seen St Albans become the first district council to successfully challenge government house-building figures.

It went to court to contest the East of England Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) which allowed neighbouring councils Welwyn-Hatfield and Dacorum to reach their housing targets by building across their boundaries with St Albans.

The ruling in favour of the district council, which Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Hazel Blears has 28 days to appeal against, is a huge victory for St Albans.

The council has been bitterly opposed to the development of 12,000 additional homes east of Hemel Hempstead and 10,000 extra homes west of Hatfield because to meet their housing targets, both were proposing to build over the border into St Albans and effectively concertina the district.

St Albans council leader, Robert Donald, this week described it as, "a great victory" and a real David and Goliath moment.

He went on: "This shows we were right to take legal action despite being originally advised there were high risks and that success was not guaranteed. This result illustrates our unequivocal commitment to defend the Green Belt and to safeguard the unique character of the natural landscape and the mix of historic city, towns and villages around our district."

Planning portfolio holder, Cllr Chris Brazier, said it was the first time a district council had won a case against the RSS.

"It is the first time anyone has decided to challenge the RSS and won and it was purely because we thought it was wrong that areas like Welwyn-Hatfield and Dacorum could build in our district and have that set against their own housing targets.

"I am pleased that we challenged it and proved it to be flawed and I don't think the Secretary of State will appeal."

Cllr Brazier said that should there be no appeal, consultation documents put out by the two neighbouring councils would be dead in the water and they would have to go back to the drawing board.

The Secretary of State was ordered to pay St Albans council £15,000 which amounts to half its legal costs.

Welcoming the ruling, St Albans Lib-Dem parliamentary hopeful, Sandy Walkingon, said: "There were just too many houses going to be crammed into the wrong places. It would have coalesced Hemel, Hatfield and St Albans and turned south Herts into another extension of suburban Middlesex. St Albans deserves better than that."

But the Home Builders Federation took an opposing view. Its planning director Andrew Whitaker said: "This is a very disappointing and frustrating decision that will slow down even further what has already been a long and cumbersome planning process.


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