Homes on St Albans school sites plan may be scrapped

CONTROVERSIAL school sites which have been earmarked for hundreds of new homes look likely to be taken out of the council’s core strategy when it goes out to consultation.

Instead local residents will be consulted on the principle of building on school sites rather than being asked to comment on specific proposals.

The recommendation to next week’s meeting of St Albans council’s cabinet follows a planning panel meeting last week convened to decide the next stage forward in the core strategy, part of the council’s new planning blueprint, the Local Development Framework.

A meeting two weeks earlier had put back a decision because of a High Court ruling from Cala Homes challenging the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles over the Coalition Government’s decision to scrap the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) – the housing targets laid down by the former East of England Regional Assembly for local authorities which came under its umbrella.

The council’s planning portfolio holder, Cllr Chris Brazier, said that on the advice of officers, the panel had agreed to refer the core strategy to cabinet but take out from the document the school sites earmarked for new housing – which were Nicholas Breakspear, St Albans Girls School, Beaumont and Oaklands.

He went on: “We thought we ought to ask the public what they thought about the principle of building on school sites. We recognise that schools are going to find it a struggle in the current financial climate so we have invited comments on the principle of building on school playing fields.”

“So far there are only four schools who want to build on their land but others are going to want to do the same.”

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He said that subject to cabinet approval, people would be consulted on a number of new issues such as the lower housing figures that the council is proposing compared with the RSS and the decision to be led by the amount of affordable housing required in the district.