Boxing world champ wants to build keyworker homes in St Albans
Matthew Smith, Local Democracy Reporter
- Credit: McPartland Planning Ltd
Former world champion boxer Steve Collins is behind plans to build 330 homes for keyworkers who “we all clapped for during the height of the pandemic”.
Steve Collins, who defeated Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn, is hoping to build the homes on land at St Stephen's Green Farm in St Albans.
Developers have said there are “no strings” or catches to the plan to build on land owned by Mr Collins, who had a 36-3 professional record in the 1980s and 1990s.
Councillors were set to vote on the proposals at a meeting of St Albans district council’s planning referrals committee on March 28, but the item was withdrawn from the agenda following a recommendation that members refuse the plans.
The item is expected to be considered at a future meeting, but the applicant’s agent has spoken out following the delay to address criticism of the proposals, which would be built on Green Belt land and has received over 350 objections.
Ian Parker, of McPartland Planning Ltd, said the price of homes at Addison Park would be discounted by a third for keyworkers, and this discount would last to all future sales. Mr Parker added there would be “no flipping to make a fast buck. No strings. No catches”.
Mr Parker said: "[Steve Collins] has generously proposed a unique development that would see 330 new homes being built on his own land. They will all be designated as affordable housing – 100 per cent. They will be exclusively for local essential key workers, including nurses, paramedics, ambulance drivers, police, fire & rescue, teachers, carers and military personnel. The very people we all clapped for during the height of the pandemic. And on top of that, each property will be discounted by at least a third.”
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The application is for outline planning permission with final details reserved for a later stage of the process but the developers have indicated the scheme could include 32 one-bedroom, 116 two-bedroom and 182 three-bedroom homes.
The plans received objections from 359 addresses in St Albans, with concerns raised about the loss of Green Belt space, increased pressure on local services and that the development would contribute to urban sprawl.
Other objections include concerns about the impact on wildlife and biodiversity, the development being out of keeping with the village and a lack of engagement with local residents. Nine addresses have submitted representations in support of the plans.
In response to concerns about the deliverability, Mr Parker believes Addison Park will be over-subscribed with other districts replicating the scheme, and claimed the district council had asked developers to remove all mention of key workers from the application, although would consider other types of affordable housing.
The district council did not comment on the claims, and ahead of a meeting last month officers recommended that the scheme be refused by councillors, citing a lack of very special circumstances to remove the land from Green Belt and the limited access to public transport in the area.
Their report said: “The potential harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm resulting from the proposal, is not clearly outweighed by other considerations; and as a result the Very Special Circumstances required to allow for approval of inappropriate development in the Green Belt do not exist in this case.”
In response, Mr Parker said recent approvals on Green Belt in the district show that planning reasons do exist and there was demand in the area. He said: “Our case is that if “very special circumstances” exist to allow for new houses mainly for wealthy couples moving out of London, then “very, very, very special circumstances” exist to allow a scheme providing discounted affordable homes to local nurses, teachers, police officers, fire fighters, care workers and military personnel.
“In other words, if parts of the Green Belt in St Albans have to be lost, then make sure the houses built there are for local key workers.”
The district council declined to respond to the comments specifically, and noted no final decision on the development has been made, with councillors having a final say on the proposals. The next meeting of the planning referrals committee is scheduled for May 9.