Legal challenge over homes plan for north St Albans

The proposed site of the Sewell Housing development in north St Albans.

The proposed site of the Sewell Housing development in north St Albans. - Credit: Danny Loo

A campaign group fighting against a housing development to the north of St Albans has issued a legal challenge against the district council.

Team CLASH (Campaign by Locals Against Sewell Housing), has fought repeated attempts to develop 13 acres of protected land off Harpenden Road with a project of around 150 homes.

They state: "This is not 'poor quality land with low ecological value': this is high quality Green Belt, used for excellent standards of agriculture and land stewardship, adjacent to Heartwood Forest & award winning equestrian facilities, on top of a principle chalk aquifer providing for our local water table."

In an open letter to St Albans district council (SADC), campaigners say: "This legal challenge is the latest step in our campaign to put a stop to plans that will harm local wildlife and biodiversity, causing huge issues through overwhelming local services and infrastructure, increasing traffic congestion and worsening air pollution in North St Albans."

A short video explaining the reasoning behind the campaign has also been published, but the group needs to raise £50,000 to pay for the legal challenge, and a crowdfunding site has only hit £1,330.

SADC has declined to comment as legal proceedings are underway, but any decision on whether to act on the challenges will rest with themselves.

Judicial proceedings will only be initiated if SADC presses ahead despite the challenges.

It will then be for a judge to determine whether the challenge has any merit, and if so, whether any error actually affected the decision.

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But even if the challenge were to be successful, there is no guarantee the outcome would be any different.

In August 2021 then-housing minister Robert Jenrick refused to veto the application on environmental grounds.

Hertfordshire Wildlife Trust objected to the development, as did the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

CLASH penned a report arguing that ecological surveys undertaken on behalf of the developers were insufficient and contained inaccurate information.

The new development will see dozens of new houses built on ex-agricultural land near to Heartwood Forest, after outline planning permission was granted by the district council.

The plans for the former farming land had been submitted on behalf of developers Hunston Properties and the Sewell Trust.

The current proposals set out plans for a total of 132 homes – including 24 two-bedroom flats, 52 three-bedroom houses, 54 four-bedroom houses and two five-bedroom houses – but the make-up of any development could be subject to change.