Inquiry into 100 homes scheme on Smallford Green Belt site

The entrance to Smallford Works.

The entrance to Smallford Works. - Credit: Google StreetView

Plans for 100 homes on Green Belt land just outside of St Albans are set to go to a public inquiry.

Stackbourne Ltd want to redevelop the former Smallford Works site, in Smallford Lane, by demolishing the industrial buildings and replacing them with a mix of housing, including 40 per cent affordable homes.

The appeal site is part of the Watling Chase Community Forest area, surrounded by Smallford Pits Local Wildlife Site - home to protected great crested newts - and a county wildlife site.

St Albans district council (SADC) is arguing that the development will have a major and inappropriate impact on the openness of the Green Belt as well as negatively affecting the environment, including the two wildlife sites.

But the lack of a district Local Plan has opened the development up to approval at appeal, with the process set to begin next month.

The appellants state that when the Local Plan was rejected last year, the inspectors questioned the lack of prioritisation of previously developed land (PDL) as potential housing sites.

A meeting of SADC planning policy committee on June 9 looking at potential PDL sites heard from council spatial planning manager Chris Briggs.

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He said: “There are a number of Green Belt, previously developed sites that have been included in the draft Local Plan housing trajectory. Moving forward, there are likely to be a small number of additional previously developed sites, such as Smallford Works and Glinwells that may be approached differently.”

The appellants argue that as the land was previously developed, it would not cause substantial harm to the openness of the Green Belt, and the proposed housing scheme would actually reduce the impact on the surrounding countryside compared to the existing industrial buildings.

County councillor for Colney Heath and Marshalswick, John Hale, is among those who oppose the scheme: “I trust that the inspector will support the decision of the district council and refuse this appeal.

The site of Smallford Works.

The site of Smallford Works. - Credit: Google Maps

"This is not a suitable site for the level of housing proposed. The neighbouring Smallford Pits are an important natural resource for the area and should be protected from developments like this.”

The public inquiry will begin at 10am on March 16. To attend or speak contact the Planning Inspectorate’s case officer, Kerr Brown, on or call: 0303 444 5243 quoting reference APP/B1930/W/20/3260479.