Last ditch protest over council’s 1,000-home plan for Oaklands College in St Albans

North Drive leading from Sandpit Lane to Oaklands college

North Drive leading from Sandpit Lane to Oaklands college - Credit: Archant

The proposed building of 1,000 homes on agricultural fields at Oaklands College’s St Albans campus attracted criticism at a recent public meeting.

About 150 people packed the Marshalswick Baptist Free Church last Monday (8) to discuss St Albans district council’s Strategic Local Plan (SLP).

They were told by a local residents’ group that the council had not taken into account the possibility of a major housing development at the proposed rail freight site in Park Street when earmarking strategic sites to expand upon.

Hosted by Sandridge parish council, the meeting saw a lively debate on the loss of Green Belt land at Oaklands should the district council’s draft SLP, setting out areas for major housing developments, be formally adopted.

It was organised as the district council has been consulting the public about its draft SLP – specifically whether it meets legal requirements and is ‘sound’.

The controversial planning blueprint sets out overall development policies for the district until 2031 and identifies land for housing, social amenities, commerce and infrastructure.

Apart from proposing that 9,000 homes should be built, including 4,000 in the Green Belt, it also provides a framework for the Detailed Local Plan and neighbourhood plans.

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Those at the public meeting in Marshalswick were told that a parish council survey of over 900 residents on planning issues last year showed that a large majority considered building 1,000 homes on Oaklands fields off Sandpit Lane would have a negative impact on the local area.

Residents said they were worried about the affect on schools, health care and traffic, including an increase in air pollution.

Parish councillor John Hale said: “Having read the plan, I consider it is not sound as it does not reflect the capacity of the building industry to build the number of properties the plan calls for.”

Jim Watson, spokesman for the Marshalswick North Residents Association (MNRA) said the group had “serious concerns” about building at Oaklands.

He pointed out that despite the MNRA raising numerous issues during the plan’s first consultation in 2014, including flooding problems and a lack of infrastructure in East St Albans, the district council had not amended the plan in any way.

The group believes the draft SLP fails as housing need is not accepted under the government’s planning rules as justification for removing land from the Green Belt designation, and that the district council “has not cooperated with neighbouring authorities over future development – there is the prospect of Welwyn Hatfield building up to the joint boundary”.

The current consultation ends tomorrow (19).