Resident accused of 'land-grab' over bid to annexe amenity space
Deborah Price Local Democracy Reporter
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A St Albans resident has been granted planning permission to put a 1.8-metre fence around a piece of ‘amenity’ land to make it part of their garden.
The ‘change of use’ application comes after the resident’s Furse Avenue neighbour made a similar request some years ago.
That request was initially refused by district councillors, who had argued that the loss of the amenity space would be detrimental to the appearance of the area and would affect remaining public spaces, but their refusal was overturned on appeal in 2013.
At a planning (development control) committee central meeting on Monday, planning permission for the latest application was granted amid fears a refusal would be over-turned again.
That means that subject to the resident being allowed to purchase the land from the council they will now be able to fence off the land as their own garden.
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At the meeting Cllr Frances Leonard told the committee she was concerned and not happy about the application.
But she suggested that if the committee were to refuse the application, it would again be overturned on appeal and they had to be “pragmatic”.
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But Cllr Liz Needham, who ultimately abstained from the vote, said: “I appreciate that we did get over-turned on appeal last time, but I do have an objection to us effectively giving away land – even if it is for some kind of remuneration. It is a loss of amenity.”
Chairman Cllr Chris Davis likened the application to a ‘land-grab’ and suggested concerns about what the land may be used for in future.
In making the application, the resident said their proposal was to convert the land into a private garden, keeping the large tree with no intention to build on it.
In support, their neighbour said the space was never used by residents and that litter could be found there.
However Marshalswick North Residents Association and a further resident did object – pointing to the importance of even small plots of green verges and paths in the area.
They suggested it would be contrary to the interests of the general public and that it would set a precedent for other residents to seek similar eroding of this valuable community asset.
The application was granted with six councillors voting for it and two abstaining.