London Colney Green Belt games area plan is thwarted for second time

CONCERNS about the Green Belt have led St Albans council to refuse a second application for a games area in the district’s largest village.

The second application made by London Colney Parish Council for a hard-surfaced basketball/football court to be located on Shenley Lane playing fields was refused at a planning committee meeting earlier this month because it failed to provide supporting information regarding the impact on trees in the area.

The committee also supported the officers’ suggestion of refusal because the multi-use games area (MUGA) would be detrimental to the “open character and visual amenity of the Green Belt”.

The refusal of the application is a blow to London Colney Parish Council which has the funding in place to build the MUGA, which it was hoped would provide young people in the area a place to congregate and play safely.

It previously applied for planning permission last year and was refused on the same issues, but the parish council say that despite their efforts to get planning officers to come down and suggest how to improve their application in order to protect the trees, they’ve received no guidance or information.

Chair of the parish council, Dreda Gordon, said: “It’s very frustrating for us particularly because of the lack of communication on the council’s part and we feel there hasn’t been an awful lot of cooperation.

“They’ve not responded to our requests for officers to come down and they didn’t even inform us that the decision would go to committee, so we knew nothing about the meeting and its outcome until someone unrelated to the issue contacted us.

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“If we had known about the meeting we would have gone along and although our presence there would not have altered the refusal, we thought we might have been given the chance to represent ourselves.”

Parish councillor Chris Flynn said that the refusal wasn’t just disappointing for all on the parish council but for all the young people who had been involved in the project over the last couple of years.

“This is what the young people in the area want and we’re listening to them but the council don’t seem to recognise this.

“When the teenagers in the area see that nothing has happened and that it’s being held up by the bureaucratic process, which is not very clear at all, they too become disillusioned in the process.”

A spokesperson for the district council said it was not the responsibility of the council to inform applicants by letter that their application was going before a committee. She explained that details were given on the internet and applicants could track the process of their application that way.

Cllr Chris Brazier, portfolio holder for planning, said: “The committee had gone along with the officers’ recommendation to refuse because the site was too confined and the MUGA would affect a lot of trees.”

He said he had also raised the decision to turn down a similar MUGA at Nicholas Breakspear a couple of weeks ago, which was recommended for approval and was turned down by councillors, and said that it needed to be spelt out to applicants what was acceptable and what wasn’t.

Despite last week’s decision, the parish council remains determined that they will continue to work towards installing a games area on the site, however long it takes to be granted planning permission.