Mencap pulls out of Harpenden allotments project

Westfield allotments site, Harpenden

Westfield allotments site, Harpenden - Credit: Archant

Hopes of building homes for people with learning disabilities on a former allotment site have come to a sudden halt after Harpenden Mencap pulled the plug on the idea.

The charity’s announcement has prompted the owner of the green space off Westfield Road, Harpenden town council, to revert to a proposal to build affordable houses on the entire site.

The future of the former allotment area has been the subject of much debate and controversy as some residents oppose any construction, while others have welcomed moves to build homes there.

About four years ago Harpenden Mencap, a local independent charity, said it was keen to use the site for a reprovision of its Stairways accommodation for people with learning difficulties, and would be happy to share the site with a housing association for low-cost housing.

However at a recent town council policy and finance committee meeting the chairman, Cllr David Williams, said that the charity had had a change of heart as a facility at Westfield would only cater for 10 adults when it needed provision for about 20.

After the meeting he said the council had been in discussion with St Albans district council about turning the green space into affordable houses.

The district council has indicated that its preference would be for smaller, possibly two-bedroom, units.

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Cllr Williams explained: “There haven’t been any affordable houses built in Harpenden in recent years so there is an opportunity for the whole of the site to be used for affordable homes.

“I think it would be of interest to housing associations. The town council isn’t interested in the land being used for private homes as we are committed to providing affordable ones.”

Cllr Williams said he was unsure how many houses could be built at Westfield. The land will be put up for tender this year.

But the council’s latest move will do little to quell local concerns about proposed development, with campaigners still fighting against loss of the green space.

Several years ago a councillor warned that the human rights of neighbours wanting the see the land restored to allotments instead of being developed had not been respected.