MP Anne Main warns St Albans may lose right to decide on future area expansion

St Albans MP Anne Main in the House of Commons.

St Albans MP Anne Main in the House of Commons. - Credit: Archant

St Albans is at risk of losing its right to decide where and how this area should expand in future, should the government decide to step in and set out future strategic housing sites, local MP Anne Main has warned.

She was commenting after St Albans’ draft Strategic Local Plan (SLP) fell at the first hurdle, following a public hearing session examining whether the local council had cooperated fully with neighbouring authorities over suitable housing targets and cross-boundary issues.

A planning inspector recently stated the planning blueprint could not be adopted in its current form, because of its vague wording and failure to cooperate with fellow local bodies.

Anne said: “I was as disappointed as anyone at the inspector’s decision. There will be new legislation introduced in the New Year that has the potential to impose a plan upon St Albans – nobody would want that. I would rather decisions were made locally and to reflect local needs.”

The district council’s executive leader, Cllr Julian Daly, said last Thursday (8) that a meeting was being sought with neighbouring councils to clarify “what it is they think we haven’t done, that we should have done” with the SLP.

Anne advised: “By taking collaborative action, the council would be protecting the Green Belt from speculative planning applications, while meeting its obligation to build homes to meet a growing population.

“Otherwise we run the risk of having housing built on parts of the green belt that we want to safeguard.

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“The rail freight site [in Park Street] is already blighted. I believe that the council could and should take the politics out of plan and reassess the status of the rail freight site in light of extant planning permission.”

Her comments were echoed by Hertsmere MP Oliver Dowden, who urged the council to consider removing the site’s Green Belt designation, given that the government has already granted planning permission for a massive terminal, despite local opposition.

Oliver said while he would rather the former Radlett Airfield remained undeveloped, if building was to take place, “it would be better for all options to be considered, including much needed houses.

“St Albans council needs to go away and consider what changes they can now make to their SLP. If more homes are needed, it seems crazy to rule out this blighted site from consideration.”

In Parliament last Wednesday (7), Gavin Barwell, minister of state for housing and planning, told Anne Main that councils “should consider producing joint planning policies on strategic matters and informal strategies such as joint infrastructure and investment plans.”

He has previously said, in response to Oliver Dowden, that amendments to the SLP can be made to change the planning designation of the airfield, for another purpose.