St Albans MP vows to fight developer 'free for all' to protect Herts Green Belt

The proposed site of Bowmans Cross garden village.

The proposed site of Bowmans Cross garden village. - Credit: Colney Heath Parish Council

A government planning policy which threatens to gobble up vast swathes of local Green Belt is being challenged by St Albans MP Daisy Cooper.

Daisy was speaking at a public online event instigated by the Campaign For Colney, a pressure group campaigning against the Bowmans Cross development, which could see the merging of London Colney and Colney Heath villages.

Neighbouring Hertsmere Borough Council has identified the land as one of its preferred sites for development in its draft Local Plan, with a view to build up to 6,000 homes.

The proposed site of Bowmans Cross garden village.

The proposed site of Bowmans Cross garden village. - Credit: Colney Heath Parish Council

Daisy said: “Bowmans Cross is by far the largest site in their Local Plan, and they have stuck it right on the border of two of our villages in the St Albans district.

"One of the main purposes of the Green Belt is to maintain green boundaries between towns and villages, but this proposal in effect eradicates boundaries between our villages and the new homes altogether. This is totally unacceptable.

"Research from the Campaign to Protect Rural England shows that these new homes won’t tackle the housing crisis either.”

The CPRE has said of the 17,698 homes completed in England from 2015-2020, only just over 10 per cent were affordable.

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Daisy also cited the 14,000 homes St Albans district council is tasked with building over the next 16 years, in addition to the burden of a 3.5 million square-metre strategic rail freight interchange – the size of 490 football pitches.

As St Albans district mainly comprises Green Belt, only about 5,000 of these homes can be built on brownfield sites, she stressed.

“Every council area is given top-down housing targets, and if the councils can’t demonstrate where they intend to build them, the planning inspector can use these numbers to force planning applications through at appeal leading to a developer free for all,” she said.

“In Parliament, I’m fighting the government’s weasel words. First the government says it wants to protect the Green Belt but then gives out these huge housing targets, and then it claims the housing targets aren’t targets at all, even though the planning inspector has the powers to enforce them.

“I’m pressing Michael Gove, the housing secretary, to come clean about this inconsistency and update the National Planning Policy Framework to address it. On the one hand he says these numbers are just aspirational, but on the other his planning inspectors allow planning permission appeals to go through because of them.

“At the same time, local councils may also need more powers to enforce the building of homes which have already been approved and I’ll continue to look at what more can be done to achieve this.”

Hertsmere council’s draft Local Plan is now at the consultation stage and open for comments until December 6.

The proposed site of Bowmans Cross garden village.

The proposed site of Bowmans Cross garden village. - Credit: Colney Heath Parish Council

Chris Brazier, Lib Dem councillor for Colney Heath, warned: “This overdevelopment of the area will lead to a horrendous coalescence of Shenley, London Colney and Colney Heath. There are no new roads laid out in the proposal and completely inadequate infrastructure. This is an attempt by Hertsmere to put their housing crisis on St Albans district’s doorstep.”

Bret Ellis, who runs the campaign group Campaign For Colney (C4C), added: “We were pleased to welcome Daisy Cooper MP, a C4C committee member, who has been with us since our inception in 2017, to speak directly to local residents and stakeholders regarding the Bowmans Cross Hertsmere local plan to desecrate 2,000 acres of our local Green Belt.

“Daisy impressed all attendees not only with her knowledge of the Bowmans Cross site, but with her passion, personability and ability to answer any questions head-on.

“There were no false promises, which was appreciated by all. Daisy explained what steps she, and other local and regional stakeholders have taken, as well as possible future representations both at a national and local level.

“We left the meeting with a sense of clarity and belonging, with it becoming apparent that we are not alone and that, in fact, stakeholders from all political colours and backgrounds were in unison in their disapproval not only of the Bowmans Cross proposal, but the Hertsmere Local Plan in its entirety.”