Verulam estate land is sold at auction to mystery bidder
- Credit: Timothy Beecroft
An unknown bidder has picked up two lots of land making up much of the Verulam estate in the middle of St Albans - and already some is on the market.
The freehold of land behind Waitrose supermarket was put up for auction after the developer who originally developed the estates went into liquidation, and the two lots fetched £106,000 plus expenses.
The land includes larger amenity space areas which could offer the potential for development if they are deemed to be surplus to highway needs.
The first lot was for land to the south west of King Harry Lane, covering 15.26 acres including highway, paths, verges and what are described as "parcels of land with development potential subject to planning".
The land is situated in and around Mayne Avenue, Samian Gate, Flavian Close, Icknield Close, Glenum Close, Hadrian Close, Lindum Place, Augustus Close, Claudian Place, Antonine Gate and Ermine Close.
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The second lot was 4.11 acres in and around Windridge Close, Westfields, Deva Close, Dubrae Close, Rowlatt Drive, Mayne Avenue and Corinium Gate.
Some 2,900 sq ft of land around Windridge Close was listed as being for sale on Rightmove this week, before being removed by the agent and then relisted.
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Timothy Beecroft, chairman of Verulam Residents Association, said: "As you have reported, the green spaces, which we all thought were public spaces, on the Verulam estate, the “Roman” roads behind Waitrose, have recently and at very short notice been sold at auction to an as yet unidentified new owner.
"This has, not surprisingly left residents feeling baffled, shocked and fearful.
"As is the case with any such land sale we will not know who the new owner is until the Land Register is updated, which won’t happen for at least two months.
"Given the speed with which events are unfolding this all needs to happen very quickly."
Local county councillor Sandy Walkington said: "It would have been far better if the county council had confirmed that all the land for sale is public highway. Most of it is so deemed. All the verges and smaller open spaces are safe.
"There are still questions over some of the larger ‘amenity areas’ and their legal status which seems to depend on what was done historically by the then-St Albans Corporation. It is causing residents understandable and unnecessary concern. I will continue to work with the Verulam Residents Association and my district councillor colleagues to put this right."
Local resident Dr Robert Wareing added: "Regrettably there is no evidence that the two tiers of local government are working together on this issue that is causing a huge depth of public concern.
"Verulam Estate, comprising more than 500 houses, was built 50 year ago Title deeds show that the builders and St Albans Corporation, the then local authority, specifically requested that the estate be built with open spaces and that covenants were placed on property owners not to detract from the open aspect.
"Thus the sudden and unexpected decision by HCC that some, many or most of the green amenity areas are no longer to be covered by this public highway status is extremely perplexing and galling. Especially as HCC refuse to disclose which areas of green will remain in the public realm and why this change is being made.
"I find it profoundly disturbing - if not outrageous - that it was only as a result of probing questions on the eve of the sale that the existence of a map prepared and held by HCC emerged which clearly showed those areas of green space designated public highway and thus public realm... and those which are not.
"This map exists but county councillors are banned from sharing it and constituents are denied it. Hardly a shining example of open, accountable democratic government! Why all the secrecy? How can this possibly be justified? Clearly something is not right."