Neighbouring councils are NOT happy with St Albans district council’s Strategic Local Plan

The full extent of the anger over St Albans council’s perceived lack of cooperation with neighbouring authorities over its planning blueprint, the Strategic Local Plan (SLP), has been revealed.

Documents which have been submitted to the initial examination of the SLP, which started yesterday (Wednesday), reveal a catalogue of complaints about St Albans council’s approach to planning in South West Herts.

And neighbouring Dacorum Borough Council is particularly concerned about the repercussions of St Albans council’s proposal to build 2,500 new homes to the East of Hemel Hempstead on land within the district which abuts Redbourn.

A strongly-worded joint statement by Dacorum, Hertsmere, Three Rivers and Watford Councils to the initial SLP hearing at the Civic Centre accuses St Albans council of declining to cooperate meaningfully with its neighbours.

It says that the authorities did not take lightly the decision to make representations to the hearing but St Albans council’s failure to cooperate was ‘potentially extremely significant’ for them.

St Albans council is described as having ‘effectively ploughed its own furrow throughout the process’ and is criticised for fundamental issues on new housing, the lack of a jobs target and the absence of up-to-date employment or retail studies in support of its SLP

The nub of the criticism is the perceived failure by St Albans council to properly identify and meet its housing need which, the other West Herts authorities maintain, would put great pressure on them to meet any shortfall.

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The SLP contains proposals to build 436 homes annually within the life of the Plan, which runs from 2011 to 2031, but the neighbouring authorities say that between 650 and 700 homes should be built in the St Albans district each year.

They maintain that 436 new homes is an out-of-date figure and a potentially significant under-provision, one that was arrived at with a failure to engage in joint ways of working.

In a separate document to the SLP examination, Dacorum council questions the extent to which the two sites East of Hemel Hempstead - known as the proposed Gorhambury development - would together count towards St Albans council’s housing targets. It believes the amount of housing planned there should count towards the requirements of both local authorities.

Dacorum points out that on the ground the development will be seen as an urban extension to Hemel Hempstead and as such, it is debatable whether the properties built there could be seen as realistic substitutes for homes in the main residential parts of St Albans.

It warns that the ‘sheer physical separation’ between the development site and the St Albans built-up area suggests that those living there will look towards Hemel Hempstead for most of their basic services.

The Dacorum statement concludes that a number of factors ‘raise substantial doubts as to the extent which the Gorhambury development would alleviate demand for housing in St Albans and that the most likely outcome is that it would in the main contribute to meeting Hemel Hempstead’s housing demand’.

It concludes: “As such, a large part (at least 50%) of the planned housing should be scored against the Dacorum housing requirement.”

St Albans council’s head of planning and building control, Tracy Harvey, said: “In general, the draft Strategic Local Plan has produced a substantial body of support from consultees.

“We have set out how we have complied with our legal duty to cooperate in our submission documentation and in our statement in response to questions raised by the Planning Inspector. We will be providing further clarification at today’s [Wednesday] initial hearing. The hearing can be viewed live on the council’s website.”