New promise to protect St Albans from housing sprawl

A PLEDGE that there would be no massive new housing schemes in the district was made last week as councillors met to discuss house-building options in the wake of the change of government.

The council’s planning policy advisory panel agreed that it would no longer pursue the requirement for 7,200 new homes by 2021 which was laid down under the East of England Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) with the support of the last government.

And planning portfolio holder, Cllr Chris Brazier, also assured anxious residents at the meeting, concerned at the prospect of thousands of new homes near Redbourn, that no schemes over between 250 and 300 new homes would be permitted in the district.

The meeting was the panel’s first chance to look at the level of new house-building required in the district in the wake of the coalition government’s decision to scrap the RSS requirements.

One option could be 360 additional homes being built annually between 2001 and 2021 with 1,750 additional homes between 2021 and 2028, totalling 8,950.

The other would result in 500 new homes being built annually until 2028 making a total of 8,600 new homes.

Cllr Brazier said that after a long debate, the panel wanted more information on the options before making their decision which will then go out to public consultation.

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“I said right at the beginning of the meeting that we were not going to use 7,200 new homes as the benchmark and we were not going to be building any estates of a thousand homes. The officers report said it would be unsustainable to build any more than 250/300 new homes in any location and we need to share the building programme around the district.”

He explained that councillors would be approaching the issue from the bottom up, taking account of acceptable sites and infrastructure needs rather than naming sites and then looking at other requirements. But there was one key element which would influence house-building, he pointed out - the need for 100 new units of affordable housing annually.

Cllr Brazier said that once the core strategy of the council’s planning blueprint, the Local Development Framework, was adopted, developers would be required to provide 40 per cent of affordable housing in their schemes rather than the 35 per cent at present.