Oaklands housing development scheme goes to appeal

Looking from the Verulam School playing fields onto the Oaklands College land with Sandpit lane runn

Looking from the Verulam School playing fields onto the Oaklands College land with Sandpit lane running along the bottom of the field - Credit: Archant

A rejected major housing development proposed for St Albans’ Green Belt will now be decided by a planning inspector after an appeal was launched.

Oaklands College and house builders Taylor Wimpey want permission for a mixed education and residential development at the college’s Smallford campus, off Hatfield Road.

The controversial scheme, submitted in 2013, includes refurbishment of dilapidated college buildings, funded through an ‘enabling’ development of 348 homes, 643 parking spaces and new accessways.

In December last year St Albans district council rejected the bid as inappropriate development in the Green Belt that would result in the loss of agricultural land.

Also, the proposal would probably result in the loss of trees on the perimeter of the development site as its layout “would lead to future requests for tree felling or surgery” from home-owners.

The loss of these trees would be detrimental to the visual amenity and landscape quality of the site.

Its third reason was the absence of a completed and signed Section 106 legal agreement – for planning agreement funding to secure infrastructure improvements and affordable housing.

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In an unusual move, Taylor Wimpey has asked the council to remove one of the reasons for rejecting the scheme - the impact on trees.

The developer has publicised its wishes to “reduce the issues between us and the council so the public inquiry can focus on the key issue of impact on the Green Belt and the appropriateness of the development.”

Thus, minor changes have recently been made to the layout of homes and garages along the southern and western boundaries because of concerns about proximity to trees, but not the number of houses.

The developer wants people to comment on the revisions by next Monday (15).

However, Taylor Wimpey - not the council - will collate responses, and send them to the authority and planning inspectorate as part of its appeal.

But its attempt to have the council reverse part of its rejection has been labelled as “strange” by Sandridge parish councillor for Marshalswick north (west) Geoffrey Churchard.

He said protection of trees was a key concern, adding: “I find the whole thing very strange because a decision was made by the committee so why they think the council will change that, I don’t know.”

While the council has told the builders it is not prepared at this stage to remove that part of its rejection, it is Taylor Wimpey’s intention to ask the planning inspector to take the adjustments into consideration when determining the appeal.