Outrage as developers move onto London Colney green site

Residents in Thamesdale who are angry that an application they have made to Herts County Council has

Residents in Thamesdale who are angry that an application they have made to Herts County Council has again been delayed - Credit: Archant

DIGGERS have moved onto a St Albans open space, outraging residents who say the site’s future is in limbo after a decision on a village green application was stalled yet again.

Hertfordshire county council (HCC) has been accused of “dithering” over the status of the piece of land at Thamesdale, London Colney, after postponing a meeting twice.

The parish council has spearheaded efforts to have the parcel of land, about one-fifth of an acre, gain village green status as a significant number of locals have used it for sports and recreation for at least 20 years.

Developer Matthew Homes bought land at Thamesdale in 2008 and received approval to build flats on the open space on appeal in 2010.

But the parish council then lodged an application with HCC for the land to gain village green status, to protect it from housing.

The county council’s development control committee was originally due to discuss the application on December 12, but that was shelved until February 27. And now it has been delayed again, until the end of March.

Parish council chairman Cllr Ian Orton said residents were “furious and fear that by the time of the committee the green space will be gone forever”.

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JCB diggers have already been on the site, excavating the ground.

Cllr Orton said that while the council accepted that Matthew Homes had planning permission to immediately carry out the development, he fears “by March 27 there will be nothing left of the site to save.

“I know that if the village green application is agreed the developer will have to return the site back to the village green concept, but by March 27 that will be virtually impossible.

“The county council must reconsider the village green bid going to the February 27 committee.

“The local community around the site and the parish council have put a lot of effort into the village green bid and feel they are being ignored, and when the bid is eventually considered the site will be already covered in concrete.”

St Albans district councillor for London Colney Jacob Quagliozzi said it was important to local people that the open space was protected from housing, as more development was encroaching upon the rural village.

He added: “Residents feel pretty let down and it creates a lot of bad feeling when the developer has gone ahead with earthworks without waiting for the village green decision.”

A spokeswoman for HCC said that Matthew Homes has confirmed that the work being done was “all underground and involves the installation of drainage pipes”.

The land would be reinstated as level ground.

She added: “Matthew Homes have stated that they wish to protect their interests without infringing on the regulations relating to consideration of the village green application.”

Chairman of the development control committee, Cllr Richard Smith, said members would visit Thamesdale and “consider all issues very carefully” before making a decision.

He said he understood delays had resulted from officers’ need to obtain additional information about the site.

Matthew Homes had not replied to the Herts Advertiser at the time of going to press.