Petition to block St Albans Oaklands College homes plans

OPPOSITION is growing in St Albans to what has been described as a “devastating” plan for up to 350 homes to be built on Green Belt land at Oaklands College.

A website petition has been launched to fight a major housing development mooted for the college’s Smallford campus.

Petition organisers have called upon residents to tell St Albans district council (SADC) they oppose “plans to bulldoze a new road through Oaklands from Hatfield Road to Sandpit Lane.”

It follows revelations about the council’s draft Strategic Local Plan (SLP), essentially a blueprint setting out the future shape of the district until 2028, including possible housing sites.

To help achieve its goal of paving the way for 4,250 homes over the next two decades, the council has earmarked several locations for major residential developments.

They are Kingsley Green, near Radlett, Oaklands College and the Building Research Establishment (BRE) in Bricket Wood.

At Oaklands, the council wants to allow for up to 350 new homes to be built off Sandpit Lane, beyond the Verulam School playing fields.

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The ‘No Oaklands Development’ i-petition wants people to “say no” to over-congested roads, oversubscribed schools and building on the Green Belt. It adds: “These far-reaching plans threaten the local environment and the quality of life for local residents. If this is the first time you have heard of these devastating plans, you are not alone.”

Concerned residents said they feared the draft Strategic Local Plan was a “fait accompli” and that SADC had not had enough “democratic discussion” over the planning framework.

The claims were yesterday disputed by the council’s executive leader Cllr Julian Daly who said the draft was the result of extensive consultation with the public, including a survey showing residents were “50-50” over suggestions to build on Green Belt land.

Claims on the No Oaklands Development website that planning permission was “soon to be granted for the building of 350 new houses on your doorstep” have been rejected by both Cllr Daly and the college.

Zoe Hancock, principal of Oaklands, said that while the college had spoken with developers, there was no planning application in the pipeline as the SLP had yet to be finalised and approved by the Secretary of State.

The council previously approved a new college hub at Smallford, intended to be in place by this year, but that fell by the wayside after a substantial grant was pulled by the Learning and Skills Council in 2009.

Ms Hancock explained that as a result, the college has been forced to look elsewhere for funding to enable future expansion and upgrading of facilities. She defended the council’s right to include Oaklands as an ideal location for future development, adding: “The council thinks this is a sustainable site, and it would give back to both the community and the college.”

Ms Hancock went on: “We haven’t signed a contract with a developer, as we are waiting for the local plan to move forward.”