Plans for thousands of homes near St Albans causing unease

St Albans City & District Council

St Albans City & District Council - Credit: Archant

THE threat of thousands of homes and a new gypsy and travellers’ site for development on green fields separating St Albans from Hatfield has raised “significant concerns” within the district council.

Welwyn Hatfield borough council (WHBC) wants to have 175 homes built on a 10.4 hectare area off Wilkin’s Green Lane and, adjacent to Coopers Green Lane, a further 2,000 homes and a gypsy and traveller pitch on a 131.4 hectare site.

But St Albans district council (SADC) is uneasy about some of its neighbouring authority’s planning blueprint, the Emerging Core Strategy, which outlines WHBC’s hopes for 7,200 new homes by 2029.

The borough council is still sifting through more than 6,000 responses to its draft strategy and accompanying document revealing proposed land for housing outside urban areas.

In its submission, SADC said there were “infrastructure issues,” in particular water, sewerage, transport and schools.

The response added: “Currently routes to and from Junction 4 of the A1(M) extending towards St Albans are already congested at rush hour times. This junction provides the main access to the A1(M) for Harpenden, Redbourn and Wheathampstead. Further development close to this junction would exacerbate existing traffic issues.”

The council has also pointed out that should the controversial rail freight terminal in Park Street go ahead, this too would add to traffic woes.

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SADC warned of the risk of coalescence between the two areas, saying that green buffers needed to be maintained to prevent development pressure beyond Welwyn Hatfield’s boundaries.

The proposed new travellers’ pitch has also attracted objections, with one man saying it “makes no sense in an area where they are rarely if ever seen. Such a site would be completely out of character with the surrounding environment.”

And the uncertainty over the possibility that Hatfield’s urban footprint could sprawl closer to St Albans district has recently “frustrated” one former Harpenden resident hoping to buy a home off Coopers Green Lane.

The woman, who did not want to be named, said she was “extremely concerned these plans for development could get the green light”.

Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Herts director Kevin FitzGerald said: “They are scaring the wits out of people. We are very concerned about the incursion onto the Green Belt. Coopers Green Lane is a country lane, it’s rural and it’s the sort of place we wouldn’t want houses built.”

A report to the borough council said that the Highways Agency had advised there was insufficient capacity on the road network to accommodate 7,200 new homes.

A spokeswoman for WHBC said the council would undertake further technical work before changing the core strategy.

The authority would take into account recent planning inspectors’ decisions taken nationally, new government guidance, statistics from the 2011 Census and the thousands of responses.

SADC executive leader Cllr Julian Daly said the results of a joint independent Green Belt review with Welwyn Hatfield and Dacorum borough councils should be available by the end of summer.

He added: “We are concerned that Welwyn Hatfield are looking at building in our area, and that has been expressed to them.”