Poor local response to major planning blueprint for St Albans

PUBLISHED: 05:52 01 March 2015

Green Belt land in Harpenden in between Cooters End Lane and Luton Road, earmarked for possible urban expansion in St Alban district council's draft Strategic Local Plan

Green Belt land in Harpenden in between Cooters End Lane and Luton Road, earmarked for possible urban expansion in St Alban district council's draft Strategic Local Plan


About 1,000 people in total have had their say on proposals for the future expansion of St Albans - a far cry from the 7,000 who took part in consultations undertaken in Guildford for its draft local plan.

Yet St Albans district council leader Cllr Julian Daly, and spatial planning manager Chris Briggs told the Herts Advertiser last week that although a smaller number had responded than they had wished, they welcomed locals’ input, and in particular the detailed comments supplied.

The council has been examining consultation on its draft Strategic Local Plan (SLP), which was held late last year.

A breakdown of the feedback - which equates to 5,299 responses across all questions asked about the draft - will continue to be explained in chunks each month to the council’s planning policy committee until June.

Cllr Daly acknowledged that proposals to expand onto the Green Belt, by building 4,000 houses on green space has been given the cold-shoulder by most.

But, he said, that had been expected and added: “It is the most important thing we do as a council in a generation.”

At a recent planning meeting, Cllr Martin Leach said it was unfortunate that there had been no response from health chiefs in relation to future health infrastructure needs in the area, despite the council trying to plan for expansion.

Mr Briggs said at the meeting that the authority had, “actively sought that. This is an area of weakness”.

The Herts county council has also written to health chiefs pointing out that with changes to infrastructure needs arising from development, “councils are struggling to know how to engage most effectively with health service colleagues and to ensure health infrastructure needs are integral to infrastructure plans.

“We are really keen to ensure appropriate NHS engagement in infrastructure planning.”

The planning committee was also told that representatives of St Albans district council have recently met with Keith Holland, a senior planning officer from the Planning Inspectorate, to have a preliminary look at the draft SLP.

It was noted that there was no prospect of adjoining authorities in Herts agreeing to help St Albans meet its housing needs.

At present the co-operation has largely focussed on infrastructure planning and “the question of how to distribute growth within the broader area has not been tackled”, the meeting was told.

Councillors and planning staff at the meeting said that with regard to people moving to this district from London, “St Albans considers there is an unlimited level of demand [and] this is expected to continue.”

Mr Holland was told that “one problem for St Albans is that many in-migrants from London are able to pay considerable sums for housing.

“Consequently with much of the development ... involving the redevelopment of sites containing older traditional family homes, even modest new family homes in St Albans are priced at around £1 million.”

He suggested the council discuss using larger sites for housing, to ensure the type of homes offered met local needs at a reasonable price.

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I should probably have taken the hint! Walking out into the garden recently an unprecedented flock of thirty or more crows raucously greeted me from the treetops at the bottom of my garden. Cawing and croaking these big, black birds clung clumsily to the top most branches and twigs, jostling and flapping to stay balanced in a constant flurry of feathers. There is always something ominous about crows – they are after all carrion crows, the vultures of the bird world – always watching for scraps and weakness that might mean their next meal.

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