Proposed satellite village adjacent to St Albans and Wheathampstead will carve up the Green Belt, say campaigners
- Credit: Archant
Shock plans to build 1,130 houses, a primary school and retirement village in 56 hectares of Green Belt land near St Albans district have been waved through to the next planning stage.
Welwyn Hatfield borough council has been criticised for “driving a wedge into the Green Belt” between Welwyn Garden City, St Albans and Wheathampstead after paving the way for a new village.
On Monday (13) councillors agreed to include a proposed satellite village at Symondshyde in its draft Local Plan.
The high grade agricultural land is part of a large tract owned by the Gasgoyne Cecil Estates, a partnership which includes the Salisbury family and Viscount William Cranbourne.
The cabinet housing and planning panel agreed to allocate this and other sites to deliver over 12,000 new homes by 2032, 5,500 of which are to be built in the Green Belt.
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But residents campaigning against the proposed new village have criticised both the landowner and the authority.
Among those leading the charge is John Gardener, whose petition calling upon Welwyn Hatfield to stop the Green Belt development was supported by about 1,500 people.
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Describing the site as “outstanding quality Green Belt land”, John warned that “too few people are aware of the proposal and the significant impact it will have on the Green Belt, and the already overloaded network.
“Creating an isolated settlement in the Green Belt goes against the core principles of sustainable Local Plan development. Sustainable development means adding housing, where possible, to existing settlements to minimise car usage.
“Somehow Welwyn Hatfield have translated this into carving up the Green Belt with an isolated settlement, which will have just one shop.”
There are fears, too, that any such development will have a detrimental affect on ancient woodland adjoining the site, as the 1,130-home village is planned to be built next to Symondshyde Great Wood.
Concerned Wheathampstead parish councillor, Judy Shardlow, who also attended the meeting, said: “A large number of sensible councillors from Welwyn Hatfield were horrified at this proposal, which has now gone forward to the next and final stage.
“Others however, seem to believe that this is an acceptable sacrifice to ensure that less development takes place around Hatfield.”
She added: “What concerns me is that this proposal was dropped in at the last minute and awareness of it locally is low. Walkers, cyclist, dog-walkers and nature lovers all value and use this part of the Green Belt extensively and yet if this development proceeds the wedge in the Green Belt created now will open the gates for future large scale development.”
The Estate owns, lets and manages up to 300 residential properties, as well as a commercial and office and portfolio, hotels and golf courses in Herts and Dorset.
Lord Salisbury has said previously that the development would be “of the highest quality.”
A spokeswoman for the borough council said: “The Symondshyde site would help meet demand for growth.”
The Symondshyde proposal, called HAT15 in the draft Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan, will be open for public consultation from the end of August. Local campaigners have set up a website with more information about the proposals.