160 new homes proposed for protected community meadow in St Albans

PUBLISHED: 07:20 20 September 2018

Bedmond Lane Meadow (Picture: Robert Wareing)

Bedmond Lane Meadow (Picture: Robert Wareing)

Archant

A housebuilding company which has been trying to build stables on a protected meadow has asked for consideration in the St Albans Local Plan.

Bedmond Lane Meadow (Picture: Robert Wareing)Bedmond Lane Meadow (Picture: Robert Wareing)

Bedmond Field, of Bedmond Lane, St Albans, has been listed as an asset of community value (ACV) since 2014, and owners CALA Homes recently put in yet another application to allow horses to graze in the meadow despite repeated rejections.

Now, with less than a month to go until the Local Plan consultation ends on Wednesday, October 17, CALA Homes is asking St Albans council to consider the field for residential development. Working with Hightown Housing Association, CALA intends to bring forward a scheme to build up to 160 new homes, of which 50 per cent will be affordable housing.

Both CALA Homes and Hightown claim to have been affected by an emotional plea by cllr Mary Maynard at the council’s Planning Policy Committee in June, where she stated the importance of the Local Plan meeting the need of low income families so they are not priced out of the district.

The meadow was previously found suitable for residential development for 110 new homes in the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment, and CALA does not intend to put the site up for sale before its ACV status ends in March 2019, or for the foreseeable future.

Bedmond Lane Meadow (Picture: Robert Wareing)Bedmond Lane Meadow (Picture: Robert Wareing)

A statement from CALA Homes said: “As part of [the meadow’s] future development, CALA will be offering a proportion as public open space.

“As such, the residential development of the site will not only produce much needed housing, of which a large proportion will be aimed specifically for young families in a highly sustainable location, but also a long-term benefit in terms of publicly accessible open space.”

Timothy Beecroft, chair of Verulam Residents’ Association, said: “It’s not a surprise that they have put this forward. They’ve always said that they wanted to build on the field.

“There’s less than a month for this to happen which isn’t very long to respond to the proposal.

Bedmond Lane Meadow (Picture: Robert Wareing)Bedmond Lane Meadow (Picture: Robert Wareing)

“Clearly there’s a need for affordable housing which the proposal includes, but 160 houses on the site is more than has ever been proposed for it before.

“It will put a strain on infrastructure. When King Harry Park was proposed there were all sorts of community benefits promised, none of which ever materialised.

“These are just my initial views not having seen the plans, and these are issues that we will want to see debated over the next few weeks.”

CALA Homes submitted its latest application to build stables on the meadow earlier this month, after their attempt to challenge the meadow’s ACV status in February was unsuccessful.

Bedmond Lane Meadow (Picture: Robert Wareing)Bedmond Lane Meadow (Picture: Robert Wareing)

At the end of the Court of Appeal hearing, judges delivered a unanimous verdict allowing the meadow to retain its ACV status. Under the Localism Act 2011, voluntary or community organisations can nominate a building or area to be listed as an ACV by their local council.

If the owner of an ACV plans to sell the asset, they have to inform the council and give community groups six months to raise money to buy it, although they are not obliged to sell to them.

The field is currently fenced off, and Verulam Residents’ Association is concerned this will make it difficult for the ACV status to be renewed when it expires next year, with CALA Homes able to argue that the field is no longer eligible as it is no longer being used by the community.

CALA Homes has already lost a previous appeal to allow horses to graze on the site, which would require building two stables and two road accesses from Mayne Avenue and Parklands Drive.

Councillor Mary Maynard, the district council’s portfolio holder for planning, said: “We will carefully consider all the comments and feedback we receive during the consultation for our draft Local Plan before deciding if any changes need to be made.”

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