Redbourn at risk from St Albans homes plan

The Crown Estate near Redbourn

The Crown Estate near Redbourn - Credit: Archant

Village campaigners fighting to prevent a massive housing development on their doorstep have welcomed a highly critical report on the scheme from an adjoining council.

St Albans district council is proposing to build 2,500 homes on Green Belt Crown Estates land on two sites to the east of Hemel Hempstead - land which is within the district counci’s boundary but which will effectively adjoin Hemel Hempstead.

If the whole of the land is developed, it will mean countryside separating Hemel Hempstead and Redbourn being built upon and a minimum of 500 metres between the new housing and the village.

That has prompted fears that Redbourn will effectively be joined up to Hemel Hempstead - even though the east of Hemel Hempstead land falls within the boundary of St Albans district.

The East of Hemel Hempstead sites are among four in the draft St Albans Strategic Local Plan (SLP) which could be built upon to meet housing targets if land has to be taken out of the Green Belt.

Consultation has just finished on the draft SLP and Dacorum borough council (DBC), which takes in Hemel Hempstead, is very concerned about aspects of the proposal.

Their views have the full support of the action group RAGE - Redbourn Against Greenbelt Erosion - which is gaining strength in the village because of the likely impact on the community.

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While supporting development of the sites, DBC has voiced its concern about the lack of consultation with St Albans council over the proposal and wants to see a less dense, ‘garden city’ approach taken to future development,

It describes the timetable for the adoption of the SLP as ‘ambitious’ and believes that technical work it is carrying out should be taken into account before work goes any further.

DBC is also unhappy about the lack of consideration of infrastructure planning and highway modelling and is asking for clarification about future education needs.

Cllr David Mitchell, chair of RAGE, welcomed the response from DBC, particularly its comments about infrastructure, sewage capacity and the proposed density of the housing - 44 dwellings per hectare.

He backed the ‘garden city’ approach and said if the development went ahead as St Albans council wanted, it would ‘destroy the village as a village.”

He went on: “One of Dacorum’s complaints about St Albans planning is that if you are going to build houses it should be a gradual extension to Hemel Hempstead as it is.”

Cllr Mitchell, who is also chair of Redbourn parish council, welcomed the more measured approach DBC was taking and said the momentum in the village against the proposed development had been growing since the SLP went out for consultation.

Accusing the district council of pushing 2,500 houses ‘as far away as it could possibly be’, he went on: “First and foremost it is essential to maintain the Green Belt to keep the green lungs but it is going to be difficult to see off development of this land.

“St Albans council hasn’t got a clue and it is hoping to get the plans through, tick a lot of boxes and then disaster will materialise over the next 10 to 20 years.”

The East of Hemel proposal has received the backing of both St Albans MP Anne Main and Dacorum MP Mike Penning who think it would reduce pressure on other Green Belt land but to date, the village has not received any support from its MP Peter Lilley.