Renewed battle against St Albans Green Belt development

Controversial plans for 116 homes and 72-bed care home lodged

CAMPAIGNERS have vowed to “vigorously oppose” a planning application to build more than 100 homes, a 72-bed care home and tennis courts on Green Belt land off Harpenden Road.

Hunston Properties Limited, promoters of proposed scheme, Sewell Park, are pushing ahead with plans to build a mixed-use development including 116 homes between Woollams playing fields and St Albans Girls’ School (STAGS), despite strong local opposition.

A planning application was lodged with St Albans district council last week on the site off Harpenden Road which local people describe as a congestion hotspot.

The scheme includes an access road to the site through what is currently 126 Harpenden Road. It also proposes 46 three-bedroom, 41 four-bedroom and 13 five-bedroom homes. Forty-one of the 116 houses would be affordable.

Sewell Park, proposed to be built on a 12-acre field on the northern edge of St Albans, includes two full size all-weather sports courts for community use.

The application includes off-site improvements to local roads including the creation of a separate right-turn lane at the Batchwood Drive exit at the Ancient Briton junction.

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It also proposes safety improvements to Old Harpenden Road, with a one-way restriction at its northern junction with Harpenden Road.

However the application has come under fire from Campaign by Locals Against Sewell Housing (CLASH), formed last year to stop the Green Belt land east of Harpenden Road from being built on.

When the development was first suggested last August, some residents were annoyed that Hunston had promised sporting facilities for STAGS, prompting allegations from CLASH that the promoter was using the school as a “tactical pawn to engineer a planning position”.

In January CLASH presented the council with a petition signed by 1,496 people opposing the site being earmarked for potential future development.

Early this week a spokesman for the campaign group said: “CLASH will continue to act as a principle objector to any development proposal in this Green Belt location and oppose these proposals vigorously. It is clear the promoter is pursuing a strategy to realise vast land values first and foremost.

“There is simply nothing in their proposals that creates the essential, special circumstances that would be needed to overturn the presumption against development in the Green Belt. Claiming that it is more sustainable than other potential sites within [the district] is simply not a reason.”

He pointed out that Hunston had severed its previous “important link” with STAGS.

Hunston Properties spokesman, Brian Parker, said that, should the bid be approved, facilities for STAGS would only be built should the council request them.

He said there was a need for more houses, including affordable homes, and a care home in St Albans.

Brian added: “There is a lack of care homes in the district, and particularly in the northern part of St Albans. There isn’t a care home in that area so we thought it was an appropriate part of a mixed development.”

Council leader Julian Daly said the site was protected by its Green Belt status, “so I would imagine we would be obliged to refuse its planning permission.”