Residents’ fury over bid to expand St Albans travellers site

Chiswell Green Lane, Chiswell Green.

Chiswell Green Lane, Chiswell Green. - Credit: Archant

Concerned residents fear the planned expansion of a traveller site on their doorstep could dramatically change the quality of their lives.

A planning application to extend the site in Chiswell Green Lane, St Albans, change the use of the land, lay hardstanding and put up two buildings has been submitted to the district council by traveller John Connors.

Residents say that work has already begun on the site with the clearing of trees and the laying of hardcore even before the end of the consultation period which is next Wednesday.

One nearby resident, who did not wish to be named, said: “The existing site has three caravans and they have already demolished woodland and laid hardcore.

“People are concerned because of the increase in crime and the value of their properties and they don’t want it. No-one has been consulted and the council has been very, very quiet about it.”

He added: “A number of people have put in far smaller applications for this area and they have been rejected. We are all pretty concerned.”

A number of objections have been received, pointing out that the land is Green Belt and there are no special circumstances to allow the change of use. There is also concern about the impact on the narrow lanes in the vicinity, lack of street lighting and increased pressure on local schools.

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The Chiswell Green Cottages Association have also submitted a strongly-worded objection and have called for an enforcement notice to be served requiring the land to be restored to how it was previously by the planting of trees and shrubs.

They point out that for years they have lived harmoniously with the residents of the site but in recent months things have taken “a turn for the worse” and warn that their quality of life would deteriorate further if the extension was allowed.

The association also questions issues which they feel have not been addressed in the application including access, waste disposal and drainage.

Simon Rowberry, St Albans council’s interim head of planning and Building Control at St Albans City and District Council said: “In accordance with planning regulations, we have notified nearby properties of the application by letter. We have also erected site notices at the entrance to the existing site, and on a pole to the east, outside properties at 48 and 46 Chiswell Green Lane.”

l Another application for the change of use of a site in Lye Lane, Bricket Wood, for the stabling and keeping of horses and the stationing of eight caravans is also with the council at the moment awaiting a decision.

The application from Ned Connors has been called in for decision by committee by Cllr Brian Hibbard, who represents St Stephen ward on the district council.

Planning permission already exists for the front part of the site to be used as a residential caravan site limited to two caravans with temporary permission granted in 2009 for an additional two families which has now expired. The current application reflects the extended family which is now living on the site.

The application has also attracted a lot of criticism including from St Stephen parish council which considers it to be overdevelopment of the site and an encroachment on the Green Belt where no special circumstances exist.

CPRE Herts says the application is an attempt to legitimise the unlawful expansion which has already taken place and has called it “inappropriate development in a sensitive part of the Green Belt between Bricket Wood, How Wood and Chiswell Wood”.