Sandridge housing development refused planning permission by St Albans council

PUBLISHED: 09:35 04 October 2017

The former allotment site on Sandridge High Street. Picture: Danny Loo

The former allotment site on Sandridge High Street. Picture: Danny Loo

Danny Loo Photography 2017

A proposal to turn old allotment plots in Sandridge into affordable housing has been refused by St Albans council.

The application, for 14 three-bedroom homes near Hopkins Crescent, was rejected at last night’s planning referrals committee meeting.

Council officers recommended councillors refuse outline planning permission because of a lack of surface water drainage assessment, and because Green Belt land can only be used for low-cost housing if the site does not exceed 0.4 hectares.

The proposed site was 0.46 hectares, and officers disputed whether a development of this size met local housing needs.

The committee was not persuaded by a speech by Cllr Roma Mills, who said the proposal “supports the council in delivering affordable housing in our district”.

The former allotment site on Sandridge High Street. Picture: Danny LooThe former allotment site on Sandridge High Street. Picture: Danny Loo

She added: “It’s not social rented, nor is it affordable rented housing. It’s intermediate housing with shared ownership.”

Intermediate housing is housing for rent or sale provided above social rent level, but below market rate.

Cllr Mills continued: “I am quite disappointed in the housing department, considering this council’s failure to deliver on its housing targets.

“We are failing local people in the provision of local housing.”

The former allotment site on Sandridge High Street. Picture: Danny LooThe former allotment site on Sandridge High Street. Picture: Danny Loo

The council’s housebuilding target is controversial, with some arguing it’s 200 a year, others arguing a figure of only 100.

Council officers had raised concerns before the meeting about the development being on Green Belt land.

St Albans Civic Society wrote to the council before the meeting to say: “The proposal is premature pending the new Local Plan and permitting it would set a precedent for similar Green Belt sites in the locality.”

Mr and Mrs Barry of High Street in Sandridge also wrote in to say: “When we moved in 1998 for our retirement, we were attracted by the views across the valley and the fact it was designed as Green Belt land.

“This proposed development would result in a significant loss of amenity for us, and would result in considerable additional inconvenience and noise.”

However, Cllr Mills pointed out the council’s own development of garage sites in Sandridge had been on Green Belt land.

Cllr Iain Grant agreed with Cllr Mills, saying: “We have a housing need and this is an opportunity to address it.”

Cllr Richard Curthoys raised hackles in the meeting by asking: “What message does refusal send to people looking for intermediate housing? We are saying ‘We are OK we have got a house. Haul up the ladder, you cannot have one.’”

Cllr Frances Leonard, a Sandridge councillor, disagreed and said the applicants needed to put forward a full planning application, and Cllr Curthoys needed to remember it was Green Belt land.

Committee chair Cllr Salih Gaygusuz said while the district needed affordable housing, in order to grant planning permission on Green Belt land the application had to qualify for special circumstances.

Cllr Gaygusuz said: “If it was genuine affordable housing, the benefits would outweigh the problems, but reading the officers’ report, there is no official confirmation this can be accepted as affordable housing.

“Until that agreement has been resolved between the applicant and the council, I cannot see how we can qualify this as very special circumstances.”

He suggested: “The applicant needs to enter into an agreement with the council so we can understand the value of the proposal, and whether these are 100 per cent affordable houses, which qualify for special circumstances.”

The committee voted to reject the proposal by five votes to four.

To see the meeting, visit www.stalbans.gov.uk

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