Scheme to create new village between St Albans and Hatfield ‘bypasses planning process’ say watchdogs

Land off Symondshyde Lane

Land off Symondshyde Lane - Credit: Archant

Speculative and premature development proposals for Green Belt land between St Albans and Hatfield have been slammed by watchdogs concerned that developers are trying to bypass the planning process.

CPRE - Campaign to Protect Rural England - Herts has declared itself appalled by development proposals from local landowners which, it warns, could destroy swathes of nationally important Green Belt land west of Hatfield.

One such scheme from Hatfield-based Gascoyne Cecil Estates which has suggested that agriculture land at Symondshyde Farm - close to Wheathampstead and Sandridge - could be turned into a new village was highlighted in the Herts Advertiser last September.

CPRE says that such schemes appear to be ‘a deliberate attempt’ to circumvent the democratic planning process through which everyone will be able to have their say on the new Local Plans that will decide how many houses should be built.

They are reminding landowners seeking to profit from the current need for housing by building in the Green Belt of the value of the policy and how it not only protects some of the county’s most important countryside but encourages urban regeneration in London and the towns around it.

CPRE says: “We are in serious danger of undermining the integrity of the Green Belt and condemning future generations to urban sprawl if Green Belt policy is abandoned.”

The countryside watchdogs point out that there are no agreed figures for the number of houses that need to be built in Welwyn Hatfield or St Albans and there may not be a requirement for large-scale developments in the Green Belt.

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And no locations for housing development have been agreed through the Local Plan process in either area. Once they had been identified by the two councils, they would be included in their Local Plans which become the subject of public consultation and then scrutinised at a formal hearing in front of a planning inspector.

* There are still two weeks left to respond to consultation on the St Albans Strategic Local Plan (SLP) which sets out overall development policies for the district until 2031 and identifies land for housing, social facilities, commerce and infrastructre.

Four potential Green Belt housing sites are included in the draft plan - two plots of land east of Hemel Hempstead for up to 2,500 homes, 500 homes north west of Harpenden and 1,000 homes at Oaklands College in St Albans.

Subject to the responses to the consultation, an independent planning inspector will examine the SLP towards the end of this year.

Consultation ends on Friday, February 19,

It can be viewed online here where information is available on how to make a representation. It can also be seen at the council’s offices in St Peters Street, St Albans.

Information packs are available at libraries and town and parish council offices.