Sites shortlisted as St Albans district plans for thousands of homes

NINE sites in the St Albans district, including school fields, have been shortlisted for their contribution towards the construction of 4,250 homes over the next two decades.

St Albans district council will soon ask local residents to comment on a draft document which paves the way for a massive increase in affordable housing for key workers to 40 per cent, additional infrastructure, and a boost for school and college facilities for pupils and the wider community.

If approved, at least 1,700 of the 4,250 new homes would be built for the social rented, key worker and shared-ownership market. That figure is a result of the raised threshold from 20 per cent proposed in the council’s draft core strategy which will feed into the Local Development Framework, the council’s planning blueprint for future years.

It proposes that 250 homes be built each year for the next 17 years, with affordable housing taking up a considerable chunk of that total.

The document, to be approved for public release by cabinet on November 25, also sets the framework for future commercial development including a business park near London Road cemetery, and the extension of supermarkets and Rothamsted Research in Harpenden.

The consultation document sets out a shortlist of strategic housing locations for hundreds of homes to be built in the following areas between 2011 and 2028:

l London Road/Alma Road, St Albans – to improve a run-down part of the conservation area;

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l Ridgeview, Barnet Road, London Colney;

l Spencer’s Park on Crown Estates land abutting Hemel Hempstead – to help deliver new community facilities;

l Building Research Establishment, Bricket Wood – housing redevelopment to fund new buildings on the site for BRE, on existing footprint only;

l Harperbury Hospital – to include affordable housing;

l Beaumont School playing fields/north of Wynches Farm Drive, St Albans – to fund new school buildings and a new road access to the school;

l South of Sandpit Lane, St Albans – to fund redevelopment and expansion of Oaklands College Smallford Campus;

l East of Harpenden Road, near Woollams playing fields, St Albans – new housing to help provide sports facilities for St Albans Girls’ School;

l Nicholas Breakspear School, Colney Heath Lane, St Albans – new housing to help provide for new buildings and facilities for the school.

Last year there was uproar from many quarters over council suggestions to free up Green Belt land – coined areas of search – for residential expansion. Those sites, including land in Chiswell Green, Harpenden and adjacent to the Verulam Estate in St Albans, have been officially removed as possible housing areas.

Instead, the draft plan focuses on developing green and brownfield sites, with the council now considering freeing up its own land, such as garage sites in Harpenden, St Albans and the villages, to also provide for affordable housing.

Cllr Chris Brazier, portfolio holder for planning, said: “The key driver for selection of strategic housing locations will be provision of infrastructure and community benefits, most particularly educational benefits for schools and colleges.

“Providing the best facilities for our young people and providing education and training opportunities for the whole community is sustainable development in the truest sense.”

He warned that a dearth of affordable housing was impacting on education locally and that: “Schools are losing good teachers because of the pressure on the price of houses. We are aware that people are struggling.”

Aside from housing, the draft plan’s key proposals note a need for:

l A business park near London Road cemetery, St Albans, to increase local employment opportunities;

l Additional retail development in both St Albans and Harpenden;

l Possible new leisure centre in Harpenden;

l Mini park-and-ride schemes on Hatfield Road and London Road, and a larger scheme near M25 Junction 21A;

l Keeping green corridors to prevent coalescence of St Albans with neighbouring areas;

l Having a “St Albans Green Ring” which provides a linked route for pedestrians and cyclists via Verulamium Park, Alban Way and Clarence Park;

l Expanding existing schools – both primary and secondary.