St Albans Civic Society believe Local Plan sets ‘dangerous precedent’ for Green Belt

Tim Boatswain

Tim Boatswain - Credit: Archant

Civic development watchdogs have released a detailed critique of the district’s emerging housing blueprint.

Tim Boatswain by the wall

Tim Boatswain by the wall - Credit: Archant

The analysis has been submitted to St Albans district council (SADC) by St Albans Civic Society as part of the second consultation on the draft Local Plan, which outlines where 15,000 new homes can be built before 2036.

As 81 per cent of the district is Green Belt, SADC argues some previously protected land has to be sacrificed for the government quota, which is the equivalent of building another Harpenden.

Although the Civic Society sympathises with SADC, it has “major concerns” that the approach could lead to “urban sprawl or the merging of communities, based upon a precedent that has been established by these developments”.

A “dangerous precedent” is being set, the society states, believing some council strategies are too vague - such as the proposed creation of 10,000 new jobs.

New communities on previously Green Belt land should be green and landscaped, the document insists, before giving its reluctant blessing for housing on the former Radlett Airfield in Park Street.

Homes are only acceptable on this controversial site because a competing scheme, Strategic Rail Freight Interchange, is so “unworkable”.

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Chairman Prof Tim Boatswain said: “The St Albans Civic Society, although it has serious fears over the loss of Green Belt, recognises SADC’s problem in providing homes on the scale of the Government’s targets.

“It is also seen as very important that the local council should hold on to control of planning in the district, as this could be lost if the Local Plan is not accepted.”

The society says its views are aired in a “genuinely positive” and “constructive manner”, to improve the Local Plan.

Planning portfolio holder for SADC, Cllr Mary Maynard, said: “I always welcome the Civic Society’s recommendations, and they have recognised in their response that we have used our brownfield sites. Having built with increased densification there’s still a gap.

“We have a target in terms of finding housing and because this district is 81 per cent Green Belt, we have got to use Green Belt land.”

She agreed that any developed Green Belt land should be landscaped properly to create diverse ecologies.

The consultation ended on October 17.