St Albans could mount legal challenge to Government plans for thousands of new homes in the district
A LEGAL challenge could be made against the Government-approved East of England Plan which would lead to thousands of new homes being built in and around St Albans. Council officers have been instructed to investigate the possibility of seeking a Judicial
A LEGAL challenge could be made against the Government-approved East of England Plan which would lead to thousands of new homes being built in and around St Albans.
Council officers have been instructed to investigate the possibility of seeking a Judicial Review over the Plan which puts the St Albans district in the unique position of facing encroachment from new homes being built in adjoining council areas.
Councillors of all political persuasions agreed to seek counsel's advice on a legal challenge at last week's meeting of the planning policy advisory panel.
But the council will have to move fast - local authorities only have around five weeks left to indicate if they are going to make a challenge to the Plan.
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The problem in St Albans is not so much because the district itself is required to complete 7,200 new homes by 2021 but because of proposed developments in Welwyn-Hatfield and Hemel Hempstead.
The former has been earmarked for an additional 5,000 new homes on the BAe site and the latter for 12,000 on Crown Estate land - both of which would encroach into Green Belt land on the district's borders and effectively "join up" the three districts.
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St Albans council's planning portfolio holder, Cllr Chris Brazier, said the committee was extremely unhappy about the expansion of the two neighbouring areas into the district.
He said: "We are never going to agree what houses we want. Are they going to build four-bedroomed in their area and three-bedroomed in ours? Are we going to have Band D houses and they have Band F?
"We are going to seek counsel's advice about mounting a Judicial Review and if they said you have a 70/30 chance, I think we would go for it."
Cllr Brazier said the house-building proposals had been put forward by developers - Arlington in Welwyn-Hatfield and Crown Estates in Dacorum - and the Government had given no thought to infrastructure by agreeing the East of England Plan as it was first proposed two years ago.
He had been in touch with Herts County Council to see where they stood on a legal challenge but while they agreed to seek legal advice, they had not been prepared to go any further unless all the councils in Herts were in agreement - and Stevenage is not.
Both St Albans cabinet and full council would have to agree if a Judicial Review was mounted.
Nigel Quinton, LibDem Parliamentary candidate for Hitchin and Harpenden, welcomed the news of a potential legal challenge to the Plan. He was at the planning advisory panel meeting and urged the county council and the other local authorities in the county to show similar robustness.
He added: "One of the most worrying threats is the potential expansion of Hemel Hempstead eastwards as far as Redbourn, destroying the existing Green Belt and separation between the districts.
"It is clear that the Government have listened far more to the developers than they have to either local people or experts in sustainable development.