St Albans council defends Bricket Wood Green Belt housing proposal

A MOVE to build a major housing development on green field land in Bricket Wood has been defended by the district council despite vehement opposition from residents.

St Albans district council (SADC) hopes to pave the way for up to 150 homes to be built at the Building Research Establishment (BRE) centre (pictured) through its controversial draft Strategic Local Plan.

In the blueprint, the council said it wanted to provide a mixed use development on the site to help BRE continue providing high skill local employment and green technology companies alongside new housing.

But at a recent meeting on the plan, which paves the way for future development throughout the district until 2028, Laurie Hart, of the Bricket Wood Residents’ Association, asked how the council could guarantee that 10 acres of housing proposed for the 64-acre site would not be expanded in future.

The association has twice petitioned SADC for the site to be removed from lists earmarking areas for possible future major housing developments.

Mr Hart said that if the draft plan was approved by the Secretary of State in its current form, it would result in urban sprawl and be “against local public opinion”.

He asked: “If the BRE is such a wonderful site for technology and business then why do we need housing on it, can’t it be expanded as a business site?”

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Cllr Aislinn Lee said she was concerned about the number of developments proposed for south St Albans despite it having, “the most fragile and sensitive Green Belt”.

She added: “Developments are not going to pay for a new school. There is also a deficit of health care provision and employment.

“One of the most congested junctions in the whole of Britain is around the M1/M25 in Bricket Wood. To create a large settlement in and around that area with no public transport is unsustainable.”

In its draft plan, the council said the BRE and 30 other companies located there employed around 800 people.

Responding to concerns voiced by residents and some councillors, the council explained in a report tabled at a scrutiny committee meeting last Thursday that the district was, “now in acute need of sites to allocate [for housing]”.

The report added that Herts county council was looking at expanding primary places at Bricket Wood as the existing school has capacity to be increased from 1.5 forms of entry to two.

A levy on development would be collected to help pay to increase primary school capacity and provide for additional doctors.

It pointed out that much of the BRE site was run down with buildings no longer fit for purpose, and significant investment was needed.

The report said: “The proposed housing is crucial enabling development which cross-subsidises the employment redevelopment.”

n SADC has admitted that only 20 affordable homes were built last year. A spokesman blamed the low number on construction of smaller housing development sites with those providing fewer than 14 units generating no affordable homes – a threshold SADC hopes to alter with its new plan.