St Albans council earmarks key sites for potential housing

THE next steps in deciding whether a number of contentious locations should be included in the district council’s planning blueprint as potential housing sites have been agreed.

At their meeting on Tuesday night, cabinet set out the way forward with two controversial schemes at St Albans schools as well as proposals for housing at the Building Research Establishment (BRE) in Bricket Wood and at the Oaklands College site in Smallford.

The cabinet is working on the pre-submission document of the core strategy, the planning framework on which future developments in the district will be based over the next 17 years including potential housing sites.

Land owned by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine adjoining Beaumont School has now been put forward by the cabinet as a potential site for 130 homes, the proceeds of which could create new school buildings and an alternative access road.

The council turned down an earlier proposal for 60 homes on the site and the scheme is subject to a planning appeal taking place this week.

The cabinet has also proposed – subject to the outcome of further investigations to confirm deliverability – that land adjacent to Nicholas Breakspear School in Colney Heath Lane should be included in the core strategy as a strategic housing location for around 200 homes which could then fund new buildings and playing fields for the school.

Councillors did raise concerns about the additional usage of Colney Heath Lane and the pressure on its substandard junction with the A414, and one suggestion was that the council could look into the possibility of reopening Hixberry Lane.

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Planning portfolio holder Chris Brazier stressed that neither scheme would involve any building taking place on playing fields.

Councillors deferred a decision on whether or not proposals for 350 houses at Oaklands College, on land south of Sandpit Lane, to fund improvements should be included in the core strategy pre-submission document.

They were not satisfied with the business case for the houses and were concerned that the proceeds would be spent at other Oaklands sites outside the district, so they want planners to meet with the college to see if there is any way of reducing the numbers.

While cabinet stressed that it wanted to support the college and retain further education facilities in the district, concerns were also raised about the proximity of the development to the two school sites earmarked for housing as there could be a total of more than 600 new houses within a square mile, resulting in huge pressure on the local infrastructure.

BRE had proposed building around 100-150 homes on their site on the fringes of Bricket Wood in order to fund a sustainable ‘eco park’ for green businesses. Cllr Brazier said that BRE did not want the housing but that it was the only way of funding the scheme. Cabinet agreed instead to help BRE look for additional funding to enable the improvements to the site without the need for new homes and look into making up the housing shortfall by expanding the designated Harperbury Hospital site by 150 homes.

It was also agreed that the former Evershed site in London Road, St Albans, should be included in the pre-submission document as a housing site due to the interest from developers, as recently revealed by the Herts Advertiser.

In addition, cabinet asked the head of planning to investigate the possibility of designating the Roehyde Farm site in Colney Heath as a new high-tech business park to meet the forecasted shortfall in the district’s employment sites.

Cabinet also agreed to include within the pre-submission document its view that no development should take place unless sustainability issues were addressed and adequate infrastructure provided in a “timely manner.”