St Albans council leader tells Dacorum council to use own land for new homes

The Crown Estate

The Crown Estate - Credit: Archant

Pointed comments have been made about a perceived lack of co-operation between Dacorum and St Albans councils over cross-boundary issues when it comes to strategic housing sites.

Greenfield land in Redbourn parish has been highlighted for future expansion, courtesy of 2,500 homes, but has been described in the district council’s draft Strategic Local Plan (SLP) as an expansion of east Hemel Hempstead.

In its submission to the SLP, which recently underwent consultation, Dacorum said liaison had ‘fallen short in key areas’.

Complaining that St Albans district council had failed to give its neighbour the chance to have “any influence over key issues such as the overall housing target in the SLP”, Dacorum said it also had not being able to advise on how much land should be released from the Green Belt and “whether any of the east Hemel Hempstead development should count towards [the borough council’s] rather than St Albans’ plan target.”

While it would be up to a planning inspector to decide whether there had been adequate co-operation, Dacorum still wants a “more equal and active part” in shaping the SLP and associated masterplan for Gorhambury land, which has been earmarked in the planning blueprint for 1,000 homes.

It said it was ‘logical’ that the Crown Estate at Gorhambury would help to “meet at least some of Hemel Hempstead’s [housing needs], particularly as it is located some distance from St Albans city.

“It is logical to assume the land falls within the same housing market area as Dacorum and should therefore count towards total need within this area, rather than the needs of St Albans. Residents within the new area will logically look to Hemel Hempstead to meet their service and infrastructure needs.”

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However, it conceded that St Albans was proposing a ‘considerable’ amount of Green Belt land to be released for this district’s expansion over the next two decades, “greater than in many neighbouring local authorities”.

It reminded the district council, though, that should it seek land in the borough’s jurisdiction, “Dacorum is also heavily constrained by the Green Belt which surrounds all three of its principal settlements, Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted and Tring”.

However, the man at the helm of St Albans’ largest – and certainly one of its most divisive – expansion plans has again defended the district council’s housing strategy.

Executive leader and portfolio holder for housing, Cllr Julian Daly, denied that the local body had failed to engage fully with the neighbouring authority when preparing the SLP.

In response to Dacorum’s criticism about a lack of cross-border co-operation, and a call for St Albans to allow Crown Estate land at Gorhambury to count towards that authority’s housing area, rather than this district’s, Cllr Daly suggested it look within its own administrative boundaries.

He added: “We are already releasing significantly more Green Belt land than any other councils.

“Our job is to meet our housing need in our area, and that is what we are trying to do. It is their legal obligation to meet their own housing need in their own housing area. Our obligation isn’t to cater for someone else’s need.”

Dacorum has joined fellow councils including Three Rivers, Hertsmere, Welwyn Hatfield and Watford, in airing concerns about the draft plan. All have effectively shut the door on helping to meet this district’s future housing needs should their doubts about the predicted number of homes required in St Albans fall short of expectations.