St Albans district council comes under fire for Green Belt proposals

St Albans Cllr for Harpenden West Julian Daly looks over the councils housing growth forecasts

St Albans Cllr for Harpenden West Julian Daly looks over the councils housing growth forecasts - Credit: Archant

Claims that St Albans must expand onto the Green Belt to meet government planning guidelines on future housing sites have been dismissed as “not true” by countryside campaigners.

Furthermore, St Albans district council has been accused of “unnecessarily threatening the district’s precious Green Belt with proposals that conflict with national policy”.

Both accusations are levelled by Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Herts in a recent statement on the council’s draft Strategic Local Plan.

The group has also accused the council’s executive leader Cllr Julian Daly of failing to listen to residents’ concerns about proposals to expand onto the Green Belt through its planning blueprint, which cites the need to build 4,000 homes on fields.

Campaigners want the authority to make a u-turn on its proposals.

Kevin FitzGerald, honorary director, said members were concerned that in earmarking tracts of green space, including at Oaklands College, to cater for future construction of thousands of homes, the council had “badly misinterpreted” the government’s National Planning Policy Framework.

He said CPRE feared that the authority intended to ignore criticism of its “disastrous attempt to impose flawed housing targets with consequential development in the Green Belt.”

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Mr FitzGerald said the plan conflicted with national policy “despite a series of government policy statements and planning guidance over the past year that a Green Belt district like St Albans is able to set lower targets.

“The council is putting at risk the efforts of generations of their predecessors to protect the Green Belt that has helped retain the character of St Albans, Harpenden and the district’s villages for over half a century.

“It is vital the council reconsiders its housing target before it is too late for threatened communities across the district.”

In response, Cllr Daly said: “I am concerned that some opponents of development in the Green Belt appear to want to shut down debate before responses are weighed up.

“Only around two per cent of households expressed a view on the consultation draft of the plan. Few of those respondents were from the under 55-year-old age groups arguably most affected by pressure on housing.

“We owe it to future generations to get this right. In recent years there has been a big increase in primary school places to meet a surge in demand. People are living longer. If we don’t allow for it, where do CPRE expect our children and grandchildren to live?”