St Albans district residents shun chance to comment on housing plans

Only 0.14% of residents responded to consultation on the SLP

Only 0.14% of residents responded to consultation on the SLP - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The latest consultation upon St Albans’ proposed expansion will prove difficult to draw clear conclusions from, as figures show that less than 0.14 per cent of locals bothered responding to it.

But nearly 20 per cent of respondents with a vested interest - landowners and developers - have called for even further expansion than that proposed in the district’s draft local plan, which sets out policies and identifies how land is used, and determines what will be built where.

Since its six-week consultation ended in mid-February, St Albans council has been studying feedback from just 325 respondents – about 200 of whom are residents.

St Albans’ population at the last census was 140,600, which means that less than 0.14 per cent of locals responded to the consultation.

Ironically, Harpenden’s civic watchdog, The Harpenden Society, had criticised the district council for making it ‘hugely difficult’ to comment on its Strategic Local Plan (SLP) which proposes large sites, including in the Green Belt, for future development until 2031.

Three months ago Ron Taylor warned on behalf of the group: “You need the patience of a saint just to go through the process and the knowledge of a qualified planning expert to stand any chance of making your voice heard.”

He said that answering the first part – your name and address – was the only easy section, with the remainder downhill from there because of its difficulty and the level of expertise needed.

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Planning officers summed up the public’s responses to the SLP in a recent report to the council’s planning policy committee, with a breakdown showing that residents do not consider the housing target of 436 a year as too low (zero per cent).

Feedback from locals on that target was echoed by six parish and town councils, six conservation and other groups and five local residents associations.

Unsurprisingly, 13 per cent of 68 landowners and developers taking part in the consultation thought it too low, along with 12 per cent of planning agents and nine per cent of local business groups.

Seventeen per cent of residents in the snapshot survey said that proposals to expand the urban footprint onto the district’s Green Belt land, by building 4,000 new homes, was not justified.

And 12 per cent disputed the strategic sites earmarked - two near the village of Redbourn which would result in the expansion of east Hemel Hempstead, one on agricultural fields at Oaklands College’s Smallford campus and one in Harpenden - with the same figure citing traffic and transport concerns.

Just one per cent of residents responding said they were in support of the SLP, compared to six per cent of landowners, 35 per cent of local authorities and 15 per cent of parish and town councils. No local residents’ associations signalled their backing.