Draft St Albans Local Plan document taking shape

Cllr Mary Maynard.

Cllr Mary Maynard. - Credit: Archant

A first draft of the St Albans Local Plan has begun to take shape after months of speculation about development sites.

Cllr David Mitchell at the Planning Policy Committee. Picture: SADC webcast

Cllr David Mitchell at the Planning Policy Committee. Picture: SADC webcast - Credit: Archant

The district council (SADC) will today consider whether the planning document, including Green Belt land to be sacrificed for housing, is acceptable for progression.

Despite fears most of the housing will be dumped in the south of the district, the majority has actually been placed in the west by Redbourn.

The settlements include an enterprise zone sandwiched between 2,400 homes at east Hemel Hempstead (South) and 1,650 homes at east Hemel Hempstead (North).

Directly above that is a development of 1,500 houses at north Hemel Hempstead.

A map of the sites to be presented to cabinet today. Picture: SADC

A map of the sites to be presented to cabinet today. Picture: SADC - Credit: Archant

There is a 1,250 dwelling site by Oaklands College in east St Albans and just over 1,000 homes in north St Albans.

Some 760 new builds are planned for north-east Harpenden and 580 for north-west Harpenden - totalling just over 1,300 extra homes for the town.

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It has been suggested west of London Colney could accommodate 440 homes and west of Chiswell Green 365.

Also included is the controversial Park Street Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) site, about which developers HelioSlough have threatened legal action against SADC.

Redbourn High Street

Redbourn High Street - Credit: Archant

The council thinks 2,300 homes could be built on that patch of Green Belt but HelioSlough already has planning permission for an SRFI on the land.

Planning portfolio holder at SADC, Cllr Mary Maynard, said she hopes there will be no issues: “Colleagues understand the planning process, everyone has been seeing the reports coming out and everybody has had the opportunity to comment on the process as it has gone on.”

The only proposal shortlisted from a landowner ‘call for sites’ which is not progressing is an 1,000 home development on land used by Rothamsted Research and owned by The Lawes Trust.

However, at Monday’s planning policy committee meeting councillors asked for the site to be reconsidered.

Cllr Maynard explained: “It has been de-selected purely because other landowners put in a better offer in terms of sustainable transport and that is very important as a consideration when we are looking at taking land out of the Green Belt.”

Chairman of Redbourn Parish Council, David Mitchell, is concerned that a total of 5,500 of the planned homes surround the village: “My concern is they are not building the right housing in the right locations, there is too much concentration on Redbourn and not enough on the rest of the district.

“There is going to be a lack of social and affordable housing for residents of St Albans district generally and the problem is not everyone will want to live in the west of the district. It will create endless infrastructure problems and turn the area into a building site for the next 20 years.

“The impact on Redbourn will be enormous and everyone else is getting away scot free. The council keeps going on about damaging the character of St Albans but they need to look at the rest of the district, not just Redbourn. They have got themselves in such a mess.”

If cabinet do not approve this draft and the Local Plan timetable slips, the Government has threatened to take over the process.

Cllr Mitchell said he would welcome Government intervention because he believes they would be more impartial and less political.

However, he stressed that was his own opinion and not the parish council’s.

The final Local Plan document will detail all development in St Albans district from 2020 to 2036 - including nearly 15,000 new homes, 14 schools, and various new green spaces.

The former Strategic Local Plan made provision for only 436 new homes each year.

Since then, Government pressure and a new standardised methodology for calculating housing need has skyrocketed the projections to around 900 a year.

That Strategic Local Plan was discarded by the High Court last year because SADC did not cooperate fully with its neighbouring authorities.

This time around, SADC is working with the other councils as part of the South West Herts Group.