St Albans Green Belt appeal rejected

The land behind numbers 15 and 17 Castle Rise in Wheathampstead have been refused planning permissio

The land behind numbers 15 and 17 Castle Rise in Wheathampstead have been refused planning permission - Credit: Archant

Claims that building 10 homes on farmland would improve the “openness” of the Green Belt have been spurned by a planning inspector.

An appeal against the rejection of the demolition of buildings at Castle Rise, Wheathampstead, to make way for a residential development has been dismissed because of its “harmful effect upon the Green Belt”.

The site includes a mix of derelict timber and brick barns and metal outbuildings, previously used for pig farming.

The planning application attracted many objections including from Wheathampstead parish council when lodged with St Albans district council in 2012, which subsequently refused it.

In his recent decision, planning inspector Ahsan Ghafoor said the layout of the homes, which he described as chalet-style bungalows in an arc-style formation, would lead to a loss of privacy and outlook for future residents.

A recent court judgement was cited in the appeal documents, regarding the case between the council and Hunston Properties in relation to the latter’s contentious scheme for 116 houses and care home, also on the Green Belt, to the rear of Harpenden Road.

The council’s appeal concerned interpretation of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), particularly policies on proposed residential schemes, and housing need figures.

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The Court of Appeal in December quashed the council’s bid to have a High Court judgement in favour of Hunston overturned but called upon Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to review and clarify policies on housing requirement figures.

The planning agent proposing the Castle Rise development argued that, in light of that judgement, the scheme should be approved as the council cannot demonstrate a five-year housing land supply, and it would contribute towards St Albans’ housing need.

But Mr Ghafoor said Mr Pickles had stated that sustainable growth meant ensuring “better lives for ourselves don’t mean worse lives for future generations”.

He referred to St Albans’ emerging Strategic Local Plan, which is being prepared to replace the district’s out-of-date 20 year old planning blueprint.

Commenting on the possible need to expand on to the Green Belt, the planning inspector said, “the local planning process is the best place for this type of discussion.

“Otherwise, there is a potential risk of residential development occurring in an unplanned, uncoordinated and unsustainable manner.”

His dismissal of the appeal was welcomed by district councillor Steve Bowes-Phipps, who said: “The fact we don’t have enough land to meet housing demand isn’t a good enough reason for developers to start building anywhere on the Green Belt as they see fit.”