St Albans Green Belt care home plans rejected for second time

Green Belt land to the rear of Harpenden Road

Green Belt land to the rear of Harpenden Road - Credit: Archant

GREEN Belt champions in St Albans are celebrating again after a controversial scheme for a major housing and care home development has been rejected a second time by the Planning Inspectorate.

Hunston Properties had appealed against a decision by St Albans district council (SADC) to turn down its application to build 116 homes, a 72-bed care home, new accesses to Harpenden Road, two tennis courts and open space to the rear of 112-156B Harpenden Road, close to the Woollams complex.

Planning inspector Elizabeth Fieldhouse said she was dismissing the appeal, and awarded partial costs to the district council, refusing Hunston’s application for costs.

Hunston’s first appeal was refused in July last year because it would harm the openness of the Green Belt and the second appeal was turned down for the same reason.

When Hunston’s scheme was submitted to the council it provided for 35 per cent of homes (41) to be affordable, but after the application had been refused, that percentage was increased to 53 per cent (61) for the planning appeal.

But Hunston did not change the proposed layout and Ms Fieldhouse said that to determine the appeal on a basis different from that consulted upon and considered by the council, “could prejudice third parties and would therefore be unreasonable.”

She said the Green Belt boundary was tightly drawn around local homes, St Albans Girls School (STAGS) and Woollams.

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She also questioned the need for tennis courts other than to benefit STAGS and pointed out that a programme of expanding and upgrading existing council-owned care homes would produce additional bed spaces in the district.

The council was awarded partial costs because Hunston had behaved unreasonably by re-running issues which had already been determined in the previous appeal decision.

A spokesman for Campaign by Locals Against Sewell Housing (CLASH) said: “Of course CLASH is delighted that for the second time, the Secretary of State’s inspector has comprehensively supported the decisions made by [SADC’s] planning team.

“We now hope that local councillors – of all political colours, stop pandering to their local political interests at the expense of the wider district.

“Much was made by the developer during the appeal that the St Albans Local Plan is almost 20 years old and this made the planning team’s job that much harder. Councillors need to get behind their planning team and adopt a new Strategic Local Plan.”

Hunston have submitted a third application, reduced in scope to 71 homes, 14 flats, new accesses, two tennis courts and public open space, but it was turned down yet again by the council in January this year.