St Albans Green Belt sites earmarked for potential housing development

ID shots for stories on the Green Belt and future expansion of St Albans, Sandpit Lane, Verulum Play

ID shots for stories on the Green Belt and future expansion of St Albans, Sandpit Lane, Verulum Playing Fields AL4 0 - Credit: Archant

Four Green Belt locations across the district have been identified as potential housing and economic development sites following the second of two independent reviews.

A housing needs assessment - which takes in demand not just from local residents but also migration from other areas and countries - has listed two sites adjoining Hemel Hempstead to the west of the M1 as most suitable for the development of 2,500 homes.

That is followed by a proposed 1.000 new homes on land at Oaklands College where an application for nearly 350 dwellings has already been submitted and 500 homes to the north west of Harpenden on land bordered by Cooters End Lane and Ambrose Lane.

A meeting of the council’s planning policy committee will take an initial look at the independent assessment tonight (3) and will decide whether or not to ask full council on July 16 whether the housing need in the context of national policy, the law and the circumstances of the district, represents the ‘exceptional circumstances’ required to alter the Green Belt boundaries.

Based on the independent studies, the district housing need is forecast to be 8,720 new homes for the 20-year period to 2031 which would provide an average of 436 dwellings per year.

Although 5,000 new homes can be built in urban areas and previously-developed Green Belt land, there is a shortfall of 3,720 which is why the four sites have been put forward by the independent consultants as doing the least harm overall to the Green Belt.

Planning portfolio holder and council leader, Cllr Julian Daly, said yesterday that both the sites at Oaklands College to the east of St Albans and the north west of Harpenden had been identified in the first of the two independent assessments, the Green Belt Review, as suitable for a relatively large number of homes - up to 1600 at Oaklands and 1,000 in Harpenden.

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The two Hemel Hempstead sites, which have been backed by both St Albans MP and her Dacorum counterpart Mike Penning although they are in neither of their constituencies, were ranked further down in the Green Belt Review but have now been recommended as most suitable for Green Belt release.

Cllr Daly said that the second review had assessed the two sites on economic, environmental and social factors and they had been identified by the Local Enterprise Partnership as a growth area.

He confirmed that the process of talking with Dacorum council would start shortly.

Development sites have to be identified for inclusion in the Local Plan which provides a framework for controlled development and without which, the council could leave itself wide open to speculative development.

Cllr Daly added: “None of us want to build in the Green Belt. However the council needs to make progress with our Local Plan on the basis of national policy and the law. If we do not do so, we risk having little control over what developers do in our district.”

He added: “The report asks us to consider taking one per cent out of the Green Belt over the 20 year period.”