St Albans Local Plan accused of being unsound

The land proposed for development.

The land proposed for development. - Credit: Archant

St Albans Local Plan (LP) will fail once again if it is allowed to proceed unchecked, a landowner has warned.

Lawes Agricultural Trust (LAT), which funds Rothamsted Research, earlier this year submitted a piece of Green Belt by Harpenden Lane and Dunstable Road to the LP for a 1,000 home development.

St Albans district council (SADC) rejected the land in favour of other sites around the district.

The trust has now sent a letter to SADC warning that the LP process is flawed and might be found unsound by a planning inspector.

The same allegation was thrown at SADC by developers HelioSlough because the council is planning a 2,000 home development on a piece of Park Street Green Belt earmarked for a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange.

If the LP is found unsound, the Government has threatened to intervene, deciding where 15,000 new homes should be built in the district before 2036.

LAT chief executive, Peter Oxley, said: “We believe that the council’s decision is wrong, not only for the community, but also from the point of view of not following the proper legal process.”

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He argued LAT’s proposal was not properly compared to all the other submissions - only to the Park Street rail depot site.

The LAT development would include a cycle route from Redbourn to Harpenden, a new school, a wildlife reserve, and a commitment to social rented housing.

It is “mystifying”, he said: “[LAT Trustees] are therefore under a duty to take whatever action our legal advisers recommend is appropriate. We are keen to work with the council - and have been throughout this process.”

If SADC plough ahead with the draft LP in its current form, LAT will take more legal advice.

Planning portfolio holder at SADC, Cllr Mary Maynard, stood by SADC’s decisions: “The council has gone through a planning lead process and the first objective in terms of housing location was to minimise damage to the Green Belt. We used a simple process and we followed it, and we are choosing the developments that will least impact Green Belt. It is a very legal, sound planning process.”

SADC is due to decide if the draft LP should put to consultation tonight.