St Albans Local Plan remains relatively unchanged despite consultation

Cllr Maynard with the draft Local Plan. Picture: SADC

Cllr Maynard with the draft Local Plan. Picture: SADC - Credit: Archant

St Albans’ controversial Local Plan has seen no substantial changes following the most recent public consultation.

The proposed rail freight site near Park Street

The proposed rail freight site near Park Street - Credit: Archant

The document outlines where 15,000 new houses will be built across the district in the period up to 2036 and has already been subject to two public consultations.

There are numerous points of contention - much of the land sacrificed to development is classified as Green Belt, in Redbourn ward, and near the boundary with Dacorum Borough Council.

Additionally, one of the new settlements is on land which already has planning permission for a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI).

In the midst of this opposition, the document went out for a second consultation last year - but despite feedback, there have been no changes to the document.

In a report to the St Albans district council (SADC) Planning Policy Committee (PPC), officers have now recommended it is submitted to the Secretary of State.

They highlighted that the Government has intervened in the Local Plans of both Wirral Council and Thanet District Council, after those authorities took too long in making a submission.

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The chairman of Redbourn Parish Council, Cllr David Mitchell, has condemned the plan as “unsound”.

He said: “If you look at the responses to Regulation 19 [second consultation], there is a lot of criticisms of the Local Plan and very little of it seems to have been addressed. It has been noted but not addressed.

“I do not think St Albans has been negligent in trying to get a plan through, where they have done a poor job is in terms of the plan itself.

“I think the plan is unsound, but I appreciate that they are trying to get something through and it seems they have thrown it together.”

He described the document as “unfair” on Redbourn.

Cllr Mitchell added: “I just think it is ridiculous that St Albans wants to build all this housing next to Hemel Hempstead, providing housing for people in Hemel Hempstead but not for people in St Albans - and people are meant to be walking to work now.

“I think they have rushed to get everything ready by March, but without considering all the issues. It is meeting housing targets rather than the needs of the community and so I believe it is unsound.”

SRFI developers HelioSlough, now SEGRO, has threatened to take legal action if SADC continues to pursue the Park Street Garden Village site - as it is doing in this latest version of the Plan.

A SEGRO spokesperson said: “We are disappointed that the draft Local Plan to be submitted by SADC continues to fail to recognise the importance of the SRFI at Radlett and the Secretary of State’s clear support for its delivery.

“We will continue to make the case for its development. The SRFI is a nationally important infrastructure project that will play a key role in supporting the government’s rail freight strategy which includes getting more freight off the roads and onto rail, reducing HGV movements and improving air quality.”

She also stressed that an SRFI at Radlett will create regional and local jobs in a post-Brexit Britain.

The land in question is owned by Herts county council.

SADC planning portfolio holder, Cllr Mary Maynard, has defended the decision to leave the document relatively unaltered.

She said: “In terms of the big ticket sites, the main sites, the employment locations, the infrastructure, that is all still there.

“We went through an analytical approach and nothing that come up in the Regulation 19 [second consultation] suggested any changes to that. We had no duty to co-operate problems, everybody was content.”

Duty to co-operate issues were the downfall of the previous Strategic Local Plan, which was thrown out of High Court in 2017 after councils surrounding the St Albans boundary lodged complaints about a lack of consultation.

Cllr Maynard added: “I am hopeful that the SADC cabinet will agree [to the submission]. I can’t see why not, there is nothing substantially changed to what the council have seen.”

She stressed that all infrastructure concerns have been considered, including roads, household water provision, GP surgeries, and schools - four secondaries and 14 primaries.

If both the PCC last night (March 13) and then SADC cabinet on March 21 approve the Local Plan, it will be submitted to the Secretary of State, who will scrutinise the document.