St Albans meadow is saved for the community

Bedmond Meadow

Bedmond Meadow - Credit: Archant

Delighted residents of a St Albans housing estate have successfully fought off a bid by a building company to appeal a decision to list a wildlife meadow as an Asset of Community Value (ACV).

It is the second time in the last few months that residents of the Verulam Estate have had cause for celebration - in August the district council turned down an application from Banner Homes to keep horses on the meadow which sits between Mayne Avenue and Bedmond Lane, St Albans.

This week the residents learned that Banner Homes - now part of the Cala Group - had been unsuccessful in a bid to get the ACV overturned which, had it been successful, would have made it easier to sell the land.

But there is no indication that wire fencing that was put around the meadow shortly after the horse grazing application was turned down will be removed any time soon.

And Cala Homes made it clear at the ACV appeal hearing last month that it still wishes to build on the land even though it is in the Green Belt and previous bids to develop it have been unsuccessful.

The meadow was designated by the district council as an ACV in March because it had no apparent barriers to public access and was an open space with a public footpath running through it. The council felt that the meadow, which is rich in wildlife and wildflowers, fulfilled a community benefit and there was no reason to assume that would not continue.

But shortly afterwards Banner submitted the unsuccessful application to keep horses on the meadow which is generally seen as the precursor to a bid to put up housing.

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At the ACV appeal, Douglas Edwards for Banner Homes Group said that the land was private and the wire fencing had been put up to prevent any trespass on the land beyond the public footpaths.

He also confirmed that the company viewed the meadow as having development poetential and they would be making a submission to the district council to that effect in the wake of the publication of its planning blueprint, the Strategic Local Plan.

But Martin Frearson for the residents association argued that Banner Homes was well aware that the site had been used socially and recreationally by local residents since the late 1960s and they had never been told previously not to access the site.

After the decision was known Verulam Estate resident Dr Robert Wareing said: “This wildflower and wildlife meadow, which is unique in St Albans, is like an ecological kaleidoscope with its beauty, diversity and rich mosaic constantly changing through the seasons.

“For over 40 years it has given enjoyment and inspiration to local people who have enjoyed unrestricted access. We have also cared for and protected this precious space.

“Naturally, we’re thrilled to have won this battle but I suspect this is just an opening salvo in what could be a protracted and expensive legal war.

“Cala have stated unequivocally it is their intention to build on the land and before this hearing made clear they will appeal to a higher level tribunal if necessary.”