Campaign to protect St Albans community meadow defeated by developers
- Credit: Archant
Planning permission has been granted allowing horses to graze on a community meadow in St Albans, despite repeated objections from residents.
Bedmond Field, off Bedmond Lane in St Albans, has been listed as an asset of community value (ACV) since 2014, but its status expired in March last year.
Developers CALA Homes made multiple attempts to challenge the meadow's protected status, and St Albans district council's planning referrals committee finally granted permission for a change of use of the land on Monday, February 10.
The plan involves two road accesses - one from Parklands Drive and the other from Mayne Avenue.
Members of Verulam Residents' Association, who have long campaigned to protect the meadow, believe the application is the first step to allowing the Green Belt site to be developed into housing.
Chair Timothy Beecroft, who spoke at the meeting to oppose the application, said: "What is so frustrating is that the vast majority of the comments from members of the planning committee clearly showed that they wanted to refuse the application which they described as 'ridiculous' and 'unsuitable'."
According to Mr Beecroft, the committee were unable to refuse an application on that basis, and found there was no valid reason for refusal under planning policy.
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He said: "This case would seem to indicate that there are some pretty fundamental flaws in the way that the planning system works.
"In St Albans we also have the problem that we haven't yet got an agreed Local Plan which sets out the framework within which decisions like this should be taken.
"There is much uncertainty but one thing that is certain is that the VRA will continue to do its best to ensure that residents' voices are heard to the greatest possible effect."
The campaigners were working on an application to have the meadow's ACV status extended, but found it was "almost impossible" to do so as the owner of an ACV can close off the area to the public.
After the field was made into an ACV, CALA Homes fenced off all of the meadow apart from two footpaths, and put up notices saying 'Private land, no unauthorised access'.