St Albans new Local Plan consultation: Dilemma of densification or building on Green Belt
PUBLISHED: 12:30 10 January 2018 | UPDATED: 12:53 10 January 2018
The district will have to forfeit swathes of Green Belt land to accommodate an influx of new homes.
Have your say on the plans
St Albans district council (SADC) has printed 60,000 postal surveys asking where new homes should be built, what sort of houses are needed, and how business growth should be supported.
There is also a five minute video, 14 exhibitions in community halls, and a call to landowners for possible sites.
If the Government White Paper ‘Fixing Our Broken Housing Market’ goes ahead SADC will be forced to build almost 15,000 homes of varying types before 2036 - including social, affordable, and properties for the elderly.
The problem faced by the council is that 81 per cent of all land in St Albans district is Green Belt and the other 19 per cent has few suitable brownfield sites.
Four new settlements, on top of four already set aside in the former Strategic Local Plan, have already been identified in the new Local Plan as being least harmful to the Green Belt.
The sites have been identified as North West Harpenden, North East Harpenden, North of St Albans, East St Albans, land at London Colney, land at Chiswell Green, East Hemel Hempstead (south) and East Hemel Hempstead (north).
If the plans go ahead the new settlements could accommodate 6,500 homes and all associated infrastructure - including schools, parks, GP surgeries, and roads.
A further 5,000 homes would be integrated into already built-up areas using a process of densification.
All this still leaves a 3,000 homes shortfall which SADC is yet to make provision for, and landowners are being asked to offer spaces to fill the gap. Sites already owned by public sector bodies like Herts county council will be given priority in this process.
Portfolio holder for planning at SADC Cllr Mary Maynard said although people are often reluctant to relinquish Green Belt land, densification comes with its own challenges: “What are the issues if we encourage more densification, what are the pros? The pros are that we don’t touch Green Belt so we still have that there. What are the cons? The cons are actually infrastructure. The more you densify, the more pressure you put on existing infrastructure.”
Cllr Maynard said: “Green Belt objectives are not about having nice rolling hills. They are actually about maintaining a good distance between settlements and about maintaining farming land - that’s the sort of thing they are for.”
She said there is a misunderstanding that Green Belt land is for preserving ecology, when in fact it is just a lack of development.