St Albans new Local Plan consultation: 15,000 new homes set to be built across district

Green Belt land at Chiswell Green Farm

Green Belt land at Chiswell Green Farm - Credit: Archant

Radical plans to develop at least the equivalent size of Harpenden across the district - most on Green Belt land - have been unveiled this week.

Consultation into St Albans’ new Local Plan is now open for six weeks and the district council (SADC) is urging every resident to get involved.

The final document will detail all development in St Albans district from 2020 to 2036 - including nearly 15,000 new homes, 14 schools, and various new green spaces - with eight Green Belt sites already identified for housing.

The former Strategic Local Plan, which was discarded by the High Court last summer, made provision for only 436 new homes each year. Since then, Government pressure and a new standardised methodology for calculating housing need has skyrocketed the projections to around 900 a year.

If the proposed methodology is approved, St Albans will need to take on a 25 per cent uplift compared to existing homes - the equivalent to more than another Harpenden - and landowners are being urged to come forward with additional sites for consideration.

Portfolio holder for planning at SADC, Cllr Mary Maynard said the new developments were unavoidable as the district had to make up for a lack of house building over the last 40 years.

“There is a generational problem here. There is nowhere for our young people, and I am talking about the people who live in this area, they cannot afford to buy here. It’s just impossible. Unless your parents give you significant help, you are very lucky or you are one of a very small group who get a job as an investment manager in the city, you won’t even get a starter home.”

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But she stressed Government housing projections are overestimated and based on “unrepresentative data” about the average earnings of St Albans workers and residents, and they were hoping the target could be reduced.

The consultation is part of SADC’s response to threats by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid that if a Local Plan is not implemented soon, the Government may intervene to ensure one is quickly produced.

If this happens, St Albans people will not have as much autonomy to shape development plans in ways most acceptable to them.

“What I have told all the councillors is that if we don’t do it, the Government will give it to the South West Herts Group [a partnership of neighbouring local authorities] and they will do it. You either stand up and work on behalf of your residents or you put your head in the sand and it will be done for you.”

She has a vision for the district: “We are not building for people who live here at the moment, it’s their children and their children’s children we are building for. It’s the next generation we are building for.”

She added: “A lot of hard work, including discussions with neighbouring local authorities, has gone on behind the scenes and now we are ready to consult with our residents and local workers.

“I urge people of all ages and backgrounds to take an interest in the Local Plan.”

SADC’s Liberal Democrat spokesperson on planning, Cllr David Yates, said: “With the Government threatening to take away St Albans’ right to produce its own Local Plan, it has never been more important that the voices of the people who live and work in St Albans are heard.”

He added: “I hope there are more responses from younger residents and local workers because they are the ones who will be most affected.”

Labour’s spokesperson, Cllr Iain Grant, said: “The Local Plan is our chance to shape how and where much-needed homes - particularly affordable housing - can be delivered for the district. It is also our chance to ensure this is genuinely sustainable, by having the schools, jobs, leisure facilities and other infrastructure to go with these homes.”

The consultation is open until February 21.