St Albans step closer to expanding onto Green Belt: council consultation begins

St Albans district council wants residents' views on the draft plan

St Albans district council wants residents' views on the draft plan - Credit: Archant

Do residents support the proposed building of 4,000 homes on St Albans’ Green Belt, including at Oaklands College and Redbourn?

That is the question being asked from today (Friday) as the district council releases its draft Strategic Local Plan (SLP) for consultation.

The debate over St Albans’ future expansion onto the Green Belt has now swung back to local residents for their opinion, as the council seeks to finalise its draft framework setting out potential sites for thousands of homes.

Recent independent studies show the district’s housing need is forecast to be 8,720 new homes for the 20-year period until 2031.

Land is available for 5,000 of these houses in urban areas and previously developed land in the Green Belt.

But to cater for the remainder, large-scale development has been mooted for Oaklands College’s Smallford campus, where 1,000 homes could be built; the westernmost part of the district, which could see 2,500 homes built, including on part of the Gorhambury/Crown estate to accommodate a major urban extension of Hemel Hempstead, and 500 homes to the north west of Harpenden.

St Albans’ Green Belt has worked successfully for more than 60 years in controlling the growth of greater London.

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But, the combination of a government push to boost the number of new homes, and an anticipated growth in the district’s population means that concreting over green fields is likely.

The council needs to adopt a new blueprint setting out areas suitable for development to comply with national planning policies to increase housing, and because its out-of-date 1994 District Local Plan Review is the second oldest local plan in England, and must be replaced.

Between October 10 and November 22, residents can have their say on the SLP which paves the way for an average of 436 homes, including apartments, per year, at a density of 40 homes per hectare.

Other key points in the draft plan include:

n Additional school places are a “pressing need” with provisional requirements for new or expanded primary schools, estimated at 16 forms of entry plus additional reserve capacity until 2026.

n A new secondary school in the north of the district.

n Expansion of Hemel will necessitate major road network improvements.

n Major retail development is proposed for the Civic Centre, Drovers Way, Griffiths Way south and Colney Fields.

n At least 100 affordable homes a year.

Over 80 per cent of the district lies within the Green Belt, which means that development is restricted.

St Albans’ population is currently about 140,000, and the district covers an area of 63 square miles.

The plan admits that water resources are under immense pressure and over abstraction has resulted in biodiversity damage, including to local chalk streams.

The council’s executive leader Cllr Julian Daly said: “The plan isn’t a done deal, and we want to know whether residents agree with it.

“We also need to know if people agree with the level of housing density, of 40 homes and apartments per hectare.”

Exhibitions of the draft document will be held throughout the district, including Redbourn and Bricket Wood, until November 15.

See the council’s website for more details.

The results of the consultation will be reported back to the council early next year.