Stay of execution over bid to allow horse grazing on St Albans wildlife meadow

Bedmond Meadow

Bedmond Meadow - Credit: Archant

Residents showed their strength of feeling at a St Albans planning meeting over a scheme to introduce grazing on a wildlife meadow close to their homes.

The latest chapter in the saga of the application by Cala Homes to graze a horse on land between Mayne Avenue and Bedmond Lane, St Albans, saw around 40 residents turn up at St Albans council chamber to hear the central planning committee defer a decision on the application.

A previous application from Cala Homes for grazing on the site known as Bedmond Meadow was turned down on appeal on the grounds of of harm to the flora and fauna on the site, highway safety, the lack of provision to feed and water horses grazing there and the proposed access from Mayne Avenue.

Cala came back with a fresh application last year which included the creation of accesses from Mayne Avenue and Parklands Drive and the construction of two timber stables even though only one horse would graze there.

Grazing horses on land is frequently seen as a precursor to an application for house building and the application was recommended for approval by planning officers.

But councillors went against their officers and rejected the application on the casting vote of the chair, Cllr Janet Churchard.

Despite turning it down, they deferred it so their officers could look into a valid reason for rejecting the scheme. It will now come back to committee at a later date.

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Verulam Residents Association has vigorously opposed the application for the meadow which the district council has approved as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) but which is being contested by Cala Homes through the appeal process.

Timothy Beecroft, chairman of the residents association, said the main area of contention for the committee seemed to be whether Cala’s proposed Ecological Management Plan was sufficiently robust and if it wasn’t whether that gave councillors sufficient justification to reject ther application.

He commented: “We are pleased that Cala Homes didn’t get the green light to go ahead but sorry that it couldn’t be rejected fully. We hope that when it next comes up, there will strong arguments on planning grounds why it shouldn’t go ahead and we will be putting them forward as vigorously as we can.”

He added: “We are talking about a horse in the field when we ought to be talking about an elephant in the room because eventually they want to build houses on the land.”