Strategic Local Plan: Redbourn residents up in arms after St Albans council earmarks Green Belt land for thousands of homes

Redbourn residents Ford Shackcloth, Ray and Linda Snow, Lisa and David Mitchell are upset about the

Redbourn residents Ford Shackcloth, Ray and Linda Snow, Lisa and David Mitchell are upset about the potential loss of the green belt land around their houses through St Albans district council's Strategic Local Plan - Credit: Archant

Impassioned argument and a petition signed by 230 residents have failed to halt a large chunk of Green Belt land from being earmarked for thousands of new homes.

Chairman of Redbourn parish council David Mitchell has accused district councillors of being “politically driven rather than using common sense” after they ignored calls to stop plans to expand onto farmland near the village.

At an extraordinary meeting on December 2, after over two hours of debate, the district council decided to press ahead with the next stage of this area’s expansion via its draft planning blueprint, the Strategic Local Plan (SLP).

The council has proceeded to the ‘formal publication’ stage of the document, with a six-week public consultation starting on Friday, January 8. It will gather representations on compliance with legal processes, and on whether the draft is ‘sound’ in legal and planning terms.

Villagers, including a large contingent attending the meeting, had shown their strong opposition to the authority’s controversial inclusion of extensive future development in the Redbourn parish, by providing for a major urban extension of Hemel Hempstead.

About 2,500 homes, along with primary and secondary schools, are proposed to be built on Crown Estate land in the SLP.

Cllr Mitchell warned those at the meeting: “It would see countryside between Hemel and the outskirts of Redbourn village significantly reduced. The region needs new houses, but there are alternatives. A new garden city is being considered, and government policy is encouraging development outside London and the south east. Let’s not destroy St Albans in the meantime.”

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He was supported by Redbourn district councillors, Tony Swendell, Victoria Mead and Maxine Crawley, the latter repeating concerns about the lack of infrastructure to keep pace with any strategic development, should it go ahead.

She said that building 2,500 homes, at a density of 40 houses per hectare, would result in a “tight and cramped” development.

Cllr Crawley warned: “To achieve the number of houses they need, it may have to spread. I’m not sure it will stay within the area that has been specified. It is also close to Buncefield, and many people were not happy with the Government-specified exclusion zone [for housing].

“There are no benefits for Redbourn, only concerns over the impact … and the loss of prime agricultural land.

“This scheme west of Redbourn meets the local housing numbers need but it doesn’t meet the cultural need, it doesn’t add anything to the St Albans community – it adds to Hemel Hempstead.”

Cllr Mead added that villagers “do not in future years want to become part of Hemel”.

After the meeting, Cllr Mitchell said: “I’m not surprised the draft plan has gone through. It’s politically driven rather than good sense. Redbourn is a rural village, and it will become part of an urban sprawl.

“Redbourn is being made a sacrificial lamb in all of this. The councillors don’t live in Redbourn, so they wanted development there for NIMBY-ish and political reasons, rather than good planning reasons.

“Housing needs don’t trump the Green Belt. It is unfair on Redbourn, and morally wrong.”