Unrealistic and impractical housing demands challenged for St Albans

PUBLISHED: 12:24 17 November 2009 | UPDATED: 14:39 06 May 2010

HIGHER housing growth targets put forward by a government body have been opposed by the district council. The current East of England Plan covers housing growth in the region until 2021 but the council has successfully challenged the figures for the St Al

HIGHER housing growth targets put forward by a government body have been opposed by the district council.

The current East of England Plan covers housing growth in the region until 2021 but the council has successfully challenged the figures for the St Albans district, which has resulted in a review of the proposals.

Despite this, the East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) is now proposing that the plan is extended to 2031 and has suggested that between 550 and 870 additional houses should be built in the district from 2021 until that time.

It has asked St Albans district council, along with all other local authorities in the region, to comment on four scenarios in a consultation document. Two propose significantly higher levels of housing growth than the district has been delivering for the last eight years.

The council has opposed the plans on the basis that it would threaten the Green Belt and undermine local infrastructure such as roads, schools and hospitals.

In its response to EERA, the council has also demanded that an assessment of the capability of settlements in the region to deliver such growth is conducted and insisted that the housing targets contained in the existing East of England Plan are not used as a basis for calculating future housing growth because it is flawed, demonstrated by the council's successful High Court Action in May 2009.

Cllr Chris Brazier, portfolio holder for planning and conservation, said: "We have already successfully mounted a legal challenge against housing targets for the period up to 2021. "Now, the Regional Assembly is proposing even higher long-term housing targets which are simply unrealistic and impractical given the constraints faced by settlements in the district with regard to the Green Belt and the limited capacity of the local infrastructure."

The response has won the backing of the Campaign to Protect Rural England. Director Kevin FitzGerald said: "Yet again Herts is in the firing line for massive development resulting in loss of countryside, increased congestion and strain on services. We could be looking at numbers equivalent to two Stevenages. People were shocked by the scale of development called for in the original plan, but the review calls for far, fare more."

But Cllr Roma Mills, the Labour parliamentary candidate for St Albans, disagrees. She said: "'The Liberal Democrats who run St Albans District Council do not appear to have any strategy for meeting the housing needs of local people.

"The cost of house purchase in St Albans, even in this time of 'credit crunch' is still beyond the reach of anyone earning an average wage - you need an income of £35,000 plus to buy a small studio flat here. Without more housing available a lot of people have little hope of setting up home in this district."

She pointed out that 70 per cent of the district was Green Belt and said it was "misleading" to suggest the additional figures would have a serious impact. Instead, she said there was a risk of losing essential workers as they moved away in search of an affordable home.

Once EERA completes the consultation next week (24), it will draft a new East of England Plan that runs up to 2031 which will be issued for public consultation in March 2010.

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