Victory for Harpenden allotment campaigners

ALLOTMENT campaigners were celebrating victory this week after a bid to build at least 20 affordable homes on the site was rejected.

Not only did Tuesday’s meeting of St Albans council’s cabinet decide that the former Westfield Allotments site in Harpenden should not be developed for housing but also ruled that it should be restored for future allotment use.

The decision follows a strong campaign by local residents against the proposals from Harpenden town council to build a minimum of 20 new homes - all of which would be affordable - on the 1.15-acre site off Westfield Road.

It was the third time the town council had approached St Albans council for permission to cross its land to get access to the site and on the two previous occasions in 2004 and 2006, agreement had been given for Hyde Lane to be used.

Planning permission was sought by the town council in 2005 for 42 flats on the site but it was refused and no further application was received

Cabinet was told that the access situation had changed and crossing the Lea Valley Walk in Hyde Lane was no longer acceptable because Sustrans have adopted it as part of the national cycle network.

They also heard that there had been a resurgence in demand for allotments with a recognised shortfall in Harpenden.

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Campaigner Carol Hedges told the meeting that the new Coalition government was pushing for more community consultation on housing schemes and new building to be on brownfield and industrial sites rather than green spaces.

She said the community wanted to integrate the allotments into the surrounding green space - she pointed out that the area had once been Westfield Common - and would even like to see a community orchard there.

Sport and leisure portfolio holder, Cllr Anthony Rowlands, said it was no longer appropriate for the Lea Valley Walk to be used as access to a housing estate and the demand for allotments had risen markedly with many half empty 10 years ago and now completely full with waiting lists.

Housing portfolio holder, Cllr David Poor said although the council had targets for building affordable housing, it was not necessary to build homes on a green space to meet them and he was “more than happy” for the site not to be used for such a purpose.

And council leader Robert Donald commented that there had been “weighty changes” in thinking both locally and nationally since the earlier agreements about access which could not be ignored.

After the meeting Ms Hedges, who is a children’s author by profession, said: “We are absolutely delighted and looking forward to working with Harpenden town council and St Albans district council to create a apace for all members of our local community to enjoy.”