Victory in fight to save St Albans meadow from developers
Campaigners are celebrating a major victory in their bid to preserve a wildlife meadow from development.
Verulam Residents Association has been trying to prevent the meadow between Bedmond Lane and Mayne Avenue, St Albans, being developed by Banner Homes.
The meadow was designated by the district council as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) because it was clear that the local community had been using it for many years. It was an open space with a public footpath running through it and there were no apparent barriers to public access. The council felt that the meadow, which is rich in wildlife and wildflowers, fulfilled a community benefit and there was no reason to assume that would not continue.
But Banner Homes challenged the status, claiming that because the meadow was private land, residents had no right to use it.
They have also repeatedly said that they wish to develop the land, despite it not being considered for homes in the district’s draft Strategic Local Plan.
The company unsuccessfully applied to graze horses on the land, generally seen as the precursor to a bid to put up housing, and then put up wire fencing around the site after this was turned down, apparently to prevent trespassers straying off the public footpaths.
However, the field had been used socially and recreationally by local residents since the late 1960s and they had never been told previously not to access the site.
The company’s first appeal against the ACV decision was unsuccessful, so Banner Homes then went took its case to a second appeal, a so-called ‘first tier’ tribunal, in a bid to get the status overturned.
But on Friday it was revealed that the tribunal had dismissed the developer’s appeal, and Judge Peter Lane suggested Banner Homes might now wish to look into some sort of licence arrangement with the residents’ association.
Timothy Beecroft, chairman of Verulam Residents Association, said: “The Verulam Residents Association is very pleased to hear that Banner Homes’ appeal against St Albans council’s decision to list Bedmond Lane Field as an Asset of Community Value has been dismissed.
“We note with particular interest the Judge’s remark that ‘it is not fanciful, given the history of the Field, to think that Banner Homes may well conclude that their relations with the local community will be best served by restoring the status quo or by entering into some form of licence arrangement with the Residents’ Association or similar grouping’.
“Even though we cannot be sure that we have come to the end of the legal process we very much hope that this will provide the basis for a positive way forward.
“This result could not have come about without the hard work and support of many residents – the VRA thanks them all for their contribution.”
Banner Homes’ appeal against the horse grazing decision has yet to be decided.