Waiting game over High Court decision on St Albans Strategic Local Plan

Green Belt land for St Albans' SLP at Chiswell Green Farm, which was included in the SLP

Green Belt land for St Albans' SLP at Chiswell Green Farm, which was included in the SLP - Credit: Archant

St Albans district council (SADC) is waiting with bated breath to find out if controversial housing plans should be scrapped.

It pursued a civil case at High Court after planning inspector David Hogger recommended the district’s Strategic Local Plan (SLP) was withdrawn last year - it outlines major development for the district planned until 2031, including building 4,000 homes in the Green Belt.

Mr Hogger said SADC had not fully co-operated with surrounding districts after objections by Dacorum borough council, Hertsmere borough council, Three Rivers district council, and Watford borough council were lodged under the group name South West Herts Group (SWHG).

The four unhappy councils said SADC had not consulted them when planning to build thousands of houses close to their infrastructure.

Yesterday the High Court hearing began, in front of Sir Ross Cranston, with arguments presented from Matthew Reed QC on behalf of SADC.

He said the housing market in St Albans is so entirely separate from the other districts that it could not be considered together, and that the fact any discussion had taken place demonstrates compliance with their duty to cooperate.

When the SWHG and SADC disagreed over housing quota projections it was an impossible impasse which did not warrant any more dialogue, he said.

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The case continued today, with Mark Westmoreland Smith on behalf of the Secretary of State disputing those claims.

He noted that SADC did not reply to a request to meet with SWHG for five months, and when they did, it was to point out important areas of consideration less than a month before the SLP was submitted.

“It was perfectly reasonable of him to conclude and come to judge that the duty to cooperate had not been complied with.

“They say that the discussions itself demonstrate the duty of cooperation had been complied with but that cannot be true. It’s an ongoing duty.

“It cannot be right that once there’s disagreement that’s it, especially in an area that is more art than science and different experts come to different views.”

Both parties now must wait for Sir Cranston to make a decision, which is expected in the next couple of weeks.