What is happening with age-restricted housing on St Albans King Harry Park site?

AGE-restricted housing on a major new development in St Albans is being whittled away even though it was a condition of the scheme receiving planning permission.

Last month council officers approved an application by Lisa Estates which would enable the age restriction to be lifted on 28 units of affordable housing on King Harry Park, the new development in King Harry Lane, St Albans, if it is not possible to let them to over 55s.

And on Monday, councillors on St Albans plans central committee deferred a decision on an application by Berkeley Homes to remove the age restriction relating to 44 out of 65 private homes on the site.

King Harry Park is a development of two halves – one designated as a retirement community with key worker housing and the second area, a mixture of private houses and flats.

After a long battle by the Verulam Estate Residents Association against the development of the former St Albans School playing fields, a planning inspector gave outline permission in 2006 for a retirement community on one part of the site which would comprise 65 age-restricted homes as well as extra care/assisted living flats, key worker flats and a care home.

One of the most persuasive arguments at the time was that a retirement community would mean fewer cars travelling in and out of the new development on to the congested King Harry Lane.

The Berkeley Homes application was called in to the plans central committee on Monday by local councillor Fred Wartenberg who pointed out that it was contrary to the recommendation of the inspector who had granted planning permission in 2006.

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He also questioned whether the application was lawful.

Committee chair, Cllr Melvyn Teare, said after the meeting that four councillors had voted to turn down the application but it had been deferred to enable them to come up with grounds for doing so.

He admitted he was annoyed that the councillors who had opposed it had not thought through the grounds for refusal because of the risk of it going to appeal and costs being awarded against the council.

And he said that there had been little debate and if the objectors had indicated to him that they were going to vote against it, he would have ensured that the committee discussed it to make sure there were actually adequate reasons for refusal.

Planning officers had recommended that the application should be granted because there was no current St Albans Local Plan Policy concerning the provision of age restricted properties and no policy preventing the loss of them.

They also accepted that there would be little increase in traffic generation and Berkeley Homes would be liable to pay an additional �21,000 towards sustainable transport initiatives.