What will be the impact on St Albans district of an expanded Welwyn Hatfield borough?

Alderman Chris Oxley outside the John Bunyan pub where an ancient Roman footpath draws walkers from

Alderman Chris Oxley outside the John Bunyan pub where an ancient Roman footpath draws walkers from around the south east - Credit: Archant

Expanding Welwyn Hatfield towards St Albans district would result in a multitude of problems for local residents, councillors have warned.

Welwyn Hatfield borough council (WHBC) has been examining the possibility of allowing for major housing developments in the gap between its jurisdiction and neighbouring St Albans.

Consultation on its Local Plan finished in March this year, with almost 6,000 comments submitted to the authority.

Apart from potentially paving the way for new travellers’ and gipsy sites, the borough council was also seeking views on whether it should - and can - build 12,500 homes, at a rate of 625 a year in the borough until 2031.

Wheathampstead parish council, in its response, warned that expanding towards this district via Green Belt development would “risk Welwyn and Hatfield coalescing into St Albans.”

It said that the addition of 2,450 homes across two proposed strategic sites near Hatfield’s centre would have a significant impact on the volume of traffic carried by the B653 from Hatfield and Welwyn to Wheathampstead.

The parish council went on: “The existing local authority’s sports and green space recreation facilities in Welwyn Hatfield are currently poor and not fit for purpose for the size of the towns or population demographics – [they are] dated, run down and dilapidated.

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“The social infrastructure is chronically ill equipped to cope with the additional demands by building [thousands of new houses] in the next 15 years.”

St Albans district council (SADC) said that the Green Belt gap “has a significant role in preventing neighbouring towns from merging and safeguarding the countryside.”

The council was concerned about the overall longer term proposals to the west and north west of Hatfield, particularly in regard to the concentration of possible new developments, and their impact on infrastructure.

The local authority asked why land near Ellenbrook Fields Country Park was included in the plan for future housing, as it is considered an “important piece of strategic green infrastructure in both Welwyn and Hatfield borough and St Albans district.

“This council is unclear as to why this site has been taken forward and included as a proposal in the plan.

“[The park] forms part of a S106 agreement for the Hatfield Aerodrome redevelopment. SADC, WHBC and the county council have jointly signed up to improve the existing public access to the country park on this land as part of that agreement.”

The borough council is still examining submissions, including proposals from developers, and will release a draft plan for further public consultation early next year.