15 Oct 2012

Why St Albans Council wants housing on the Green Belt

Many people across St Albans District are getting pretty upset by talk of a new 'Local Plan'. It seems the Council wants developers to build hundreds of homes every year on Green Belt land. So what's going on?

Every local authority has to have a Local Plan, setting out what development it would like to see, and where. This is so developers know what to offer, and it gives the Council back-up for its decisions on planning applications.

St Albans' Local Plan is very out of date, particularly with all the recent changes in planning law. So we need a new one. The Government demands that, as part of a new plan, the authority says what its annual house-building target is, and identifies some large areas where some of those houses could be built. These numbers and areas have to be reasonable, or the Government won't accept the plan.

If the Government don't accept the plan, we're in serious trouble. Developers will be able to propose almost anything, and the Council won't have the legal position to resist them.

So St Albans Council planning officers have had to come up with what they think is a credible plan, that the Government will accept, but that doesn't swamp the district with development.

This has been difficult to do, to say the least.

The annual housing figure they have come up with is 250, with 100 of those being 'affordable' (cheaper than market rate). That is a big drop on previous recommended numbers, and some people say the Government won't accept it.

The areas they've identified that could have large housing developments are also controversial - some Green Belt land on the edge of the district, though some has been previously developed.

Some Councillors like this Plan, some hate it. Personally, I feel we are between a rock and a hard place.

I deeply resent the position the Government has put this (and other) Councils in. Our district is already overdeveloped, and the Green Belt should be protected.
We need affordable places for our young people and key workers to live in. That means urban regeneration, bringing empty homes back in to use, and redeveloping appropriate brownfield sites. It does not mean big estates on the edge of the district, unconnected to anything except the nearest motorway.

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