Javid approves St Albans green belt scheme citing enabling improvements to local college

Communities secretary Sajid Javid has granted planning permission for 350 homes on green belt land in Hertfordshire, saying the scheme will enable the delivery of 'significant improvements' to a local college.

Communities secretary Sajid Javid
Communities secretary Sajid Javid

Javid this week granted permission for the Oaklands College redevelopment scheme in St Albans, which will see a comprehensive revamp of the college to provide new and refurbished buildings, alongside enabling development of 348 new homes.

St Albans City and District Council had refused the application - which was submitted by the college and developer Taylor Wimpey - in 2014, on the grounds that the scheme would be inappropriate development in the green belt and there were no very special circumstances justifying the proposal.

But following an appeal against the decision, Javid said in his decision letter that the harm to the green belt was outweighed by the scheme’s benefits.

Javid agreed with inspector Phillip Ware’s conclusions that many of the existing buildings at Oaklands College are "very poor quality and wholly unsuited to the provision of a high standard of education", and that the college could only fund a redevelopment scheme by way of enabling development.

Javid therefore concluded that "the delivery of significant improvements to the college weighs heavily in favour of the proposal".

In the light of the lack of a five-year housing land supply, Javid also concluded that the proposed housing would be a significant benefit "that carries significant weight in favour of the proposal".

The benefits of the scheme "clearly outweigh the harm to the green belt", he said, justifying the scheme on the basis of very special circumstances.

Tracy Harvey, head of planning and building control at St Albans City and District Council, said the council was "disappointed" at the decision.

"However, we do recognise that there were particular reasons why the secretary of state has upheld the appeal," she said.

"These relate directly to the unique educational benefits for Oaklands College, including £51 million in investment in new or refurbished teaching and administration facilities as well as student accommodation."

"The decision should not in any way be taken as a signal that other applications to build on green belt would be accepted," Harvey said. "That is very far from the case."


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