St Albans proposes dropping 2,300-home garden village to revive troubled plan

St Albans Council officers have suggested dropping proposals for a 2,300-home garden village on a green belt site where the government has already granted permission for a strategic rail freight interchange (SRFI) in an effort to revive the authority's threatened local plan.

St Albans. Image: Flickr / Matt Brown
St Albans. Image: Flickr / Matt Brown

Inspectors Louise Crosby and Elaine Worthing advised St Albans City and District Council in April that the plan should be withdrawn from examination because of the council’s failure to meet the duty to cooperate in relation to matters including the proposed allocation of the SRFI site.

Policy S6 of the submitted version of the plan allocates the green belt site for the "Park Street Garden Village Broad Location", with a minimum capacity of 2,300 homes.

But the two inspectors found that the council had failed to adequately engage with neighbours before allocating the site for housing.

However, they said they would not reach "an absolute or final position" until the council had been given a chance to consider and respond to the letter.

Earlier this month, St Albans Council's spatial planning team replied to the inspectors proposing a main modification to the plan that would “acknowledge the status of the SRFI and would remove the PSGV [Park Street Garden Village] allocation”.

The council had been pursuing its plans for a garden village despite failing in its bid to overturn a secretary of state decision granting permission for a rail freight interchange at the site back in 2014.

Officers also sought to address concerns raised by the inspectors that the council had proposed the allocation of green belt sites for development despite failing to engage with neighbouring councils on their ability to accommodate St Albans’ unmet housing need.

“The reality of the position is that it has always been clear that none of the South-West Hertfordshire authorities have the ability to meet any other authorities’ housing requirements,” officers said, advising that further discussion would have been ineffective.

“Specific evidence of such a discussion would have disclosed nothing other than the lack of any real or rational potential for alternative locations for housing: they would have been without substance.”

In light of their suggestion, St Albans officers urged the inspectors to reconsider their advice that the plan should be withdrawn from examination.

“Withdrawal of the plan will lead to a further, very considerable elongation of the council’s overall plan-making process, to the detriment of the local area and its residents,” they said.

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