31 Green Belt sites targeted for homes

Council officers identify 85 potential development plots of land before list is cut by councilllors.

Dozens of sites in the St Albans area may be removed from the Green Belt, as councillors struggle to find space for housing development.

Planning officers at St Albans District Council have said about 2,500 homes will need to be built on greenfield sites by 2016 if county council housing targets are confirmed.

They pinpointed 85 potential locations in examining whether boundaries of the local Green Belt, which protects scenic and rural areas from developers, could be changed.

Local councillors and residents, desperate to save cherished open spaces in their own localities, attended a committee meeting last Thursday when the list was whittled down to about 30 sites.

Villagers from Chiswell Green, who packed the meeting, were rejoicing after the committee agreed to remove three threatened sites from the list, including land around Chiswell Green Lane, which supports bats, badgers, foxes and deer.

One said: "It is just amazing to be able to look over to the fields and the horses - once you start building, you start building."

But a group from Redbourn was disappointed when, despite pleas from councillors Pat Schofield and Christopher O'Donovan, the committee voted to keep options open over two plots by Blackhorse Lane and Stephens Way.

Chairman Chris Whiteside summed up their dilemma when he said: "The trouble is, we must put something somewhere. If we take too much out, we will start having to put things back in"

Redbourn councillor Tony Swendell said after the meeting: "The Green Belt is the protection for rural societies.

"It is constantly under attack, and we were disappointed to lose those two areas. Once you take something out of the Green Belt, you can't put it back."

Officers identified 19 sites around the city itself, recommending 13 to go through to the next stage of consideration, but councillors threw out three, including nearly six hectares of land near Bedmond Lane.

But the threat of housing remains over 47 hectares around the city, including land between Harpenden Road and Sandridgebury Lane and plots including school playing fields at Beaumont and Nicolas Brakespear.

The remaining sites will be considered at a meeting on May 22 before being discussed by the council's cabinet.

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