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Plans for 721 homes to be built in St Albans granted by ministers amid concerns

More than 700 homes can be built on the green belt near St Albans amid fears the city and district face a “fundamental imbalance” in its housing mix.

A government-appointed inspector has said the city council faces a “plan-making crisis, a housing crisis and an affordable housing emergency, especially for key workers unable to access social rented housing, but unable to afford a home of their own either”.

Inspector Michael Boniface and housing minister Felicity Buchan agreed housebuilders should press ahead with two schemes on either side of Chiswell Green Lane, in Chiswell Green village, in a decision dated Friday, March 22.

St Albans City and District Council had refused both schemes in decisions made in 2022, which the developers appealed.

During a 2023 inquiry, campaigners against the development urged the inspector not to “sacrifice” green belt to help developers “with targets to meet, profits to generate, shareholders to satisfy”.

Plans for 721 homes to be built in St Albans granted by ministers amid concerns Harrow Online
How new homes South of Chiswell Green Lane, near St Albans, could look. Credit: McBains/CALA/Redington Capital/St Albans City and District Council

Developers promise up to 721 new homes, including 486 affordable homes – a total 67 per cent of the new builds.

In the plan for 391 homes south of Chiswell Green Lane, the developers have proposed setting aside land for a new school and making 2.92 hectares of space publicly accessible.

The scheme for 330 homes north of Chiswell Green Lane is set to be fully affordable, named after Liberal and later Labour MP Christopher Addison, who promoted the Housing and Town Planning Act 1919 which promised “homes fit for heroes” after the First World War.

In his report, Mr Boniface wrote that he had attached “substantial weight to the harm that would arise to the green belt” from both developments.

He added both proposals offer “very substantial benefits from the scheme in terms of housing provision” and “benefits in terms of ecology, open space and recreation provision, land for education provision, improved bus services and cycleway provision that would be accessible to existing residents, and economic benefits.”

Summing up arguments put forward by Paul Stinchcombe KC, representing Headlands Way Limited which put forward the 330 affordable homes scheme, Mr Boniface wrote: “There are very many essential local worker households who are simply unable to buy a home of their own in St Albans.

“However, the picture changes dramatically when the Addison Park discount is taken into account, with a 33 per cent discount from the median-priced property in St Albans – the median house price falls from £590,000 to £395,300 and now requires a household income of £80,000 for the mortgage, with a 10 per cent deposit.

“The lower quartile house price falls to £275,000 and now requires a household income of £55,000 for the mortgage, with a 10 per cent deposit.

Plans for 721 homes to be built in St Albans granted by ministers amid concerns Harrow Online
A Keep Chiswell Green banner. Credit: Will Durrant/LDRS

“All of those key worker households with an income range of £55,000 to £80,000 … would therefore potentially have access to an unaffordable home of their own at Addison Park.”

Mr Boniface said the 391 homes scheme, put forward by Alban Developments Limited and CALA Homes (Chiltern), “would make sizeable contributions towards the identified needs” for new homes in the Hertfordshire city.

“The two appeal schemes will not only mark the step change in housing delivery, across all tenures, that St Albans needs but do so in a balanced way,” the inspector noted.

Ms Buchan, the MP who made her decision on behalf of Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove, ruled: “The secretary of state agrees with the inspector that there is a very substantial need for housing in the district which is persistently going unmet, that the local plan housing requirement is hopelessly out of date, and that, using the standard method, the council can demonstrate just a two-year housing land supply a best.”

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Community’s letter reads: “The secretary of state agrees with the inspector that in the context of such great housing need, very substantial weight should be attached to the proposed housing.”

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