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News of the King Harry Lane development

"Remember the key is partnership - after all, it is everyone's future" - slogan on St Albans District Council Environment page

Friday 2nd February 2007

 

It is less than a year since the 2005 planning application for developing the King Harry Lane playing fields was rejected on the grounds that the targets for new housing in St Albans could be achieved without building over green fields.

But, as expected, Hallam Land Management have submitted a new proposal and there is only a couple of weeks for us to submit objections.

Some of you may have received a letter of notification (see below) but many have not - even some living right next to the playing field! Please go to the council web site and view the proposal (www.stalbans.gov.uk/living/planning/search-plans.php and search for the submission reference 5/2006/2729). It is even longer this time, but read at least the main proposals and conclusions.

Basically it involves building 65 age-restricted dwellings (for over-55s), plus 16 'key workers' flats and a 40-place Care Home with Community Facilities on approximately half the playing field site. Access would be by another roundabout on King Harry Lane, but no further traffic modifications would be carried out, ie no change to the King Harry pub or its junction.

This is Phase One. Phase Two, of course, would be the building of ordinary homes on the rest of the site.

Quite transparently the current application is the thin end of the wedge, the foot in the door, the Trojan Horse - whatever. Eventually Hallam want to end up with the same amount of housing as before, but are treading more softly in the opening stages. For reasons amply expressed last year, this would be to the detriment of existing residents and future occupants of the redevelopment.

Please make your opinions known to the council by the deadline of February 9th - address etc are on the attached letter. Also, write to the press if you can. Please pass on the information to neighbours etc who may not have received notification and are not on this email list. Keep an eye on St Albans Voice website: www.stalbansvoice.info . It will be updated with developments as they arise, particularly when the date is fixed for the planning committee hearing when a good turnout of residents can make a real difference.

 

Below is a message from the Verulam Residents' Association:



Dear Fellow Resident

The purpose of this letter is to ask you to spend a few minutes of your time sending a letter to the Council objecting to the latest proposal by the Hallam Land Company to build on King Harry

Lane Playing Fields. As you know, the St Albans Council last year on 20 February unanimously rejected Hallam's previous proposal to build approximately 250 houses on the Fields.

Hallam have now produced a second proposal which involves building a so called 'Retirement Community' on the lower half of the field bordering King Harry Lane.

The objections to this second proposal are:

1. The Retirement Community includes 65 "age restricted houses". These are restricted to persons over the age of 55. This makes little or no difference to the traffic generated by these houses.

Persons do not stop full time employment or cease using cars at age 55 - or even 65 nowadays.

2. The Retirement Community includes 16 key-worker units which again are for those in full time employment who will generate traffic.

3. It is stated that this proposal relates to "only half the site". However the developer refers to the Retirement Community as Phase One and also makes reference to Phase Two

which comprises building on the rest of the site. This building could still involve another 200 houses in addition to the Retirement Community.

4. The developer blatantly states that he will pay for improvements to the King Harry Lane junction if, and only if, the District Council agrees to Phase Two of the proposed development.

5. Improvements to the King Harry Lane junction inevitably involve invading a Conservation Area. Government guidelines (Planning Policy Guidance 15, Para 4.19) state that any traffic

easement changes to a Conservation Area must either preserve or enhance the Conservation Area.

Clearly no traffic improvement proposal can satisfy this requirement.

In order to reduce the traffic gridlock which occurs daily on King Harry Lane for all to see, one would have to make much more radical traffic alterations than tinkering with a junction.

6 In short, this new proposal is an attempt to provide a smokescreen behind which the developer can get his foot in the door and then move on to build in total very much the same

number of dwellings as in his first proposal which was rejected unanimously last year.

COULD YOU PLEASE WRITE A LETTER INCLUDING THE ABOVE OBJECTIONS QUOTING Planning Ref 5/2006/2729 King Harry Lane Playing Fields, addressed to:

Ben Borthwick, Planning Dept., St Albans City and District Council Offices, St Peters Street, ST ALBANS, AL1 3JE or send an email to planning@stalbans.gov.uk

OBJECTIONS HAVE TO BE IN BY 9 FEBRUARY 2007.

Strength in numbers attending the Plans Central Meeting proved very important last time. The above proposal is likely to be considered at the

Planning Meeting commencing 7.00 pm on 5 March or 26 March, at the Council Offices.. The Council have not informed us which meeting but if you can telephone 01727 819469

shortly before these dates you will be told whether the Playing Fields are on the Agenda. If they are, PLEASE ATTEND IF YOU POSSIBLY CAN.

Thank you.
Barrie Mort, Chairman (01727 863667)




Tuesday 21st February 2006

Well done everybody!!! Last night was a truly inspiring occasion. The turnout of local residents was fantastic - we filled the council chamber, the balcony, the stairs, the foyer of City Hall and overflowed into the street! Thank you to all who responded to the call to convey our views in such an overwhelming way. While we're at it, particular thanks are due to:

Barrie Mort, chair of the Verulam Residents Association for putting the protestors' case succinctly in the 5 minutes allowed by the committee and for compiling, with Ann Main our MP, a devastating formal written report to the planning committee which certainly focussed their minds on the formal flaws in the development.

Our councillors, Campbell, Ellis and Frearson, who did their best for us (even though membership of the VRA meant that Sue and Martin had to leave the council chamber while the application was being discussed)

Members of the Verulam Residents Association and other volunteers for getting several rounds of fliers put through letterboxes and organising meetings.

All those who wrote to the council since last August (you are all listed in the planning officer's report)

All those who put their names to the letter which appeared in the Review last week (for some reason the Herts Advertiser chose not to print it)

The King Harry regulars who got together a petition.

And all those who added their weight to the campaign in too many ways to list here.

But yesterday was not the final victory, more like one battle in a long campaign. While the reasons for refusal are not the kind which can be corrected by minor changes of detail in a new application, circumstances may change in the developers' favour and in future and their plans would be revived - continual vigilance on our part is essential.

Below are the grounds on which the planning committee formally rejected the application as given in the report by the planning officers - they also added more to the informative list to include the archaeological value of the area:

 

Recommendation - Refuse

Reasons:
1. In the absence of a green space strategy the proposal would be contrary to Policies 4
and 75 of the District Local Plan Review 1994 and Government Guidance in PPG17
on ' Planning for Open Space' as the loss of the open space may harm the amenity
and recreational needs of the area.

2. The Hertfordshire Structure Plan's 1991 -2011 housing target for St Albans District
will be significantly exceeded without the need to release further Greenfield sites.
The 2001-2011 building rate is expected to be higher than the annual building rate
proposed in the draft Regional Spatial Strategy. Therefore, it is considered that
sufficient housing land is being brought forward. The proposals are contrary to Policy
4 of the St Albans Local Plan Review 1994, Policy 9 of the Hertfordshire Structure
Plan and PPG3 (Housing) that previously developed sites should be developed
before Greenfield sites.

3. In the absence of a financial contribution which provides for measures to mitigate the
impact of the development in terms of traffic management and sustainable transport,
the proposal would be likely to have an adverse and prejudicial effect on the highway
network and conflict with Policies 34 and 35 of the St Albans District Local Plan
Review 1994 and Policy 2 of the Hertfordshire Structure Plan Review 1991-2011.

4. In the absence of a financial contribution towards community services, comprising
secondary education, libraries, youth and childcare provision the proposal would be
likely to have an adverse effect on Hertfordshire County Council Services for the
local community and cause harm by further exacerbating the shortfalls in leisure
opportunities. The proposed development therefore conflicts with Policy 2 of the
Hertfordshire Structure Plan Review 1991-2011 and Councils Playing Pitch Strategy.

5. In the absence of a financial contribution towards community services, comprising
provision of playing pitches and art provision the proposal would be likely to have an
adverse effect on St Atbans District Council Services for the local community and
cause harm by further exacerbating the shortfalls in leisure opportunities. The
proposed development therefore conflicts with Policy 2 of the Hertfordshire Structure
Plan Review 1991-2011 and Councils Playing Pitch Strategy and Policy, Policies 91,
93 and 94 of the St Albans Local Plan Review 1994 and PPG17.

6. In the absence of any adequate provision for affordable housing, the proposal would
conflict with the provisions of Policy 7A of the St Albans District Local Plan Review
1994 and would be likely to have an adverse effect on Hertfordshire County Council
Services for the local community and cause harm by further exacerbating the
shortfalls in affordable housing opportunities. The proposed development therefore
conflicts with Policies 2 and 10 of the Hertfordshire Structure Plan Review 1991-
2011.

7. By reason of the excessive hardstanding surfaces, and the lack of opportunity for the
provision of new landscaping as shown on the illustrative layout the proposed
development would detract from the character and visual amenity of the locality in
conflict with Policies 4, 69, 70, 74 and 75 of the St Albans Local Plan Review 1994.

Informatives:
1. The Local Planning Authority is likely to object to any proposal involving highway
works which adversely affect the King Harry Public House as a Listed Building and
fails to preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the St Albans
Conservation Area.

Sunday 8th January 2006

It now seems certain that the application will be considered on February 20th by St Albans (Central) Planning Committee. Our councillors on the committee know the strength of opinion in the neighbourhood and all we can do realistically is once more to give public voice to our concerns. I have circulated the following email to those on my emailing list in an effort to send a letter with a long list of signatories to the press the week before the committee meeting.

The application by Hallam Land Development for the King Harry Lane Playing Field development is now due to come before the Central area Planning Committee on 20th February.

Recently a large development in Harpenden was refused on the grounds that the St Albans area would already satisfy the regional development targets without it, but while this gives us some grounds for optimism we cannot be complacent.

Below is a letter which I hope will be sent to local newspapers before the planning committee meeting with as many signatures as we can raise to back it up.

Please reply to me by 1st February if you are prepared to have your name(s) appended to the letter. Please also ask your neighbours and friends who are not on my email list to contact me (details below) if they want to be included. The letter is :

"The application for development of the King Harry Lane playing field is now due to come before the St Albans Central Planning Committee on Monday 20th February.

We, the undersigned residents of the St Stephens/Verulam area, are writing to express our continued opposition to the plan. In no way have the developers dispelled our alarm concerning the adverse effects on area. The consequences of 780 extra bedrooms built in an already crowded area affects all aspects of its infrastructure, but particularly provision of education and health services, supply of utilities such as power and waste management, and most obviously the additional traffic to be fed into roads already subject to daily queues. Add to this the demolition of the King Harry pub, the destruction of ancient woodlands and the threat of damage to St Stephens Church by a new link road and there really appears to be little benefit from the scheme save, of course, the millions to be made by field’s owners.

We urge the Planning Committee to act in the interests of present and future residents of St Albans and refuse the application."

Tony Dix
44 St Stephens Avenue
St Albans, Herts AL3 4AD
Tel 01727 863105

email: stalbansvoice@btinternet.com

 

Saturday 1st October

The Verulam Residents Association is setting up a working group to coordinate local opposition to the damaging impact of plans to develop the King Harry Lane playing fields. Membership will be drawn from residents of Verulam together with neighbouring areas, such as Watling Street and St Stephens Hill, which are just as much at risk from the plans as those living next to the playing fields.

Looking at the strategy of other groups who have opposed planning applications in St Albans successfully shows how important it is to construct the case in relation to existing regulatory guidelines and requirements and to present the argument succinctly, both in a written report to the planning officer and in the pitiful three minutes verbal presentation allowed at the planning committee meeting.

Professional help is important in drawing up such a case - especially expertise in planning law and practice, traffic and environmental impact regulation, together with practical knowledge of planning aspects of archaeological, leisure and heritage issues. If you or your neighbours have such experience and knowledge and would be prepared to contribute their expertise, please contact the working group either via St Albans Voice or to Barrie Mort, chair of VRA, on 01727 863667.

It seems that the traffic 'improvements' indicated in the August 2005 application probably are part of the application (see below). In which case it seems likely that the formal notification by the council in August was deficient, in that letters were received only by those whose land adjoins the playing field or who sent written comments on the 2004 application. Surely all residents of Vicarage Close, Watling Street, Mercers Row and the cul-de-sacs near the King Harry count as adjoining the development and hence should have been formally notified.

Given the volume of comment on the application, it is unlikely that the case officer will be able to prepare his report for tabling at a St Albans (Central) planning committee before early January. Despite various deadlines, comment will be included in the case file and report right up to the planning decision meeting, so please write in if you have not done so- addresses below. But it is vital that we move quickly to construct our arguments - look out for further news!

Tony Dix

Monday 26th September

The Trevor McDonald programme showed other places in the south-east beset by planning decisions out of democratic control. The power of the government to coerce local government by way of building targets and the South East England Regional Assembly was frightening. Prescott invoked 'NIMBYism' to attack local protesters, implying that it was selfishness over house values and amenities which was preventing decent people from being housed. We must make it clear in all we do that we only demand that the environment should not be ruined by an unthinking rush to build houses willy nilly.

An eagle-eyed resident who studied the 2005 planning application closely noted that it still mentioned the future possibility of a second access road to the development - possibly into the end of Westfields or Rowlatt Drive? The removal of a second access point was seen as a response to criticism of the 2004 application that traffic could feed into the Verulam Estate and the other roads leading to Watford Road. Perhaps this plan has not been shelved after all.

There is a possibility that the council may be in trouble from two directions by not fulfilling statutory requirements. While it has not been confirmed, the plan may require an Environmental Impacts analysis which has not been done, also the National Playing Fields Assocation has written to the council objecting on several grounds to the loss of playing fields.

For those who are unaware of the exact location of the proposed link road around the back of St Stephens Church, below is one proposed configuration. As you may see, it starts from a new roundabout near the entrance to the old YHA site, loops round the churchyard destroying 'significant trees' and joins Watling Street at another new roundabout next to Vicarage Close. It is doubtful that the width indicated on this plan is accurate, since it appears to be less than the current width of St Stephens Hill, and that would hardly suffice for the flow of buses to and from the proposed Park & Ride terminal at the Park Street roundabout. The different options involving a link road vary mainly in the roads selected for blocking off. In this illustration Watling Street is blocked at the King Harry junction giving access only to the church and the existing houses.

Actually, the inclusion in the application of the modified traffic flow around St Stephens Church and the King Harry pub is rather odd in itself, since it appears that the road changes are not themselves part of Hallam's application for outline planning permission, being a project to which the developers would contribute financially as a 'section 106 obligation'. It seems that the rationale for claiming that the impact of the housing development could be minimised by traffic management relies on a planning decision which is not at all certain. Who is involved in this, separate project?

(NB The planning application files carry a council warning not to print them, to do so may have copyright implications)

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Saturday 24th September

The programme "Tonight with Trevor McDonald" on ITV1 on Monday 26th deals with the 'increasingly bitter planning rows between residents and developers". Sounds familiar!

The KHL application cannot appear at the regular St Albans (Central) planning committee before October 17th, but there has been some suggestion that, as a major development, it would be dealt with by an umbrella committee which is above the three area planning committees. Unfortunately, this committee does not have a regular scheduled meeting so it is not clear how much warning would be given or how its agenda would be published. Also, all protestors are still restricted to a 3 minute presentation by a single speaker.

Keep in touch with the website and, of course, check your emails. If we need to organise some vocal protest it may be at very short notice and you would be asked to relay information to other residents who are not on line.

Actions envisaged would include a public meeting at a venue larger than last year's (when so many angry residents turned out that many could not even get in), a poster and car-sticker campaign, and action to move the publicity into a wider, at least regional or even national forum.

Some residents in Watling Street, Watford Road and the many small closes off these streets are only now finding out what Hallam Land Management and the Councils have in store for them, particularly the impact of the link road behind St Stephens Church and the Park & Ride scheme which the District and County Councils are planning. Please spread the word as widely as possible.

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Thursday 15th September

During a further two hours sifting through council files on the King Harry Lane development dating from summer 2004, a depressing pattern emerged. Despite a pile of letters from residents critical of the August 2004 application which was over an inch thick, the other documents contain virtually no reference at all to local unease. In fact the only reference to opposition at all that I recall was one sentence in a letter from Hallam to the council which admitted that local feedback had been 'unsupportive'. The letters, public meetings and press discussion were almost totally unacknowledged in the stream of letters between Hallam and council officials (they are on first-name terms by the way); in the minutes of meetings attended by Hallam representatives, council planning officers and a representative of a local estate agent; in letters to and from the County Education department negotiating 'section 106 obligations' (ie sweeteners); memoranda concerning the need for the link road behind St Stephens Church to take buses to and from the planned 'Park and Ride' location; notes relating to the possible inclusion of a hotel in the Westminster Lodge development; and in the paperwork containing detailed phasing and planning for the KHL scheme which obviously regard the application as done and dusted!

It is unnerving to observe decisions being made by council staff with an almost total lack of democratic input. The feelings of residents are simply disregarded while our councillors do not seem to be involved in the process at all unless the application is presented at a planning committee meeting. In theory even this may not happen, since I learnt yesterday that unless a councillor from an affected ward explicitly requests that an application is brought to the committee it could be approved by yet another local government officer. (A councillor has now made that request for the KHL application).

It is clear that the volume of the debate needs to be turned up if Verulam residents are not to be bypassed completely.

Expect a public meeting when the date of the relevant planning meeting is known - check on this website and, if you haven't done so already, put your email address on the distribution list.

Tony Dix

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Tuesday 13th September

Verulam residents who tried to see the King Harry Lane application soon after receiving their council letter, either on line or by going to the council offices, found that they were not available until after the August Bank holiday - six days after the start of the 21 day consultation period. Partly due to their failure to fulfil statutary requirements, the council will take into account all communications received up to the time the case officer begins to write his report. Since he is on leave until 26th September this gives anyone time to see the plans and send comments if they have not already done so. See below for addresses etc.

Progress report:

  • Over 300 signatures on the petition from the King Harry.
  • Over 50 email addresses on our circulation list
  • Untold numbers of letters and emails from irate Verulam residents to the planning department
  • Articles and letters in Herts Ad and Review - more to come this and next week.

News from the vaults: Having spent an afternoon going through the publicly available files in the council office, several interesting points emerge:

  • A meeting in June considered a phasing plan for the project which included putting the application before the planning committee on Sept 26th! - the minimum possible time after the consultation period. This will not now be possible, partly because the case officer is on holiday and partly because of the number of protests which will have to be included in his report to the committee. The next planning committee for Central St Albans (which is our area) will be Monday 17th October. As there is a real possibility that the application will be tabled then we should be prepared to raise the volume of our protest once the agenda is announced (it is announced on the council website).
  • There is a real ambiguity concerning the total number of units to be built on the site. The number of units in the 'community area' is detailed on council papers - 11 family houses, 10-15 bungalows and 60 flats, a total of up to 86. What is not clear is whether this number is included in the 260 odd total in the application, or whether these are to be added on, giving an overall 346. The types of housing detailed in the application do not include bungalows etc, so the greater figure seems likely.
  • There is more detail in the phasing plan considered by the council. In particular, the completion date is given as 2010 in the application, but in the council version this is given as the time when, finally, the traffic flow alterations would be made ie the King Harry junction and, if adopted, the link road round St Stephens. One can only boggle at the traffic conditions during 4 years of construction. Does the vicar of St Stephens and his congregation have strong views on the plans?
  • It appears that the County Council favours the link road scheme. So perhaps, does Hallam who are a part of road building company Henry Boot! Letters are filed between the County education department and the council in which an education department official tries to get an agreement on the 'section 106' commitments of the scheme, ie the sweeteners Hallam will be giving to various leisure and educational areas. In passing it would appear that the Westminster Lodge improvements being considered include a hotel on that land.
  • It is recorded that the developers had notified Sport England concerning the playing field loss (see below), but the outcome is not clarified. NB A legal requirement exists for a full ecological impact analysis to be made - has it?

Please keep up the good work by keeping up to date others in the neighbourhood who are not computer users or who don't take local newspapers.

Tony Dix

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Sunday 11th September

By yesterday afternoon all households in the area immediatedly affected by the King Harry Lane development - around 1100 in all - should have received a flier which outlines the current situation, together with information on how to contact the planning committee. Thanks to all those who volunteered to put papers through letter-boxes at such short notice.

Many of you have responded already to the request to put your email address on our circulation list. Please do so if you have not done it already - it makes a big difference if we can contact a large number of residents quickly and efficiently. Just use the 'contact us' link on the front page.

Talking to people while making deliveries house-to-house, it became apparent that the number who knew nothing of this summer's developments was far larger than the council maintains. This may be either because not all households were considered affected or, perhaps, the anonymous envelopes addressed only to 'The Occupier' were assumed to be unsolicited advertising and consigned to the waste bin. Either way, residents are being denied the notification to which they are entitled. One resident, living literally a few yards from the boundary of the playing field knew nothing of the revived application.

In addition to taking a large slice of the deliveries, staff and regulars at the 'King Harry' have been getting up a petition which will be taken to the council office before Wednesday. It is amazing to think that the pub is partly protected by a grade 2 listing, but this fact does not figure in the application.

It appears that after last year's public meeting the National Playing Fields Association was contacted and it confirmed that the King Harry Lane field was on their 'at risk' list. While it is not quite clear what powers this involves, in the absence of the curiously delayed report on green spaces and playing fields in St Albans (due last November, expected this September but not yet on the horizon) it is a signal that the loss of this playing field is not negligible as Hallam suggests.

Also, planning is subject to a series of Planning Policy Guidelines (PPG's) which in turn impose legal requirements on local authority planning. PPG17, whose revised version was confirmed in 2002 invokes: "Statutory Instrument 1996 No.1817 which amends the Town and Country Planning (General Development Procedure) Order 1995(b). This amendment requires local planning authorities to consult Sport England about developments that affect land used as playing fields". Sport England, whose website claims "We provide the strategic lead for sport in England and we are responsible for delivering the Government's sporting objectives", must, by law be consulted on all planning applications affecting playing fields. The government website www.culture.gov.uk/sport/playing_fields.htm says Sport England's "policy is to object to all proposals unless there are exceptional circumstances".

A local resident who had reasons to object to a planning application got in touch with us. Having pursued the application right up to the planning committee she used her permitted 3 minutes of objection to point out that it would be actually illegal to pass the plans, information she had discovered on national and local government websites. Despite this, the committee went ahead and approved it. Do we have anyone in the area with experience of the legality of planning processes who is willing to help out?

At a more general level, isn't it absurd that the total amount of time allowed at a planning committee meeting to all the objectors to a planning proposal combined is 3 minutes, irrespective of the implications of the proposal. Hence, adding over 260 dwellings to an overloaded neighbourhood merits the same time allowance as one of the items the committee discussed on Monday 5th September, namely 'lamp post No 416 outside Morrisons supermarket'!

I believe that a councillor may accompany a protester to a planning meeting and make representations after the 3 minutes presentation is complete. An odd feature of Verulam ward is that all its three councillors are on the planning committee, Sue Campbell and Clare Ellis as members and Martin Frearson as chair. Is there not some kind of conflict between their neutral roles as arbiters of planning and that of champion to their constituents? Does this not weaken our ability to make our case to the council?

Tony Dix

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The revised application 6th September 2005

As some Verulam residents, but not everyone, knows, Hallam Land Management submitted a revised application during August. Since many people directly affected neither received a letter from the council or saw the formal announcement in a local newspaper, the number of responses to the council by the 14th September deadline may be drastically reduced - which may be the intention.

Please try to see the plans either on line or at the council offices and let the planning committee know your opinion. Contact details for comments on the plans are as follows:

Plan ref: 5/2005/1727
Website: stalbans.gov.uk/living/planning/search-plans.php
Phone: 01727 866100 Ext 2714
Fax: 01727 845658
email: planning@stalbans.gov.uk
Post: St Albans City & District Council,
Planning & Building Control, St Peters St,
St Albans Herts AL1 3JE

Since the principles of local democracy are being compromised by the timing of the application, local opposition, so strongly expressed at last November's public meeting, must be mobilised at short notice. If you are alarmed at the prospect of this development please try to do the following:

  • Contact the council before the deadline of 14th September.
  • Be prepared to protest when the proposal is put before the planning committee. Another meeting of Verulam residents is possible, also participation in the council planning meeting itself. The time and place of such events will be notified to those interested by email (see below) as well as appearing on this page.
  • We will try to post all information as it emerges on this website. Future meetings of the committee this year at which the proposal could be considered are 26 Sept, 17 Oct, 7 and 28 Nov and 19 Dec. Keep checking this website!
  • email St Albans Voice on stalbansvoice@btinternet.com so that we can include your email address on a distribution list for future communication. Also let us know any information you may have on the matter - the aim of this website is to channel local opinion on local issues..
  • Lobby the local councillors and our Member of Parliament. Councillors' contact details are on http://www.stalbans.gov.uk/local-democracy/councillors.htm. There is also a link on that page to Anne Main our new MP. (NB sometimes I have had trouble getting the St Albans website, but leaving off the 'www.' has been successful - I don't know why)
  • Spread the word to neighbours and others who may not be aware of the latest situation.

Below is a letter I sent to the local papers this week which gives some idea of the new application.

Tony Dix 6th September 2005

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Letter to Herts Advertiser & The Review

August is the only month in which St Albans enjoys some relief from the pressures of traffic and overcrowding which increasingly afflict the City. So, while much of its population were away or enjoying the summer weather, Hallam Land Management resubmitted their application for building over the playing fields on King Harry Lane, a development bound to add to the stress of an already overloaded environment.

Letters from the council, dated 24th August, gave twenty-one days to receive comments from the public. As far as I can discover, very few residents in Verulam ward received these letters, perhaps only those who wrote individual letters following the original application. Also, letters bore individual addresses but only "The Occupier", rather than the named occupant. Since the strength of feeling in the neighbourhood was evident in the packed public meeting last November, the strategy of Hallam and the council seems designed to minimise the opportunity for a local response to the revised plans.

A comparison of the 2004 application with this year's perhaps explains the apparent collusion of our council with the developers. The significant differences from last year are the sweeteners which Hallam is offering the council in the form of contributions to the development of Westminster Lodge, to library services and leisure provision, as well as a plot of land to build housing for the elderly. This decreases the number of houses to be built by Hallam by 36, but with an unknown number of units for the elderly. The application suggests that the elderly will not contribute as much to the traffic problems - a view contradicted by the four households within 50 feet of me with drivers aged from the seventies to the nineties! Most significantly, the number of units Hallam propose in the application is, as they state repeatedly, illustrative only. In other words we will not know their actual intentions unless the application is approved.

Much remains, in particular the traffic options, including the demolition of the King Harry public house and a link road behind St Stephen's church (the latter an expensive option which has been refused in earlier plans involving the nearby retail park). There is no assurance that the traffic impact of the development would be minimal, apart from Hallam's own traffic analysis whose assumptions and calculations are not presented. Neither is the ability of other infrastructure elements to accommodate the increased population assured. Schools, medical services, drainage and much more seem likely to be overstretched

One cannot deny the pressure of population on housing in the South East. But this does not justify embarking on desperate schemes which will damage the environment and quality of life for new as well as existing residents.

In the limited time which has been allowed us, may I urge as many as possible to see the plans (Ref 5/2005/1727) either at the council office or on the council website and send your comments to the council before the deadline of 14th September.


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