Hertfordshire planners fear a set of new housing policies could “reduce the already ‘fragile gap’” between St Albans and Hatfield.

St Albans City and District Council has suggested using land at Glinwell, off the A1057 Hatfield Road, for 436 new homes in an emerging Local Plan.

But in a draft response, Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council has warned this proposal could close the gap between the city and its next-door town.

If St Albans and Hatfield are not kept separate, the joined-up city and town could have a population larger than today’s Salford, Chelmsford and Cheltenham (around 118,000).

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“The Welwyn Hatfield Green Belt Review notes that the gap between St Albans and Hatfield is narrow to the west of Hatfield,” the borough council’s draft response reads.

“The smaller settlements of Smallford and Sleapshyde lie between the first-tier settlements of Hatfield and St Albans … further limiting the perception of separation.

“This gap is therefore considered to be fragile.

“As the site is just under one kilometre away at the nearest point to the boundary with Welwyn Hatfield, there is concern the development of this site may reduce the already ‘fragile gap’ between St Albans and Welwyn Hatfield at this location.

Welwyn Hatfield Times: Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council has warned this proposal could close the gap between the city and its next-door town.Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council has warned this proposal could close the gap between the city and its next-door town. (Image: Will Durrant/LDRs)

“It is, however, recognised that the site contains development, which does reduce the contribution it makes to the sense of openness of the wider countryside.”

The site, immediately south-west of the A1057 and Station Road roundabout, features glasshouses for a plant nursery.

If the site is included in St Albans’ planning policies and a developer comes forward, district planners would ask housebuilders to carry out a traffic assessment along the A-road, which connects St Albans city centre with The Galleria.

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council said this ask is “welcomed”.

The Welwyn Garden City-based authority said it had no objections to its neighbour’s emerging local plan, but “would wish to see the site-specific considerations, including landscaping and edge treatment and proposed mitigation measures incorporated in any masterplan or planning application submitted for the Glinwell site”.

Welwyn Hatfield Times: St Albans City and District Council.St Albans City and District Council. (Image: Will Durrant/LDRs)

St Albans City and District Council is putting together a new set of housing policies, which will help the area meet a Government demand to build 15,000 new homes between now and 2041.

A consultation on which sites have been selected is online and members of the public can respond before 5pm on September 25, 2023: https://www.stalbans.gov.uk/new-local-plan

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council has been through a similar consultation process and is trying to finalise its plan – for 13,400 homes between 2016 and 2036.

“We are bounded by Government rules and must comply with those whether we agree with them or not,” St Albans leader Councillor Chris White previously said in a statement.

“Our Local Plan will be judged unsound and fail if we do not follow the guidelines.

“The consequence of such a failure is that we lose control over the future development of the district and hand it over lock, stock and barrel to central Government.

“That would be a betrayal of the people of St Albans.”

A new local plan could result in a new green belt boundary.

Green belt is in place to make sure “derelict and other urban land” are first in line for development before nature corridors and farmland are built over – one of the five green belt purposes.

Green belt land should also help “to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas, to prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another, to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment” and “to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns” such as the city of St Albans with its Roman roots.

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council’s planning panel will debate whether it is happy with its letter on Thursday, August 17, before sending it to the neighbouring authority.