A modern day dilemma: High rise living or sacrifice green belt for housing?

Marchmont Fields housing plan protest by residents from Piccotts End.
Marchmont Fields housing plan protest by residents from Piccotts End.

Two tower blocks for Hemel Hempstead are facing fierce opposition from neighbours, while council plans to earmark greenbelt land for housing is also opposed by householders.

But the ‘not in our back yard’ mentality still leaves Dacorum Borough Council with the conundrum of meeting its housing targets over the coming years.

Under its Site Allocations Plan, which will earmark land for housing over the next 20 years, six greenbelt plots have been identified by council chiefs.

They include Marchmont Fields, which neighbours Piccotts End and Grovehill, where 350 homes could be built, land in west Hemel Hempstead on land near Chaulden, which could accommodate 900 homes, and a site near the Old Town where 80 properties could be built.

Sites have also been identified in Icknield Way, Tring, Shootersway, Berkhamsted, and Chesham Road and Molyneaux Avenue in Bovingdon.

The council is committed to building 10,750 new homes between 2006 and 2031 - equating to 430 dwellings per year.

Michael Nidd, who represents residents from Piccotts End opposed to building on Marchmont Fields, said brownfield sites should be developed before greenbelt land.

“Our argument is that if they convert unused offices and shops into dwellings at the rate they have been doing since June 2013 they won’t need to build on greenbelt land,” he said. “Our argument has been, you don’t need to do this and in any event the government says the failure to achieve a particular housing target or a supply of land for house building is not a sufficiently special criteria to justify building on greenbelt land.

“Dacorum Borough Council is sitting on quite long tracts of long term undeveloped land in Maylands which it insists is employment land.”