As many as 500 people turned out to peacefully protest against housing plans which they fear could ‘destroy’ their community.
On Tuesday night, hundreds from Carpenders Park and the surrounding area descended onto green belt land threatened by the development of 485 homes and a primary school.
In total, campaigners are fighting proposals for nearly 1,500 homes and a secondary school in and around Carpenders Park, as part of Three Rivers District Council’s (TRDC) local plan.
The council is currently consulting with residents on more than 70 sites that have been allocated to help meet Government housing targets.
As part of a campaign to show the council they don’t want to lose their green fields, people of all ages gathered on land off Oxhey Lane, known as Carpenders Park Farm.
Many held posters, provided by protest organisers, which read ‘can’t replace green space’, while others brought their own placards which stated ‘No building on our green belt’.
When everyone had filed through the tiny gate and onto the field, everyone gathered for a photo taken by drone pilot Ian Bushnell.
Tuesday night’s show of support followed a public meeting held at St Meryl School on Saturday, which was attended by around 200 people, Watford MP Dean Russell, and local councillors.
Kirsty Barnes, who co-organised the event under the group Stop TRDC Greenbelt Destruction, said: “We are overjoyed at the response we have been getting both on Facebook and the gathering on the field.
“We estimate that there were between 350-500 residents showing their support and unity. It was very peaceful, respectful and showed how strongly bonded we are as a community.
“Our neighbourhood is very united in warding off the development of the greenbelt and rightly so, as there are a list of reasons as long as your arm to defend the area.
“The group, as a whole, will not stand down, will remain pro-active and are ready to take this to the Prime Minister.”
Previous story: Protest in Carpenders Park over plans for 1,500 homes and school
Mrs Barnes, who is a former parish councillor, previously told the Observer that residents are opposed to development around Carpenders Park for several reasons. These include increased risk of flooding, traffic congestion, pressure on services, the impact on wildlife, and ultimately the loss of green space.
The Observer spoke with some of those who attended last night’s protest and it became apparent that they are all firmly opposed to any development on green belt land. In particular, they echoed concerns about flooding and the loss of fields.
Many told us they had moved to Carpenders Park because of its rural setting.
Nineteen-year-old Harry Goad said: “This is a nice space for people to explore. I felt confused when I heard about the plans. Does this look like prime land to build on?
“This is the first bit of greenery and we fear we will end up being joined to London. These developments totally surround Carpenders Park. It will ruin it.”
Steve Barnett, who has lived in Carpenders Park for around six years, said: “We moved here from Harrow for the green space. Once you start building on fields, you don’t get that land back.
“I’m opposed to development on all green belt. You just don’t build on it.”
Pauline Mead and her daughter Louise brought their own posters with, and together with friend Sue Peters, they shared their dismay at the proposals. Sue said it would be a “crime” to build over the fields, and they all believed the turnout showed the “strength of feeling” residents have against the developments.
The plans for a secondary school in Oxhey Lane were also of concern for residents, with some saying that brownfield land in South Oxhey, formerly used as a school, could be used to help meet provision.
The list of sites in and around Carpenders Park that the council deems appropriate for redevelopment are land at Oxhey Lane, Watford Heath (119 homes), land north of Oxhey Lane (149 homes) land at Carpenders Park Farm (485 homes and a primary school) land south of Little Oxhey Lane (678 homes and a possible primary school) and a secondary school at Carpenders Park Farm in Oxhey Lane.
All of the sites were put forward by developers and landowners and it is part of the local plan process that the council is obliged to undertake.
The council has been asked to find space to build nearly 10,000 homes over the next 15 years, and more than 70 sites have been drawn up across the district.
Responding to concerns from campaigners in Carpenders Park, Councillor Matthew Bedford, who is leading the local plan process, said: “The council is as concerned as residents about the level of housing the Government is expecting to be built in Three Rivers, and we are continuing to push back against the Government’s calculation for future housing need.
“We know that more recent projections from the Office for National Statistics in 2018 would result in lower numbers for Three Rivers. Unfortunately the Government explicitly decided in December that councils would not be allowed to use more recent projections and must continue to base their plans on the 2014 data, even though it is out-of-date.”
He added: “We still have a long way to go with the local plan process. Once we review and analyse the results of the current consultation, the list of sites may be adjusted and there will be a further round of public consultation towards the end of this year before a public inquiry in the second half of next year.”