Plotlands are damaging the Hertfordshire countryside

25th September 2021

What are plotlands?

Here at CPRE Hertfordshire we use the term plotlands to refer to a specific money-making manoeuvre used by land speculators. Plotlands are a site, often agricultural land, that is either bought or optioned from the landowner by an intermediary at an agricultural price, and then divided into much smaller plots and marketed on to potential buyers at a much higher price. The marketing language may imply that the land could be developed for residential use in future, but the reality is quite different, as most of these sites are in a designated, protected area such as the Green Belt or the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and thus gaining planning permission for development is unlikely. The intermediary is speculating that unwary buyers will be unfamiliar with UK planning law or fail to undertake sufficient due diligence on the land before purchasing a plot.

 

Plotlands at Vineyards Road, Northaw, Cuffley

 

Why are plotlands damaging?

Besides the obvious financial harm to unsuspecting buyers, plotlands create real damage to the land. Often the intermediary speculator will rip out hedges and erect gates to create access, and install fences to sub-divide the land into plots. This infrastructure often destroys the openness of the land and harms the character of the landscape. Long views are broken up by fencing, and the small size of the plots precludes viable agricultural use. The land may then become neglected and vulnerable to trespass and fly-tipping.

Plotlands at Church Road, Little Gaddesden, in the Chilterns AONB

Where are plotlands located in Hertfordshire?

Over the past two decades we’ve identified 24 plotlands sites across six of Hertfordshire’s ten districts.

Dacorum Borough

Church Road, Little Gaddesden

Icknield Way, Tring

Flaunden

East Hertfordshire District

Box Wood, adjacent to Stevenage

Bayfordbury

Hay Street, Braughing

Green End

Rushden, near Buntingford

Warrengate Farm (two sites), Tewin

Hertsmere Borough

Theobald Street, Borehamwood

St Albans District

Kimpton Bottom

Bylands Meadow, Redbourn

Harpenden Road, St Albans

Ragged Hall Lane, St Albans

Sandridgebury Lane, Sandridge

Lower Luton Road (two sites), Wheathampstead

Three Rivers District

Trout Rise Farm, Loudwater, Rickmansworth

Dawes Lane, Sarratt Bottom

Welwyn Hatfield Borough

Vineyards Road, Northaw, Cuffley

Digswell Park Road, Digswell

Kingswell Ride, Cuffley

Northlands, Potters Bar

What are we doing about plotlands?

CPRE Hertfordshire members regularly alert us when they become aware of a plotlands site, and our team of volunteers proactively trawl online to identify such sites. Once we know of a site, we get into action. We quickly contact the relevant local authority – usually at District or Borough level – requesting that they urgently put an Article 4 Direction in place. An Article 4 Direction removes permitted development rights from the site. This means that it is then unlawful for gates, fences or any other infrastructure to be installed, unless granted permission through the formal planning application process. The Article 4 Direction also makes enforcement action possible, including criminal prosecution, if any development or infrastructure installation does occur without planning permission.

What can you do about plotlands?

You can help by notifying us if you see sales notices on farmland, particularly if the sales agency is unfamiliar or if the sale is by auction.

 

We are aware of agents located in other parts of England and in Ireland who have recently tried to market Hertfordshire plotlands. You should also notify us if you see fields which have been divided up into small plots using stakes and wire or similar materials, as this is a leading indicator that the speculator may be getting ready to advertise the plots.

Here’s how to contact us.

Plotlands at Digswell Park Road near Welwyn Eliza Hermann