Plotlands are damaging the Hertfordshire countryside
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.
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.
Where are plotlands located in Hertfordshire?
Over the past two decades we’ve identified 24 plotlands sites across six of Hertfordshire’s ten districts.
Church Road, Little Gaddesden
Icknield Way, Tring
East Hertfordshire District
Box Wood, adjacent to Stevenage
Hay Street, Braughing
Rushden, near Buntingford
Warrengate Farm (two sites), Tewin
Theobald Street, Borehamwood
St Albans District
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.