Historic Childwickbury Stud buildings are approved for conversion

Childwick Bury Stud, St Albans

Childwick Bury Stud, St Albans - Credit: Archant

Newborn thoroughbred foals are the norm at a historic farm in St Albans.

Childwickbury Stud in St Albans

Childwickbury Stud in St Albans - Credit: Photo supplied

But Childwickbury Stud, in Childwickbury, will soon boast another new addition – a swimming pool for staff and the farm’s household.

In a win for the breeding establishment, which dates back to the 1880s, owners Paul and Sally Flatt have secured the go-ahead for the conversion of part of the redundant stable building, and demolition of a haybarn.

Permission was granted at a recent St Albans district council plans north committee meeting, despite planning officers recommending refusal because they considered it inappropriate development in the Green Belt.

The officers were also against the granting of listed building consent as part of the development – but their second recommendation of refusal was also ignored by councillors.

Mr and Mrs Flatt want to convert part of the redundant stable building into ancillary accommodation associated with a new poolhouse, including changing area, plant room and lobby.

The outside of the stable building, which is listed Grade II, will remain largely unaltered at the site, which is within the Childwickbury conservation area and is a designated landscape character area.

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Eleven of the stables are to be converted internally – six of which relate to the proposed poolhouse building, while four are to be converted into a gallery and historic display area for stud archive material, along with a staff room and toilets. Another stable will be converted to a gym.

The new poolhouse will replace a corrugated haybarn, upon its demolition.

Speaking for the development, Mrs Flatt told councillors: “We bought Childwickbury Stud in 2011. We created an estate master plan to restore the Grade II listed buildings, and regenerate the stud.

“We have consulted extensively with St Albans planning department over the past four years. The re-use of redundant buildings was key to this plan. The stud comprises many beautiful buildings, it has a rich history and we feel privileged to be the custodians of it.”

She said, however, that its longevity was dependent upon some ‘adaptation’ to take the site into the 21st century.

Mrs Flatt explained: “In 2015 the stud business was re-launched employing staff and supporting the local community and businesses.

“The hay barn is not listed, has no historical significance, and is not in use. It stands very close to the Grade II stables, obscuring them.

“Our proposal is a smaller structure, a better design … that lessens the impact on the listed stables. The proposal is to replace one permanent building with another.”

She added: “The stud has changed, but it has always been an important space between Harpenden and St Albans. The replacement of this hay barn has no impact on urban sprawl.”

Mrs Flatt said the pool would be used by her household, and by stud staff, adding, “we regard all our employees on our stud as extended family. At times they work very long hours to care for the horses in foal.

“The environment and facilities in which they live and work should be excellent. Our aim is to restore the stud to its former reputation as world-class. In the 21st century to do this, and to recruit and maintain best talent, we need to use all our buildings thoughtfully.

“This is not simply another application for a family indoor pool; the poolhouse supports the investment and re-use of redundant stables.”

Cllr Teresa Heritage said it was, “nice to see that there is young couple wishing to regenerate the rural economy around Harpenden and district”.

Cllr Gillian Clark added: “The hay barn that is there is an ugly, corrugated monstrosity; anything that replaces it can only be to the advantage of the estate.

“This idea that you conserve buildings as fossils, without any practical use, is something our ancestors would never have done which is why we are not still living in mud huts.”

Cllr Sandra Wood said it was, “a shame that the pool isn’t for horses, because that would still go along with the original plan of the barn and the use of the land. I’m not convinced there are special circumstances.”

Cllr Heritage pointed out it was brownfield development.

Both bids for conversion and listed building consent were granted, with specific conditions, in light of its Green Belt location and heritage.