Comment: Gating Gabriel Square will show its doubters they were right all along

Gabriel Square's 'private property residents only' sign has put local people's backs up

Gabriel Square's 'private property residents only' sign has put local people's backs up - Credit: Supplied by Martine Bridge [mbri

St Albans’ Gabriel Square may not be for everyone in terms of appearance and asking price, but its public outside space was a reason for anyone living locally to be cheerful.

Not anymore. Thanks to some epic ineptitude on the part of the council, a ‘private property residents only’ sign has gone up and there’s nothing any of us can do about it.

When the development got the go ahead back in 2013, the fact that it would feature a central garden square that would be open to all was a major selling point. It helped win over dubious locals, balancing out their scepticism with a bit of hard to argue with positivity. Everyone stood to gain.

The planning application submitted by original developers, Spen Hill, said that – unlike many of London’s garden square’s – the space would “be open to all, provided for the benefit of the city’s inhabitants and visitors” and would “benefit those living and working in the surrounding area”.

Locals were unhappy that only nine of the new homes were classed as affordable, but at least they’d be able to share this fine new public space, a silver lining that took the edge off the development’s steep prices and hard-edged appearance.

Not now, they won’t. The sternly-worded sign makes itself more than clear, and Meyer Homes – who took over the development in 2015 – have now applied to gate off access on the Alma Road side of the site.

Thanks to public access details being left off the Section 106 planning document by St Albans district council (SADC), they’re well within their rights to do so.

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How on Earth has this happened?

Cllr Chris White lays the blame firmly at the door of SADC, telling the Herts Ad: “Basically someone has forgotten and that’s rubbish.” Too right it is!

Meyer Homes is standing by its sign, saying the garden square “remains as private and for use of the residents only”.

And who can blame them? There are some homes still to sell, and a private garden square will obviously hold more appeal to buyers than one that’s open to anyone and everyone.

Putting a gate on this community will show the developer’s many doubters that they were right all along – and SADC has no one to blame but themselves.