Anger at ‘secrecy’ over St Albans takeaway plan

ANGRY residents say they have been let down by a “secretive” planning system over a proposal to turn a launderette into a takeaway.

A plan to convert Bubbles Launderette in Cell Barnes Lane, St Albans, into a hot food takeaway was passed with scarcely any notification.

Local district councillors did not learn of the application until it was too late to call it in before a planning committee and as a result, it was left to officers to decide the application.

Apart from letters sent to just seven of the 18 homes above the parade of shops, the only notification was one official planning notice wrapped around a parking signpost in the street, opposite the well-used launderette.

Peter Sutton, who lives in the block, said: “Just by chance, I happened to see the notice – it was facing into the roadway, almost hidden from passers by.

“By that time there was just over a week left to make objections – and the call-in period for councillors was virtually over.

“It’s as if they wanted to keep it all secret – I seriously question whether this is adequate notification for a change that will have a highly detrimental impact on the quality of life in the area.”

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Mrs Anne Jude, who also lives in the block, commented: “If the councillors had been able to call it into committee, we could have had a very different result.

“This is a pleasant residential neighbourhood but this decision makes a mockery of the council’s plans to improve the amenity of the area!”

Residents are also questioning how the application was passed when previous takeaway applications – which had raised many of the same objections – had been turned down.

A statement from Cell Barnes Residents Association said: “We are aggrieved to find that this planning application has been granted without the opportunity for full consultation.

“Our friends and neighbours appear to have been totally ignored even though the plans and our objections are no different from those that led to the dismissal of previous planning applications.”

The application generated numerous objections from residents around the Cell Barnes Lane area.

Concerns raised included increased littering in front of the shops, cooking smells affecting the properties above it, increased traffic and pressure on parking spaces, already in very short supply, together with anti-social behaviour and noise nuisance from people loitering in the takeaway area.

In a comment to the council, crime prevention officer Gerry Wright warned that the new takeaway would become a possible further generator of crime in an area already troubled by anti-social behaviour and shop lifting.

As well as the takeaway issue, several residents were unhappy about the loss of the launderette.

Christine Winmill, of nearby Rodney Avenue, said: “The loss of the launderette will hit some people hard and its proposed replacement by a takeaway will affect residents in the flats above, with noise, smells, traffic and people loitering.

“It’s disturbing to see that the planning authorities have apparently dismissed the concerns of those likely to be most affected.”

Mr Sutton added: “In the end, all the objections were simply dismissed by the planning people. As residents and council tax payers, it seems we just don’t count. “I am hoping there’s some way we have this ill-considered decision over-turned.”

A council spokesperson said: ““When we receive a planning application, the relevant legislation requires at a minimum, the display of a site notice in at least one place on or near the land to which the application relates.

“However the district council considers that it is also appropriate to consult in writing, those properties that directly adjoin the site.”

Cell Barnes Residents Association invites anyone who wishes to raise concerns over local issues to contact them at