Apartment block and café could replace town eyesore in Harpenden

The derelict James Marshall building in Harpenden

The derelict James Marshall building in Harpenden - Credit: Archant

A new town centre development could inject a fresh lease of life into a derelict building, supporters have claimed.

The derelict James Marshall building in Harpenden

The derelict James Marshall building in Harpenden - Credit: Archant

James Marshall House on Leyton Road, which overlooks Rothamsted Park in Harpenden, could be converted into a six storey block of assisted living apartments.

A public café opening directly on to the park is also being included as part of the proposals by developer PegasusLife.

District councillor Michael Weaver welcomed the scheme: “It has been long required and long needed. The idea that the café, which would link the apartments and the park, is one I think is particularly important.

“It gives older people and younger people the chance to mix. The feeling about it, since I have been mixing with the public, is positive. People are delighted to think that the building will go to good use.”

The proposals come as part of a movement to help encourage elderly residents to move from the outskirts of Harpenden into the centre.

Cllr Weaver added: “By having these opportunities, it enables the Harpenden community to congregate together.”

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He said the current James Marshall building has attracted some negative attention: “The building at the moment is atrocious. It looks derelict, reminiscent of an out-of-date inner city building.

“These proposals seem like a nice, sensible development. It’s well needed and will be welcomed by the Harpenden community.”

James Marshall House has been derelict for over a decade and in 2008 a fire caused considerable damage to the building. Various planning applications have been submitted for the site over the years.

The Harpenden Society, which works to ensure the town remains an enjoyable place to live, is also backing the development.

Chairman Chris Marsden said: “We are very much in favour of all of the plans. It has an excellent design, with a community space near the park.

“We have been campaigning for a café and toilet facilities in the park for such a long time now.

“It will not only be good for families using the park, but the likely elderly occupants of the new apartments, who will get a lot out of the families being there. I don’t think I have heard anyone say a bad word about it.”

PegasusLife is yet to apply for planning permission, with the proposals in the early stages of development, but hopes to submit a scheme later this month.