Arson-hit St Albans garages demolished

ARSON-hit council garages at Partridge Road in St Albans have been demolished, possibly paving the way for new housing.

The 110 garages, afflicted by anti-social behaviour, fly tipping, fires and break-ins during the past 15 years, have been pulled down following complaints from New Greens residents.

But the sudden demolition of the site struck a sour note with residents, some of whom are elderly, as they were given little advance notice of the work.

Batchwood Cllr Martin Leach criticised St Albans District Council’s head of housing, Karen Dragovic, at Tuesday’s overview and scrutiny committee meeting, saying: “Right at the beginning of the process the first thing I knew about this was when residents came to our surgery and told us that they’d been given a month to clear out, and it was a bit of a surprise because for a number of years we’ve been calling for some action to take place and something to be done and all of a sudden it was happening and we weren’t aware of it.

“It’s from that aspect of it that I don’t know how the decision was taken in the first place and what triggered that as opposed to us just asking for a number of years.”

Ms Dragovic said that the trigger was a spate of fires in the locality which came to a peak, leaving officers concerned about health and safety issues. She went on: “We knew that police had contacted us because they were concerned about arson in that area and we just felt we had to do something.”

She pledged that there would be “a clear consultation strategy” when the council decided what it would do with the site.

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In late 2009 more than 70 per cent of the garages were vacant, and those garages let were being broken into or set alight.

Ms Dragovic said contractors were currently putting up security fencing and the council was looking at long-term solutions to develop the area, one option being building houses.

During public consultation earlier this year residents asked to suggest future use of the site requested either new homes or allotments, with housing being the preference.

A council report said while allotments were “desirable”, there are currently no resources available for development of allotments at the site.