Backlash against plans to redevelop former St Albans convent

Maryland Convent and Care Home

Maryland Convent and Care Home - Credit: Archant

The proposed redevelopment of a former convent, which includes four blocks of retirement flats, a car park and substantial landscaping, has prompted a flurry of objections from residents.

Beechcroft Developments Ltd - which specialises in retirement homes - submitted an application for a major redevelopment of the Maryland Convent in Townsend Road, St Albans, on November 6.

That initial application was dismissed as invalid after Tracy Harvey, head of planning at St Albans district council, pointed out that the proposed site required access via a private road - Beechcroft have since attached a certificate to the application indicating that the road’s ownership is unknown.

The Maryland Convent site - a 1 hectare plot of brownfield land to the north of St Albans city centre - was, until early in 2014, a Christian care home before it was hastily closed, forcing its 29 elderly residents and sisters to move.

Beechcroft proposes to demolish the site’s existing buildings and to build four blocks comprising 42 two-bed flats and six one-bed flats, 16 of which will be affordable.

Within a matter of days of the application being submitted, residents logged on the council website to express their opposition to the proposals. Peter Miller of Heydons Close wrote: “I believe the size of this building and the number of dwellings proposed is far too large for the area. I don’t believe the developer has understood or given any thought to the disruption of an existing environment which is quiet and pleasant to live in.”

Another objector, Madeline McFadzean of Townsend Drive, wrote: “This type of development is totally out of character with the rest of Townsend Drive where, to my knowledge, there are no blocks of flats.

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Councillor Roma Mills, who represents the Batchwood ward in which the development is proposed, said: “Change in itself is not reason for refusal, but we’ve got to look at how this affects people in the area and I think the traffic flow would be an issue.

“There’s no doubt that St Albans needs more accommodation but I think we perhaps need more modest family homes.”

Chris Thompson, managing director at Beechcroft Developments, said: “The feedback from the consultation we have carried out has been overwhelmingly positive, with over 68 per cent in favour [20 against, 12 neutral].

“Of the positive comments, most people support the proposed use and design, in particular the significant amount of green space both within the development and surrounding it.”

To view the details of the application and to view the comments in opposition, click here.