Plans to build care home on Harpenden industrial site are rejected

Chelford Fabrics in Harpenden. Picture: Google Street View

Chelford Fabrics in Harpenden. Picture: Google Street View - Credit: Archant

Plans to build a three-storey care home on the site of a fabric warehouse and showroom in Harpenden have been refused.

The proposed 63-bed home would have replaced the existing Chelford Fabrics building, in the Coldharbour Lane Industrial Estate.

And Chelford Fabrics would, it was said, move into new premises a short distance away.

But at a meeting of St Albans City and District Council's planning referrals committee on Monday, councillors decided it was the wrong location for the care home.

And they refused to grant planning permission to applicants Jarvis Commercial Limited and Porthaven No.3 Ltd.

At the meeting councillors highlighted the need to keep the area around Coldharbour Lane for employment purposes.

And while some liked the idea of a purpose-built care home in the area, others questioned whether an industrial estate was the right location for the facility.

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According to the planning application the purpose-built care home would offer places to residents of all dependency levels.

The blocks would be designed with areas of open space and gardens for residents to enjoy, as well as a communal lounge and dining facilities.

And there would be a specialist unit for those needing nursing or dementia care.

Speaking in favour of the development at the meeting David Driscoll, from applicants Porthaven Care Homes, said this was the first time a deliverable site for a purpose-built care home had become available in Harpenden.

He pointed to a shortfall in care home places in the area and stressed 10 per cent of the beds would be publicly funded.

He said it would create 100 new jobs - the equivalent of 60 full time posts. And he said the existing jobs at the Chelford Fabrics site would be retained and move to a premises next door.

However councillors were concerned that the care home would be at the expense of a site currently allocated for employment.

They heard that Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership has already indicated that employment space is disappearing.

And data from the LEP indicating office space in St Albans had fallen by 58,547 sqm between 2008/9 and 2017/18 was also highlighted.

At the meeting Conservative Cllr Bert Pawle was among those councillors to highlight the need to protect employment in the area around Coldharbour Lane.

He said he appreciated there was a need - and a growing need - for care homes, but that this was not the right place for it.

And Liberal Democrat Cllr Jamie Day said: 'On the one hand there is a need for care home places going forward .

'But I am not convinced that this is the right place for it. This is an employment area.'

Meanwhile Tory Cllr Sandra Wood - who abstained from the vote - said she could not understand why the care home could not be considered as a business.

She said she liked the design of the application and that the facility would be 'purpose-built'.

And Conservative Cllr Geoff Newman said the Coldhabour Lane was not a perfect location for a care home - but he asked where else it could go?

'There really is not a lot of land in Harpenden,' he said.

He said he shared concerns about setting a precedent at employment locations - but asked councillors to balance the public benefit of approving application with not.

It was reported to the commitee that that Coldharbour Lane employment site has a high occupancy rate - and that three other properties in the area that have been marketed are now under offer.

But the applicants had pointed to evidence of employment space locally that has been difficult to let.

In addition they say that to return to warehouse usage would require the removal of a mezzanine floor - and a fair amount of expenditure.

Ultimately the officers report had recommended that the plans were refused - and that the perceived benefits did not outweigh the harm and the loss of a substantial unit within the designated employment area.