Church sells London Colney pastoral centre

A landmark building that has served as a religious institution since the late Victorian era is understood to have been sold to developers despite efforts to save it.

All Saints Pastoral Centre in London Colney has been sold to a property developer, according to spokesman for campaign group Save All Saints (SAS) committee, Peter Baker.

He said members had received a letter before Christmas outlining the sale to an unnamed developer, the highest bidder for the multi-million-pound property.

Centre owner, the Diocese of Westminster, announced in January 2011 that it was to shut All Saints, blaming the closure on a “challenging economic climate”.

Mr Baker described the sale as, “a great disappointment to all concerned”.

Committee members are worried about the future of the historic centre and have vowed to continue fighting the diocese’s decision to sell as it is subject to contract agreement.

The property includes buildings designed in neo-Tudor style by notable architect Leonard Stokes. There is also a wood in which lies the moated site of a chantry chapel thought to date back to Norman times, rumoured to be the place where St Alban was arrested prior to his execution.

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In November, Mr Baker wrote to Bishop John Arnold to explain how the SAS had looked at various options of raising money through covenants and fundraising activities.

However, the diocese had received several expressions of interest for the purchase of the centre, offered for sale as a whole or in up to five lots.

Marketing information distributed by agent Smiths Gore said it would be of interest to a wide range of potential buyers because of its proximity to London.

The property was built in the last years of the Victorian era for the All Saints Sisters of the Poor, an order of nuns who remained in occupation until 1973, when it was bought by the diocese, which has since used it as a pastoral and educational centre.

Set in 60 acres of grounds, it has also provided a residential retreat centre for children and young people.

Herts county councillor for The Colneys, Chris Brazier, said: “The diocese has not entered into negotiations with local people, and has gone for the highest price.”

Cllr Brazier has been speaking to the chair of London Colney parish council, Ian Orton, about how possible future development of the site could be stymied, as it also provides a green buffer which stops the village coalescing with neighbouring Radlett and Shenley.

He said residents feared a major development would present problems for the community as the nearby Harperbury hospital has already been earmarked by St Albans district council as a potential site for hundreds of homes to possibly be built in future.

Fellow All Saints supporter, Brian Plunkett, said while he was also disappointed with the sell-off, he hoped the diocese would reconsider the sale given that, “passions are running high in London Colney”.

He added: “It would be wonderful to find a chink in the sale. The ink is not dry yet.”

Spokespeople for the diocese and Smiths Gore could not be reached for comment