Concerns at impact of St Albans ‘Tesco’ site homes scheme

DETAILS behind the redevelopment of a dilapidated area formerly earmarked by Tesco for a supermarket have been revealed at a public exhibition, generating concerns about the scale of the project.

The proposals by the property developer arm of Tesco, Spen Hill Developments Limited, include 100 homes for the Eversheds printwork site at the junction of Alma Road and London Road.

But the leader of St Albans Green Party, newly-elected Cllr Simon Grover, has questioned the sustainability of the proposed town houses and says that the developers are “missing an opportunity” to showcase an environmentally friendly housing development in one of the country’s wealthiest cities.

He also queried where the children who will inevitably move into the properties would go to school, considering the lack of school places for the children that already live in St Albans.

He said: “These family homes are going to house 112 young families, with perhaps 200 children. Where are these children going to go to school? Homes are all very well, but you need the infrastructure to support the people who live there.”

Cllr Grover also argues that the buildings could be more sustainable, given that Tesco claims to be an eco-conscious company, and says that such a development would make economic sense for both the people who moved into the properties and the people of St Albans.

He said: “When the supermarket was planned for the site, there were promises that it would be a sustainable building and we know that Tesco can and does produce green buildings for their stores. Perhaps the developers aren’t as concerned about these issues, but it would benefit everyone if these houses were more sustainable.”

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Cllr Grover explained that buildings are given grades dependent on their sustainability with code six being a zero-carbon building – but the Eversheds plans are graded at code four, which he said was not “particularly impressive”. He continued: “There’s no sign of renewable energy, grey water and recycling beyond simply watering the grass or passive heating and cooling for the units.

“Large developments like this must be made to minimise their effect on local water supplies and carbon footprint.”

A spokesperson for Spen Hill Developments Ltd said: “The London Road scheme will be very environmentally sustainable. It is designed to meet Code for Sustainable Homes level four which means that the sustainability of the development is considerably better than the requirements of the building regulations and normal practice. The development will include insulation to make the homes energy efficient, use of environmentally benign materials, energy efficient lighting, recycling of domestic and construction waste, and ecological enhancement of the site.”

In response to Cllr Grover’s concerns about school places, the spokesperson was keen to stress that any application would be subject to substantial Section 106 contributions towards education provision. He said it “was not realistic to assume this scheme will generate almost 200 children” and pointed out that the former Alma Road School had recently been purchased by a nursery school operator who was happy to operate it as a school and that the county council were hoping to open a free school on Hatfield Road.

A resident living on Alma Road says he is particularly concerned about the proposed development and its implications on his livelihood.

Steve Wright attended the exhibition on Friday and discovered that the car park where he and 15 others park their cars would disappear in the current proposals. For Mr Wright, who is disabled, the loss of the 16 spaces at the rear of 11 Alma Road could render him housebound as previous attempts to obtain a designated space have been rejected.

He said: “I’ve already been told by the council that I cannot have a designated space because car parking in this area is already very limited. If this development goes ahead as planned then the impact on my life will be enormous indeed. I will become virtually housebound as I will not be able to park within a reasonable distance from my home.”

A spokesperson for Spen Hill Developments said he believed the district council would be more than sympathetic to the need to provide disabled resident spaces to anyone entitled to one and will in all likelihood allocate a disabled residents bay in Alma Road if residents approached them.