Concerns over Colney Fields expansion bid

Ridgeview Hostel

Ridgeview Hostel - Credit: Archant

A barrage of objections may not be enough to stop a large out-of-town shopping centre being expanded by 97,000 square feet, with fears it will hit trade in St Albans city centre.

Colney Fields shopping park at London Colney may undergo a major extension if St Albans district council’s planning referrals committee approves a scheme on Monday.

Officers have recommended the project be given a green light.

That is despite a petition signed by 153 residents and objectors pointing out a loss of residential land, noise impact, increased traffic and that the extension is simply in “the wrong location”.

The scheme’s detractors include Christopher Place in the city centre, which described it as “detrimental to retail hierarchy in St Albans”.

The application site on Barnet Road is currently occupied by Ridgeview Lodge, a 1980s building originally built as a hostel for homeless people which is now temporarily used to house University of Hertfordshire students.

Neighbouring the site is Colney Fields with its 1,689-space car park.

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More than a year has passed since the scheme was submitted by developer Ramheath Properties on behalf of site freeholders Sainsbury’s.

Ramheath wants to demolish Ridgeview and build a 97,000 sq ft development comprising six retail units, each with a full mezzanine level.

The scheme includes a second customer entrance via a proposed new roundabout at the junction of Barnet Road.

Alterations to the existing Colney Fields shopping park are suggested, including an extension of the car park to provide an additional 146 spaces – 16 more than was originally mooted by Ramheath.

But St Albans Civic Society has objected to the scheme, warning the out-of-town expansion would have an “adverse impact on the vitality and viability of St Albans city centre retailing”.

Representatives of intu Watford, formerly the Harlequin Shopping Centre, have also objected, saying the council “could not be satisfied” the major expansion would not have an adverse impact on St Albans or other shopping centres in the catchment.

London Colney councillors Jacob Quagliozzi and Dreda Gordon have echoed concerns lodged by the village’s parish council, which objected on the grounds it was an over-development and detrimental to the area and neighbouring residents.

Cllr Quagliozzi said: “Access is a big issue, and having more units at that site will have an effect on the city centre.”

He added that with an increase in the number of people in temporary accommodation “ringing alarm bells” in St Albans, a scheme which helped mitigate that problem would be more appropriate.