Controversial hotel in St Albans’ Green Belt is to be 25% smaller

Doubletree hotel

Doubletree hotel - Credit: supplied

A hotly-debated Hilton Hotel on Green Belt land on the outskirts of St Albans could soon become a reality - but up to 25 per cent smaller than initially approved.

A design change to the application to construct the four star 150-bed Hilton Doubletree Hotel and conference centre at the Copsewood site in Chiswell Green, has been submitted – over two years after the scheme was finally given the go-ahead.

Nicola Bond, director of St Albans-based applicants 51 Pegasus, confirmed the design concept and all the facilities remain as the approved design but the scale of the building has been reduced, bringing it down significantly in size.

The amended plans will see the realignment of the roundabout and the retention of an existing bungalow on site, known as Cleveland.

Nicola said: “Keeping this building will provide management offices and accommodation away from the hotel building, allowing the building size itself to be reduced.

“We will keep the same capacity for the conference centre, which can cater for 450 people and there is an improved offer of flexible meeting spaces and function facilities.”

She added: “The local authority has a real momentum to build the visitor economy over the coming years and this hotel will certainly help under pin the drive to increase leisure and business tourism.

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“It is estimated the hotel will generate some £4 million into the local economy.”

The original application met with opposition from the Herts branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, who criticised the “disastrous” decision to approve it on Green Belt land.

It also drew strong objections from St Stephen parish councillors and some local residents but was supported by the St Albans and District Chamber of Commerce and the Royal National Rose Society, which has its headquarters and garden in Chiswell Green.

At a recent St Stephen parish council meeting, councillors again criticised the project’s approval and suggested it would affect “the openness of the area and lead to coalescence between Bricket Wood and Chiswell Green”.

They also argued it could damage business of the existing Noke Thistle Hotel, opposite the site.

Park Street councillor Steve Bowes-Phipps said: “This application appears to be a more sensitive replacement to the original outlying planning approval for the same, in that it provides for 26 per cent less built-up area.

“While this is still 100 per cent more building than we want in the Green Belt, we have to face the fact that if this application is refused, the hotel, as originally planned, is likely to go ahead anyway.”

Consultation ends tomorrow (Friday, April 24) and no date has yet been fixed for the scheme to be considered at a planning referrals meeting.