Decision on proposed conversion of St Albans’ Buongiorno Italia expected next week

Buongiorno Italia owner Tony Picciuto holds a photo showing his shop in the 1800's but now his landl

Buongiorno Italia owner Tony Picciuto holds a photo showing his shop in the 1800's but now his landlord wants to convert it into a residential property - Credit: Archant

Loyal customers trying to stop part of a popular Italian delicatessen in St Albans from being turned into a four-bedroom house might have lost their fight.

There was much anger earlier this year when it was revealed that the new landlord of one-half of Buongiorno Italia on Lattimore Road lodged a change of use scheme with St Albans district council.

Independent delicatessen owner Tony Picciuto is the freeholder of No 66 Lattimore Road, and tenant of the ground floor of the application premises, No 68.

Tony bought No 66 about four years ago to expand his Italian deli, which has traded from the neighbouring site for many years.

That expansion consequently won him an award from St Albans Civic Society.

But following the death of Tony’s former landlady, a change of use scheme was initiated by new landlord Alan Oakley who wants to convert one-half of the store into a four-bedroom home, including a two-storey rear extension.

The scheme will be considered at the council’s plans central committee meeting next Tuesday.

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However, despite a strong local campaign and 1,600-signature petition, planning officers have recommended conditional permission.

Their report to councillors says conversion would be appropriate because it would be in keeping with other homes in the street.

But Tony told the Herts Advertiser that with other housing schemes under construction in neighbouring streets and many offices being converted into homes, the retention of independent outlets like Buongiorno Italia to serve them was a necessity.

Tony said: “I am disappointed with the officers’ recommendation, partly because of the amount of protest, but also I’m concerned that if permission is given they will set a precedent – more shops will be turned into homes.”

He went on: “I could understand it going ahead if it was an abandoned shop in an estate but we are in the heart of St Albans.

“Tourists come down here and we get people who are going to The Odyssey Cinema in London Road. We are part of the city. The council has to think about the future needs of people and amenities they require.”

Scores of residents have objected to the proposed conversion with one newcomer saying long-running independent “gems” like Buongiorno Italia with “friendly staff who know their clients provide a sense of community and are what makes St Albans special”.

Several councillors called the scheme in for determination, citing “public perception of harm, impact on the character of the conservation area and loss of a valuable retail amenity”.