Developer hedging its bets over St Albans city-centre plan

A WELL-established hedge around a city-centre car park has been cut down at the same time as a new planning application has been submitted to redevelop Hertfordshire House.

The six-foot deep hedge which started close to the Quaker burial ground in Victoria Street and carried on round into Bricket Road, has long been a feature of St Albans.

Its removal has infuriated members of St Albans Civic Society who have accused Antringham, the company which wants to redevelop Hertfordshire House and the adjoining land, of staking a claim on the site.

Marion Hammant of the Civic Society said: “I am assuming it was done by Antringham. What it has done to the appearance of that area is considerable.

“I am sure it is making a statement – this is a pre-emptive strike.”

Heather Cheesbrough, the head of planning and building control at the district council, said the trees and woodlands team was aware that a hedge had been removed from the boundaries of a property that borders Bricket Road and Victoria Street.

But she pointed out that the land was not owned by the council and although it was in a conservation area, there was no legislation under which it would have been protected

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Tim Blairs, director of Antringham, said that the reason his company had taken down the hedge was because it was overgrown and causing security concerns which had led to complaints.

He added: “We have a duty of care to users of the car park to make sure it is a safe and secure environment.”

Antringham has just submitted its third application to develop the Hertfordshire House site. The first scheme was withdrawn and last year the second scheme was turned down by planners.

It proposed an 87-bedroom budget hotel, 46 residential apartments, leisure and retail facilities and 12,600 sq ft of office space which could have housed the police when they leave their current station in Victoria Street.

But councillors were unhappy with the design of the new building and that was one of 11 reasons why they turned it down last summer.

The new scheme, which has just been submitted to the district council and will go to a meeting of planning referrals in the autumn, proposes 47 residential units, a hotel and basement car parking.

It would be predominantly a four-storey building with commercial uses on the ground floor and the residential and hotel element on the upper floors.

St Albans planning portfolio holder, Cllr Chris Brazier, said the original scheme would have been higher than the Abbey which was contrary to planning policy and there had also been issues about the design and loss of trees.

But he said development of that whole area, known as Civic Centre South and taking in the police station and health centre, was part of the council’s core strategy and City Vision and councillors would be concerned to see how the Antringham scheme would fit in with the development of the rest of the area when considering the application although it would be judged on its own merits.