Developer likely to appeal over rejection of Harpenden retirement home plan

Pegasus wants to replace James Marshall House in Harpenden with accommodation for the over-60s

Pegasus wants to replace James Marshall House in Harpenden with accommodation for the over-60s - Credit: Image supplied

An appeal looms following the rejection of a scheme to demolish a vandalised former care home to make way for a multi-storey complex aimed at the over-60s.

Retirement home developer Pegasus Life suffered a knock-back at St Albans district council’s recent plans north committee meeting.

Councillors agreed with planning officers’ recommendation to turn down the bid to demolish the Harpenden Day Centre and James Marshall House, a former residential care home which closed in May 2001.

Pegasus had sought approval to replace the buildings with 38 apartments, within three blocks between three and six storeys high, along with a new day care centre, café and restaurant.

But its bid was refused because it did not provide affordable housing and was considered too large and too high for the site, in Harpenden’s conservation area.

Guy Flintoft, director of public policy and planning for the developer, told councillors that rejecting the application would be “procedurally unsound and deficient in planning terms.”

He said the officers’ recommendation for refusal “with no forewarning or discussion was disappointing due to the extensive efforts that we have undertaken in engaging with the community and the council.

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“The population of Harpenden includes a high proportion of older people and this continues to rise. Yet the provision of specialist housing for older people with support is very low.”

However stumbling blocks for councillors included its height - a maximum 20.7m high in the six storey part of the complex - and the lack of privacy for neighbouring occupants.

Councillors were told that a planning policy required a separating distance of 27m between facing upper floor windows, but the nearest facing ones were 19.3m apart.

Also, the scheme’s footprint was 28 per cent greater than existing buildings.

Harpenden resident David Newton told the committee the six-storey high block would be ‘visually intrusive’ and set a dangerous precedent if approved.

Cllr Maxine Crawley said: “What’s there is obviously not nice and needs to be replaced, we all know that.”

She was concerned residents’ parking would spill onto neighbouring roads, as the scheme allowed for 25 parking spaces for 38 units.

Cllr Crawley added that with just one person per unit having to be aged over 60, “you will probably end up with children there as there are a lot of people, particularly men, having children later.”

There had been a mixed response from locals, with Harpenden town council and Harpenden Society supporting the development of a derelict site while some residents objected, saying the “view from Rothamsted Park would be truly awful”.

After the decision Mr Flintoft told the Herts Advertiser: “We are disappointed as it is a great scheme. Older people in Harpenden deserve better.

“It is likely we will appeal the decision.”