Developers blast St Albans council report on Herts House
PUBLISHED: 20:00 04 September 2009 | UPDATED: 14:24 06 May 2010
DEVELOPERS have been left aggrieved by the district council s treatment of their multi-million pound plan to regenerate a run-down city centre site. Antringham Verulamium and Travelodge s proposal to build a £26 million complex on the Hertfordshire House
DEVELOPERS have been left aggrieved by the district council's treatment of their multi-million pound plan to regenerate a run-down city centre site.
Antringham Verulamium and Travelodge's proposal to build a £26 million complex on the Hertfordshire House site in Bricket Road was rejected by the planning committee last week because councillors were unhappy with the design.
But the developers believe they were misrepresented by a planning officers' report about the development, which includes an 87-bedroom budget hotel, 46 residential apartments, leisure and retail facilities, and office space for the police.
They claim the report was unbalanced to such an extent that they sought legal advice which concluded there had been, "a concerted attempt to put obstacles in the way of the development of the site through misrepresentation of key facts and particularly the planning policy basis upon which officers have assessed the proposals."
The alleged misrepresentations include the positive aspects being "trivialised" with the officers making "overly-negative" comments and a number of errors, such as incorrect measurements of the building and use of planning policies.
Antringham purchased the site more than two years ago and have been in talks with the council about ways to develop the site ever since.
Antringham director Tim Blairs said the company was disappointed and surprised many of the issues considered important in the pre-application discussions with officers had not been treated as vital to the proposals as they were initially.
Councillors were very critical about the absence of affordable housing but Mr Blairs claimed they were not made aware of the full story.
He maintained an agreement was made with planning officers about what provision could be made but there was a lack of guidance and willingness to discuss it further.
So Antringham and Travelodge submitted a Section 106 document outlining plans to give the council money to channel into affordable housing instead of including it in the plans.
Mr Blairs said any site had to be economically viable and that the company had already spent a large amount of money, time and effort on the proposal.
He continued: "We don't wish to be critical of officers but the report presented to members was not perhaps as balanced as it could be and suggested we had not acted in a responsible and constructive manner with officers when this was clearly not the case."
Antringham have not decided what to do next, but one option is to refurbish the existing building.