Green light granted for demolition of locally listed Victorian building on St Albans school site

Pemberton House, Hatfield Road, St Albans.

Pemberton House, Hatfield Road, St Albans. - Credit: Archant

A contentious application to demolish a locally listed Victorian school building in St Albans’ conservation area to make way for a new games area has been granted.

However, it took the casting vote of the chairman of a district council planning committee for Alban City School’s scheme to go through.

There were four votes for, and four against the demolition of the Pemberton Building to pave the way for a multi-use games and external play area, at the council’s plans central committee meeting on Monday.

It is the second time in five years the proposed playground replacement has gone before the council.

Back in 2012, the Secretary of State upheld the district council’s refusal of a similar bid by the county council, saying the demolition would be detrimental to the character and appearance of the St Albans conservation area, and the setting of adjacent listed buildings.

The Pemberton Building is located to the rear of Alban City School, which opened in 2012, within view of the grounds of nearby St Peter’s Church.

Headteacher Janet Goddard hailed Monday’s decision, saying it would “enable children to have increased opportunities for outdoor sport and learning and additional space for playtimes.”

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She said that the school undertook a thorough appraisal of alternative site strategies, including the retention and re-use of the Pemberton Building, but found it failed to meet current educational needs.

However, to preserve some of the heritage aspects of the site, the scheme includes the re-use of materials from the building to construct various features including planters, benches and an outdoor classroom.

The council received 312 submissions in support of the application, and 10 in opposition.

Those against the scheme warned that its demolition would result in the loss of a heritage asset, while people supporting the bid described the building as a hazard, telling the council that pupils needed the additional space.

The school stated it could not fulfil the PE curriculum without offering competitive team sports against each other and visiting schools.

Also, there is currently a need for staggered playtimes, which does not allow for full interaction of pupils.

St Albans and Herts Architectural and Archaeological Society objected to the proposal, saying “the quiet, contemplative atmosphere of the recently refurbished churchyard would be seriously disturbed by the constant activity of sports and play by so many children.”

Planning officers had recommended councillors reject the scheme, as it would be detrimental to the character and appearance of the St Albans conservation area.

Work on the new games and play area will start later this year, once all planning prerequisites and conditions have been met.