Expansion of oColney Fields retail park given go-ahead

St Albans City and District Council

St Albans City and District Council - Credit: Archant

Just five months after an expansion bid was refused because of overdevelopment, a new scheme to increase the number of retailers at an out-of-town shopping centre has won district council approval.

St Albans planning referrals committee gave planning permission on Monday for the demolition of the former Ridgeview Hostel for the homeless in London Colney to enable five more shops to be built as part of the adjoining Colney Fields shopping centre.

Ridgeview is currently providing temporary accommodation for students of the University of Herts.

The decision to demolish the existing building and build new shops was taken in the face of strong opposition from Labour councillors representing London Colney who warned that not only would it damage the village but it would offer no potential benefits in return.

Objections were also made by a number of local residents and London Colney parish council which maintained that the new scheme was still overdevelopment of the site and would lead to problems with access, parking and noise.

Applicants Ramheath Properties had submitted a new application reducing the number of shops from six to five and introducing other amendments to the block which will house the stores.

Planning officers recommended approval on the grounds that there would be no impact on local residents and traffic and the design would sit comfortably with the character of the locality.

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They also did not feel the additional retailers at Colney Fields would impact on town centres in the catchment area.

After the meeting, London Colney district councillor Jacob Quagliozzi, said that local concerns centred around the installation of a new access road which was specifically restricted by conditions in the original planning consent for the Savacentre - the forerunner to Colney Fields - in 1987.

He voiced his disappointment at the decision, claiming that local people would pay the price for further incursions of a retail park into the village – all to pay for the new Westminster Lodge leisure centre four and a half miles away for which the sale of Ridgeview was earmarked.

Cllr Quagliozzi also warned that there would be a significant retail effect on St Albans city centre where national chain stores such as Monsoon/Accessorise and Next had already moved out to Colney Fields.

He added: “I have this morning written to the leader of the council and chief executive of the council reminding them of council’s decision on November 23, 2011, to allocate a proportion of money from the sale of this land to retail improvements in London Colney and the city centre.

“I have asked to discuss the process for allocating this funding to projects urgently.”

The planning approval will now go to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles for a final decision.