Extension plan for Jamie’s Italian in St Albans

The retail Unit on Chequer Street into which Jamie's Italian is expanding

The retail Unit on Chequer Street into which Jamie's Italian is expanding - Credit: Archant

CELEBRITY chef Jamie Oliver’s push to expand his St Albans restaurant has been given the go-ahead, with his new café and delicatessen due to open within the next few weeks.

Despite the scheme being criticised as a step backwards for the city’s retail sector, St Albans district council has given the go ahead for Jamie’s deli to open in two vacant shops next to his restaurant, Jamie’s Italian, in Chequer Street.

Construction work is currently being carried out to link his restaurant, in the former Bell pub, to the former Snappy Snaps and opticians’ stores next door.

A spokewoman for the chef said the café and deli would serve breakfast and lunch during the day, to dine in or take away. In the evening the bar will serve drinks and snacks to diners waiting for a table at the restaurant or people “just dropping by”.

Jamie’s agents had applied in May to the council for a change of use to mixed use, to allow the creation of a delicatessen with seating for 30 customers at the empty stores.

But the proposal was criticised by Eric Roberts, from the St Albans Civic Society.

The civic watchdog group lodged an objection to the application as it would mean the loss of two retail stores.

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After the scheme was submitted Eric said the society had, “no alternative but to object because there is a melt-down of coffee shops in the city centre, and a loss of retail. We have to put a marker in the sand.”

However in a recent council report, planning officers said the proposed development would support economic growth as, “if left as they are, the two unoccupied retail premises would continue to have a negative effect on the vitality of this frontage.”

Approval was recommended as officers said the development would not detract from the character or appearance of the St Albans conservation area.