Fears that job cuts could threaten city's heritage

PUBLISHED: 14:36 14 November 2008 | UPDATED: 13:43 06 May 2010

CONSERVATIONISTS are upset by plans to cut the size of the team responsible for protecting the city s heritage. St Albans Civic Society has registered its opposition to the proposal saying the workload for the scaled-down team runs counter to the distric

CONSERVATIONISTS are upset by plans to cut the size of the team responsible for protecting the city's heritage.

St Albans Civic Society has registered its opposition to the proposal saying the workload for the scaled-down team runs counter to the district council's proclaimed commitment to protecting the city's heritage.

The proposal, which has been spearheaded by the council's planning portfolio holder Cllr Chris Brazier, would mean that one of the conservation experts would be freed up to deal with residential planning applications.

But Peter Trevelyan of St Albans Civic Society said: "The Society is outraged. This is all about saving money. It might sound like a good idea to help speed up planning applications but this is the wrong time. Due to the credit crunch the numbers of planning applications have dropped off considerably.

"The Society's diminishing confidence in the council is further undermined by this attempt to seek short-term cost savings."

He also pointed out that the long-delayed Local Development Framework - the council's planning blueprint for the future - needed considerable extra work, much of it in conservation and design.

Cllr Brazier is proposing to move one of council's conservation and design (CAD) team over to the development control department which would make him or her available to deal with residential planning applications

Another post could be made redundant, leaving three full-time members of staff in the original team of five who would continue to deal with listed buildings in the district and the larger, more detailed applications.

As a result of new laws they will need to devote more time to listing all local monuments and buildings of historical significance instead of relying on centrally-held records.

Cllr Brazier said: "We are trying to make the planning system more user-friendly. At present planning applications with a conservation element are referred to the CAD team which slows things up."

Cllr Brazier is preparing a business plan for the changes to put before SADC's scrutiny committee then it will be referred to cabinet for a decision in around three months time.

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I should probably have taken the hint! Walking out into the garden recently an unprecedented flock of thirty or more crows raucously greeted me from the treetops at the bottom of my garden. Cawing and croaking these big, black birds clung clumsily to the top most branches and twigs, jostling and flapping to stay balanced in a constant flurry of feathers. There is always something ominous about crows – they are after all carrion crows, the vultures of the bird world – always watching for scraps and weakness that might mean their next meal.

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