Fire-damaged gatehouse in St Albans Green Belt faces demolition

The Gate house at Oaklands College which was subject to an arson attack on bonfire night last year

The Gate house at Oaklands College which was subject to an arson attack on bonfire night last year - Credit: Archant

Demolition plans are being pursued for the blackened shell of a historic two-storey gatehouse, razed by fire on Bonfire Night last year.

St Albans district council is considering yet another scheme for East Lodge, located at the entrance of Oaklands Lane in Smallford and sold by Oaklands College in 2010.

The long-derelict three-bedroom gatehouse, which dates back to 1877, was gutted by fire on November 5.

While the blaze has been described as deliberate by St Albans Fire Station, no investigation has been launched into the incident because the building was derelict.

Over the past few years there have been numerous schemes, including house extensions, for the 0.28-hectare triangular shaped plot.

Last October the council refused a plan submitted in June to demolish and replace the gatehouse with a four-bedroom home.

This was on the grounds it was larger than the original footprint, would have encroached upon the root area of protected trees and was inappropriate in the Green Belt.

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Another bid to demolish the building - submitted in November - to make way for a replacement two-storey four bedroom home was refused in January for being “disproportionate”.

The current scheme - resubmitted in April - to demolish the remains and build a four-bedroom home with a garage, has yet to be considered.

But St Albans Civic Society has objected to the proposed removal of the gatehouse because of its “distinctive character and charm typical of Victorian park lodge architecture of its era.

“This building deserves to be retained and restored despite recent fire damage.”

In a letter outlining changes to the scheme Dean Goodman, director of town planning service Philip Dean Ltd, said a rear conservatory has been removed to reduce the scale of the proposed building.

However he was critical of the council’s previous refusal, alleging that the planning committee which rejected the last plan had been given “misleading and wildly inaccurate statistics”.

His letter adds: “The floor area and volume of the existing property has been understated in the officer’s report and equally the floor area and volume of the proposed new house, in each of the refused schemes, was exaggerated.

“The planning committee, in our view, were misled into thinking there was a greater increase in floor area and volume than there actually was.”

Dean said the floorspace of the proposed home was a “not unduly excessive” 60 per cent increase upon that of the gatehouse.

He added: “The current dwelling is in very poor condition. It has been set alight twice and has no roof. It is incapable of refurbishment and can only be replaced. It has a negative impact on the Green Belt.”

Cllr Chris Brazier has called in the scheme for determination by a planning committee, as it “has a lot of public interest and should be discussed in a public forum for transparency.”