Go-ahead given for demolition of derelict Harpenden care home and redevelopment of site

The derelict James Marshall building in Harpenden

The derelict James Marshall building in Harpenden - Credit: Archant

A vandalised former care home is to get a new lease of life after a planning inspector gave the go ahead for it to be demolished and modern facilities for the elderly put in its place.

Retirement home developer Pegasus Life went to appeal when St Albans council turned down a bid to demolish the Harpenden Day Centre and James Marshall House, a former residential care home in Leyton Road which closed nearly 15 years ago.

Pegasus wants to replace the building with 38 apartments within three blocks between three and six storeys high together with a new day centre, cafe and restaurant.

But councillors refused the application and by the time the scheme went to appeal, the remaining issues were that the buildings were considered too large and high for a site in the Harpenden conservation area, the amount and arrangement of parking on site and the impact on residents of Bennets Lodge.

Although councillors turned down the application, there was a lot of support for the scheme particularly from the Harpenden Day Centre which had modernisation needs unmet for many years because of the uncertainty about the future of James Marshall House.

Planning inspector Ava Wood said the proposal failed to meet the basic requirements for conservation areas but the identified harm had to be weighed against the public benefits of the proposal.

With the council unable to demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing land, significant weight had to be attached to the supply of new homes as well as a contribution to affordable housing.

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There were other social benefits relating to the provision of security, care and support for the elderly and environmentally, the proposal would regenerate an area which she described as ‘previously developed, unkempt and vandalised land that has lain unused for 14 years’.

She added: “The redundant buildings of James Marshall House are clearly visible in prominent public views from the conservation area as well as Rothamsted Park. That they are contained by vegetation does not alter the unwelcome nature of redundant land and buildings in this key area of the town centre.”

Ms Wood said the proposed scheme would bring real enhancement by the introduction of a development capable of being branded as high quality in terms of design and architecture.

She added: “There is no fall-back or alternative scheme. The appeal proposal provides a genuine opportunity for redevelopment of a town centre site where no other scheme has been forthcoming or implemented for 14 years.”