Planning permission granted for new parish centre at Harpenden church

Planning permission has been granted for a new parish centre at St John the Baptist Church in Harpen

Planning permission has been granted for a new parish centre at St John the Baptist Church in Harpenden. Picture: Google Street View - Credit: Archant

Plans for a new parish centre at St John the Baptist Church in Harpenden have been granted by councillors.

The proposed two-story parish centre, which will link to the church, would include a central café, a reception area, a small meeting room, a hall, a lounge and an activity room, as well as food preparation areas and toilets.

When complete, the centre would more than double the footprint of the existing centre on St Johns Road from 277 square metres to 606.

The application was considered by St Albans District Council's planning development control committee north on Monday, September 16. It was called in to the committee by Cllr Teresa Heritage, amid concerns about insufficient parking and the design of the building being 'not sympathetic' to the conservation area and to the setting of the church.

At the meeting, it was reported to councillors that the existing church hall - which would be demolished as part of the plan - was said to be in "a poor state of repair", "unfit for purpose" and "had a negative impact on church activities".

According to the public consultation, some residents said the church had a demonstrated need for a modern accessible community hall, and that the proposal was sympathetic to the surroundings.

However other residents raised concerns, pointing to the 'lack of parking' for the size of the proposed hall, as well as concerns about pedestrian safety, noise, impact on trees and disruption caused by building work.

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There were also suggestions that it would be out of scale and that the church hall should not be used for commercial activities.

At the meeting, Cllr David Heritage accepted that there is a lack of parking in this area, but suggested that this development would not exacerbate the existing problem.

Meanwhile, Cllr Gillian Clark also highlighted the issue of parking, which she said was "exceedingly rough" in the village at the moment. She also suggested the new parish centre would exacerbate the parking problems on that road, branding parking in the area as "totally and utterly inadequate".

After the debate, Cllr Bert Pawle recommended that the application was granted in line with the recommendations, and it was agreed.