Hilton hotel plan for St Albans turned down again

DEMAND for hotel rooms in St Albans could yet pave the way for a new Hilton scheme in Chiswell Green although councillors turned down the latest planning application on Tuesday.

51 Pegasus Ltd had resubmitted their proposal for two hotels, to be run by the Hilton chain, and a park-and-ride facility on land off the Noke roundabout, after the last application was withdrawn in 2009.

Although St Albans planning referrals committee concurred with their officers’ recommendation and refused the application, the decision was not unanimous and the door appears to be open for another bid.

The Green Belt site opposite the Noke Hotel and close to Butterfly World would be developed with two hotels, one four star and one two star, with staff accommodation, parking and landscaping.

It would also be the location for a park-and-ride scheme into St Albans city centre.

Although the current scheme drew strong objections from St Stephen parish council and some local residents, it was supported by the St Albans and District Chamber of Commerce and the Royal National Rose Society which has its headquarters and garden in Chiswell Green.

Committee chairman, Cllr Chris Brazier, said several councillors had voiced their belief that good hotels to boost tourism were needed.

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He went on: “The main crux of the issue was the effect on the Green Belt, the design because it would be on one of the main entrances into St Albans and whether or not this was the right location for it.

“Some of us thought the design was fine but others felt it should reflect a little bit of St Albans for people coming in.”

Cllr Brazier said the committee’s decision was, “not an absolute refusal” and he felt the application was getting closer to what the council wanted to see. He added: “I think there is more demand for hotels that we know from our figures.”

Former St Albans MP Kerry Pollard, who acts as a consultant to 51 Pegasus, said: “It seemed to me at the meeting that there was a feeling there was a need for it and it would regenerate the site and help tourism.

“Clearly we were disappointed but we are now considering our options, which could be down the appeal route or more dialogue with the council. We don’t want to be confrontational but go with the grain.”

He went on: “I passionately believe it’s a great scheme for St Albans, in the right place, in the Green Belt but already on developed land and it would bring jobs and regeneration.”

Mr Pollard admitted he was puzzled by the design issue as it had originally been Palladian to reflect St Albans character and when that had been turned down, the company had submitted a completely modern design which had also not found favour.

He added: “It has been carefully thought through but what we really wanted to do was get a flavour of what committee members wanted and they all made warm noises.”