Housing plan vital to secure future of St Albans’ Oaklands College

A layout plan of the proposed Oaklands College residential development

A layout plan of the proposed Oaklands College residential development - Credit: Archant

Oaklands College is pinning its hopes on getting permission to build 348 homes on its main campus to stop it falling into disrepair, a packed public meeting heard last week.

More than 200 people went along to the Marshalswick Community Centre last Thursday to air their views on the £51 million redevelopment scheme off Sandpit Lane, which one resident claimed was a “slum waiting to happen”.

During the two-hour meeting, Oaklands College principal Zoe Hancock said it had now submitted a planning application to St Albans district council, which would involve selling off part of its green fields to property developers Taylor Wimpey.

She explained that Oaklands desperately needed the money from the sale to modernise rundown facilities on the campus after a major government grant to build a ‘hub’ on the site fell through costing them £10 million.

Ms Hancock added: “This is not a great thing for the college to be doing because we are part of the community and we are upsetting quite a lot of people but I have buildings that are not fit for purpose at the moment.

“We do not do it lightly and we have spent a lot of time working out what we need to secure the future of our students.”

A representative from Taylor Wimpey also answered questions from the floor and outlined the residential side of the proposal, which includes 227 private properties and 121 affordable homes each with two parking spaces.

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Objectors voiced a number of concerns with the scheme ranging from its visual impact to issues surrounding traffic congestion and strain on local school places.

Geoffrey Bean, chairman of the Marshalswick North Residents Association (MNRA), also pointed out that nearby Verulam School playing fields would become a “land-locked” site, while another campaigner said: “It does not take a genius to work out how much chaos 350 houses will cause.”

The Smallford campus’s fields had been earmarked as one of the locations for major residential redevelopment in St Albans district council’s Strategic Local Plan but that has since been shelved.

Concluding the meeting, MNRA secretary Gaynor Clarke commented: “We support the college’s ambition and we want a thriving college but we don’t think it is the right site.”

To comment on the application visit the council’s website quoting reference number 5/2013/2589 or write to case officer Miranda Burroughes at St Albans district council, Civic Centre, St Peter’s Street, AL1 3JE.