Scheme for retirement village behind St Albans garden centre wins appeal

The Burston Garden Centre on the North Orbital Road. Picture: Google Maps

The Burston Garden Centre on the North Orbital Road. Picture: Google Maps - Credit: Archant

A scheme which would see a new retirement community built at the back of a St Albans garden centre has won planning approval at appeal.

St Albans district council previously rejected an application to demolish horticultural buildings on Green Belt land at the back of the Burston Garden Centre on the North Orbital Road.

The original proposal was for a 64-bedroom care home, 125 assisted-living bungalows and apartments, and a community clubhouse built on the site instead. None of the homes would be classed as affordable.

The council said it was inappropriate development of Green Belt land which contributed to the merging of How Wood and Chiswell Green.

It also said the buildings would encroach and substantially harm adjacent Grade II* and Grade II-listed buildings next door.

Developers Castleoak Care Partnerships subsequently submitted several appeals against the decision to the Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government.

It argued the proposal would not harm the Green Belt because the site has been previously developed and is largely well contained.

Most Read

Castleoak also stressed that the council does not have a five-year housing supply due to a lack of district Local Plan and there is no requirement to provide affordable housing.

Planning permission has now been granted for the demolition of all existing buildings, structures and hardstanding and redevelopment of the site to provide a new retirement community comprising 80 assisted living apartments with community facilities and 44 bungalows together with associated access, bridleway extension, landscaping, amenity space, car parking and associated and ancillary works.

Planning inspector Tom Gilbert-Wooldridge said in his report: "At the previous appeal, the parties disagreed on the existence of alternative sites for this type of development based on issues relating to availability and disaggregation. On the former, the council now accepts due to updated evidence that there are no suitable or available alternative sites within the district that are large enough to deliver a retirement village. I have no reason to disagree with this evidence."

He added: "There is significant local support for this development despite its location within the Green Belt, with only a few objections at application stage. Interested parties in their representations and at the inquiry itself have set out why they consider the development should be granted permission. Notwithstanding its emerging status, there is also support for a retirement village in the draft [St Stephen Parish] Neighbourhood Plan. While planning is not a popularity contest, the unusually high level of support merits some weight in favour of the development."