Iconic St Albans glass building could be turned into brick

Ziggurat House, Grosvenor Road

Ziggurat House, Grosvenor Road - Credit: Archant

Brick cladding proposed for an iconic glass building in St Albans which is to be converted into housing has infuriated local residents.

Ziggurat House, Grosvenor Road

Ziggurat House, Grosvenor Road - Credit: Archant

Local Green district councillor Simon Grover has been inundated with complaints about the proposal for Ziggurat House in Grosvenor Road, St Albans, and has called in the application for changes to the building for councillors to make a decision at the planning central meeting on Monday, August 3.

But he believes the issue is of such importance that it needs to be considered by the main planning referrals committee and has asked for it to be directed there - he was still waiting to hear yesterday if his bid was successful.

Change of use of the office building to flats was permitted development so was out of the hands of local councillors. But the proposals to reclad the building from glass to brick to create seven studio, 67 one-bedroom and 51 two-bedroom apartments is the subject of an application to alter the building and has incensed neighbours of the scheme.

Cllr Grover said that the conversion had resulted in the second largest postbag he had ever received and there were nearly 80 objections and not one in favour.

Ziggurat House, Grosvenor Road

Ziggurat House, Grosvenor Road - Credit: Archant

The objections range from concern about over-development and insufficient infrastructure to it being out of character in a conservation area and the brickwork being out of scale and proportion.

St Albans Civic Society has also objected to the ‘substantial design change’ to a distinctive landmark building in the conservation area.

They argue that the present glazed cladding, although uncharacteristically tall for St Albans, successfully blends the building into the background sky, belittling its bulk.

By contrast, the civic watchdogs say, the proposed cladding does nothing to disguise the towering elevations and the repetitive expanse of brickwork gives a heavy appearance. “The result is a bland and anonymous utilitarian high-rise block,” they maintain.

Cllr Grover said this week: “The design is shocking. It is turning the existing glass building which, on a sunny day, blends into the sky into a big lump of brick.”

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Describing it as ‘insane’, he maintained it would dominate the skyline and set a terrible precedent.

Although there have been concerns voiced about the application going to a planning committee in August when many people are away, Cllr Grover said it was the first available meeting.

Planning officers are recommending that permission is granted on the grounds that the design and appearance of the proposed development and landscaping would be acceptable.