£12m overspend for city centre development

An artist's impression of CCOS South.

An artist's impression of CCOS South. - Credit: SADC

A St Albans city centre regeneration project cost the council an extra £12m, it has emerged.

Initial plans for the City Centre Opportunity Site South scheme were withdrawn in November 2019 after residents and the Civic Society expressed concerns with the design, with planning permission granted to a revised scheme in January 2021.

The project will include 93 flats, including 33 for social rent, and new commercial floor space on the former police station and NHS site in Victoria Street.

Officers from St Albans district council have now confirmed the delay and revised application led to the new scheme costing £12m more than originally planned.

The council said the increase in budget to £61m would be cost-neutral, and not affect the profitability or viability of the scheme.

The figures were confirmed at a meeting of the district council’s overview and scrutiny committee on March 8.

During a discussion on the site Cllr Frances Leonard asked what the impact of the withdrawn and revised application was on the scheme.

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Officers confirmed both the cost of the process and the building itself increased as a result, with the total cost rising from £49m to £61m.

It led to a 15 month delay on the project, and the cost of revising the planning application and resubmitting the second application was £696,675, which is included in the adjusted overall cost.

Tony Marmo, the district council’s head of commercial and development, told councillors he is unable to provide specific details of profitability in public at this stage but the changes were “net neutral”, with the increase in cost matched by the increase in income.

Mr Marmo also told councillors the affordable units in the development would be sold to a housing association, but said this was always part of the plan and was not to recoup the further costs.

The development is expected to be completed by October 2022, with marketing set to begin on the flats this month.

During the meeting, councillors also raised concerns about the amount of parking available for the recently outlined CCOS North and Culture.

The plans, which could see the Alban Arena demolished and relocated along with new homes, currently outlines 150 parking spaces underground for the scheme, down from the 365 available currently.

Mr Marmo said a study into car parking demand would need to be completed ahead of any proposals being brought forward, and the plans are in the early stages.

A market research company will be appointed to undertake extensive consultation with residents about what they would like to see from any theatre, with results expected later in the process.