Harpenden pub plan dropped after rooftop bar terrace rejected by councillors

An artist's impression of Kingston House in Harpenden.

An artist's impression of Kingston House in Harpenden. - Credit: Oakman Inns

Plans for a rooftop bar on the top of a former Harpenden department store have been scuppered after planners said it was it was out of keeping with the market town.

Oakman Inns brought forward plans to convert Kingston House, which was more recently the site of M&Co, into a pub over three stories, including an extended food offering.

The pub chain had planned to maintain the appearance of the front of the building, but proposed a retractable roof terrace to the rear of the second floor.

During a meeting of St Albans district council’s planning committee, members acknowledged the development would improve the appearance of the rear of the building and bring a vacant site back into use, but refused to support the terrace.

Councillors raised concerns that it would be too dominant on the townscape, and decided to throw out the plans.

In a letter to councillors read during a meeting on March 14, Malcolm Schooling of Oakman Inns defended the design of the extension, saying it was a modern addition and is “unapologetically 2022”.

“The introduction of a rooftop terrace would be a first for Harpenden, and would provide another dimension to the town centre, helping to attract visitors and increase the time spent in the town centre, helping to maintain its vitality and boost the local economy.”

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The letter said without the roof terrace, the project would not be viable as customers are expecting outdoor space from venues.

However, councillors said the extension was more in line with something more appropriate for a city.

The building is in Harpenden’s Conservation Area, with councillors also finding issue with the lack of parking for the proposals and whether delivery lorries would be able to service nearby businesses if the plans went ahead.

Council officers had recommended that councillors refuse the plans, raising concerns with the design and bulk of the second floor roof terrace.

In a report ahead of the meeting, officers said: “It is not considered that this proposal would preserve or enhance the character of the conservation area and would result in less than substantial harm to the character of the conservation area and to the locally listed building, which is not outweighed by public benefits.”

Harpenden Town Council also raised an objection, saying the extension was deemed “an unwelcome and out of keeping addition to this locally listed building”.

In proposing refusal of the plans, the committee’s chair Cllr Paul Cousin said: “I think this committee is open to improving the backs of buildings … but I’m just not sure about a roof terrace. It sounds a bit silly, but it feels like the sort of thing you might have in a city, not in a conservation area in a market town.”

Councillors voted to refuse the proposals by 6-1, with one abstention.