Council loses appeal over St Peter's Street development scheme

61-65 St Peter's Street is set for redevelopment.

61-65 St Peter's Street is set for redevelopment. - Credit: Matt Adams

Taxpayers are having to pick up the bill after council officers recommended refusing a major regeneration project in St Albans city centre.

The scheme, by Gatsby Retail Ltd, is for 61-65 St Peter's Street, currently mainly empty retail units including the old Poundworld.

It involved the demolition of the existing buildings to provide three new retail units and 20 residential dwellings above, with associated access, landscaping and other related works.

SADC officers objected on various grounds, including the impact of the design and detailing upon the character and appearance of the Conservation Area and street scene, whether the new properties could be adequately served in terms of recycling and refuse collection, and the impact of the fifth storey on views of the city.

Following this recommendation, councillors voted against the scheme on June 17, but government planning inspector Eleni Randle has granted permission on appeal, including a partial award for  undisclosed costs.

She cited the fact that SADC was aware there were several solutions for the matter of residential refuse and recycling, one of which was suggested by the council, so it should not have been included as a reason for refusing the project.

She said: "In failing to produce relevant evidence at appeal to support all of their reasons to refuse planning permission, I consider that the council has acted unreasonably resulting in unnecessary expense for the appellant with specific regard to the third refusal reason [refuse].

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"I therefore find that unreasonable behaviour resulting in unnecessary or wasted expense, as described in the planning practice guidance, has been demonstrated and that a partial award of costs is justified."

Cllr Chris White, chair of the policy committee with responsibility for planning, said: "In the last year the council won around 70 per cent of appeals and had, until this decision, resisted all applications for costs in 2020/21. 

“It is clear that the character of St Peter’s Street is evolving and officers need to respond by carefully managing this evolution. Subsequent to the original refusal back in June 2020, officers noted councillor support for redevelopment of this part of the city centre and responded by looking to develop a development brief for this section of St Peter’s Street to guide developers. 

“The award for costs is issued against one reason for refusal relating to servicing/cycle storage for the site which, had officers supported this scheme in terms of the proposed building height/detailing/design, would have been negotiated further.”