Flats plans for St Albans city centre dismissed on appeal

Young woman holding model house

Young woman holding model house - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Developers have lost an appeal to build new flats in a vacant St Albans city centre car park.

St Albans district council (SADC) has refused Victory Property Holdings’s appeal to build two flats, each one bedroom, on a vacant five-space car park behind London Road.

The parking area was last leased to an insurance company in 2015 but has been empty ever since, and is in a Conservation Area.

Victory made the plans just over one meter smaller, now seven meters high, than a previous failed application.

However, neighbours argued it would encroach on their properties by blocking out light and putting strain on city centre facilities, such as parking.

One woman said: “The new dwelling on the right completely dwarfs my property. I will have no view, privacy or daylight. I also work from home and will feel imprisoned in my own home. I am sorry if this sounds dramatic!”

Yueying Zhang, of Acupunture 1st, said: “The flats are too big for the proposed area and they will completely overshadow the properties from 50-58 London Road reducing their sunlight and privacy. The flats have no outside space or parking provision so competition for spaces in Zone M will be even more critical. The building will also damage the surrounding trees which provide a habitat for wildlife as well as reducing noise and air pollution.”

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He said residents do not want to “live in an overpopulated, dark, treeless urban space”.

A local resident added: “Having already seen two office blocks converted into flats on this small stretch of road we feel that the area is now densely populated adding pressure onto places in local schools (due to the high prices of housing here, lots of young families live in flats) and local resources.”

Victory argued: “We would contend that our design, scale, mass, character and layout do successfully accord with that of the existing development and that the regeneration of this and the adjacent vacant plots will be of benefit to this boundary area of the Conservation Area.”

A planning inspector explained the refusal: “The public benefits arising from such factors do not outweigh the harm I have identified to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area.

“Consequently, whilst the council is not able to demonstrate a five year housing supply, this is a case where specific policies in the [National Planning Policy] Framework indicate that development should be restricted.”