New access road provides lifeline to St Albans’ Abbey Theatre

CONTROVERSIAL proposals to route the service road to the new Westminster Lodge development behind the Abbey Theatre are set to be scuppered.

A planning application has been submitted by St Albans district council which will run a direct access road to the service yard from a new vehicle crossover on Holywell Hill.

The previous proposal was to route service vehicles from the existing Holywell Hill access and behind the Abbey Theatre to the service yard. It would effectively have prevented the theatre expanding in the future.

But it was favoured by the council’s consultants on the Westminster Lodge development which is now well underway on the Holywell Hill frontage of the site.

Cllr Mike Wakely, the council’s portfolio holder for sport and leisure who is an engineer by profession, said the new Conservative administration had held a meeting with Paul Davidson, chairman of the Abbey Theatre, about the proposal to effectively run a ring road behind the Abbey Theatre to access the new service area.

He went on: “I couldn’t see anything against it running straight off Holywell Hill and Herts Highways were very supportive. The Abbey Theatre felt they had been ignored and were a bit harassed about the original concept. The new access road is not only in a better position but also saves us money.”

David Gilroy, of the PoolToo-Small group which was pushing for additional swimming lanes at the new Westminster Lodge, said the council should be congratulated on the new proposal which he said would “put the Abbey Theatre out of its misery of the last two years.”

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He also pointed out it would save any more trees being felled on the site, would no longer intersect an ancient footpath and was safer.

Urging people to support the application, he added: “This is a vital step forward in exactly the right manner to settling the New Lodge plan ready for opening next year.”

Paul Davidson said the Abbey Theatre was fully supportive of the proposed new route for the service road.

He went on: “This short, direct route has always seemed the most sensible solution and it will save the theatre from considerable disruption and long-term constraints.”

He added: “We are now in discussion with the council about revised plans for the area between the theatre’s front door and the leisure centre which we hope will lead to a mutually satisfactory design.”

The application reference number is 5/2011/2253 and the deadline for comments is next Wednesday, November 2.