Planning decision delays force St Albans landlord’s hand over extension

The Spotted Bull's new extension can be seen under construction from Verulam Road

The Spotted Bull's new extension can be seen under construction from Verulam Road - Credit: Archant

A defiant pub owner has built an unapproved extension in St Albans’ conservation area as he is fed up waiting for a decision from the district council.

James Hanning, who has lived in St Albans for a decade, bought the run-down Spotted Bull in Verulam Road in July last year and wants to retain it as a pub.

In September he lodged an application with St Albans district council for approval to build a single story side extension, replacement front boundary wall and alter the pub’s opening.

It was amended following a request from council officers but a decision on the minor development is still pending, six months later.

He has already had plans approved for a rear extension at the premises, subject to conditions being met – and is also waiting for the council to sign off on those. The back extension has been built.

The latest scheme has been called-in by Cllr Simon Grover for determination by a planning committee as he said it would be a significant development in the conservation area with potential impact on neighbours.

James has meanwhile earned the wrath of residents by pushing ahead with construction of the side extension despite the outstanding approval, saying a council decision on the scheme was, “16 weeks past its planning deadline for them to respond”.

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Residents have lodged objections as they do not want The Spotted Bull turned into a large venue.

They have complained that it also, “makes a mockery of the status of the area, and the role of the local authority in respect of planning matters.”

One objector added: “There is little point in having a conservation status if the applicant’s financial interests are allowed to trump all other considerations of amenity and character.

“The bigger customer capacity will increase noise, late night disturbance and parking problems for nearby residents.”

But a determined James said that he had complained to the council about the length of time it had taken to decide the scheme, as he was keen to have the pub “up and running”.

He added: “You have to move things forward. There have been many delays. It has been very stressful.”

Simon Rowberry, interim head of planning at the council, said: “As soon as we were made aware that the owner had started building work on his proposed extension, we asked him to stop while the application is determined.

“A decision is due shortly and once it has been made the council will consider what appropriate action to take.”