Push for 300 homes at Pastoral Centre in London Colney
PUBLISHED: 12:03 20 October 2014
There is "bitter disappointment" in London Colney after a failed attempt to register a historic local landmark as a community asset in a bid to stymie attempts to turn it into housing.
It is understood that Comer Group, which bought the All Saints Pastoral Centre, Shenley Lane, for about £7 million from the Diocese of Westminster, wants to eventually build over 300 homes on the site.
The sale, which was completed in March this year, has caused heartache for villagers and supporters of the centre as it has been a religious institution since being established in the late Victorian era, and includes the moated site of a chantry chapel thought to date back to Norman times.
The diocese decided to cash in on the nearly 60-acre property despite an e-petition signed by more than 6,000 people calling on it to abandon the sale.
Comer Group, which will shortly consult residents on its plans, is already advertising the site as a “substantial residential institutional complex set in 58 acres of mature parkland including part of an historic walled garden believed to date from the late 18th Century.”
Its development hopes prompted London Colney parish council to apply for part of the site to be registered as a community asset.
St Albans district council was asked to list the SPEC retreat centre, a residential centre for children and young people on the same site, as an asset of community value.
If an asset is listed and comes up for sale, community groups will have six months to prepare a bid to buy it.
However those hopes have recently been dashed, after the council turned down the request.
A council spokesperson said: “We do not consider that the building was used for community purposes – it was specific in its use as a residential educational facility.
“The use is no longer continuing in this property.
“It has also been earmarked for residential development … we do not believe it fits the criteria.”
One of those spearheading the application, London Colney district councillor Jacob Quagliozzi, said: “We are bitterly disappointed. I’ve been visiting All Saints and the SPEC since I was at school.
“Like many local people I feel a huge affection and affinity with the place. Many people in the community will have fond memories of the whole site, and it is a place of real community value.”
Villagers are concerned that London Colney might lose the green buffer which stops it from coalescing with neighbouring Shenley should the site be developed.