Residents slam plans to clad St Albans iconic glass building in brick

Ziggurat House, Grosvenor Road

Ziggurat House, Grosvenor Road - Credit: Archant

Angry residents showed the strength of their feelings on Monday after a planning committee gave permission for an iconic glass building in the city to be clad in brick.

Ziggurat House, Grosvenor Road

Ziggurat House, Grosvenor Road - Credit: Archant

Residents living in the area around Ziggurat House in Grosvenor Road, St Albans, were opposed to the proposal to clad the building in brick to convert it into housing.

And they showed their anger as Monday’s (3) meeting of St Albans plans central committee voted in favour of the change to the building.

Several called out ‘shame on you’ and lambasted councillors after planning permission was granted for alterations to the building.

Nearly 80 objections including one from St Albans MP Anne Main were received prior to the application being called in for a committee decision by Cllr Simon Grover.

Ziggurat House, Grosvenor Road

Ziggurat House, Grosvenor Road - Credit: Archant

Change of use of the office building to flats is permitted development under a government ruling and local councillors had no say in the matter.

But they were able to vote on the proposal to replace the glass with brick, install a new rooftop garden and provide additional parking.

Local resident Tom Attree raised several issues of concern including the fact that the Ziggurat was in a conservation area. He said: “What does conservation area really mean? Do most people want to preserve the character of this great city? This [scheme] clearly does not do so.”

Cllr Grover called for the application to be passed to the main planning referrals committee on the grounds that it was particularly contentious and would change the skyline enormously but the committee accepted the view that it was not sufficiently controversial.

Recommending approval from the chair, Cllr Janet Churchard, said she was a lover of glass-clad buildings and had admired the Ziggurat from the train.

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But when she had looked at it close up, it was not so impressive and she felt the alterations ‘would be an improvement on what is there at the moment’.

When the vote had been taken and residents left the council chamber, she commented:: “it’s a shame when the public are here in number and don’t understand why we had to vote the way we did. This is what we are elected for and sometimes we have to take some decisions which are unpopular.”

After the meeting one of the objectors, Valerie Edwards, described it as a ‘travesty’ which had resulted in the rubber stamping of planning permission.

She said it was regarded as a ‘quick fix’ because St Albans council was required to provide 425 dwellings annually and questioned why they were all being allowed to go ahead in the railway conservation area.

And she warned it was the tip of the iceberg and other applications for high-rise blocks of flats would emerge for the Ziggurat car park.