Shaping future vision for key St Albans city centre site
PUBLISHED: 06:00 03 October 2016
The promised overhaul of a mostly derelict city centre site has sparked interest in St Albans, with over 80 people attending a community-based discussion on its future design.
In April this year, Angle Property announced redevelopment proposals for a new mixed use scheme, centred on the combined Hertfordshire House, former police station and NHS site, along with the public car park opposite the Crown Court, in the Civic Centre.
This followed the firm’s purchase last year of the derelict Hertfordshire House - formerly county council offices.
The nearly two-acre Civic Centre ‘south site’ is ringed by Victoria Street, Civic Close and Bricket Road. It sits alongside the Civic Centre ‘north site’, much of which is owned by the district council, and comprises the Alban Arena, district council offices and Bricket Road car park.
Following Angle’s announcement, Look! St Albans, a group which describes itself as the “community voice on design”, organised a series of events from September 9-16, to brainstorm the possible design of the combined seven-acre Civic Centre opportunity site.
Over 80 residents had their say on the transformation, resulting in two designs being suggested - both will be submitted for consideration as part of the council’s development process.
One features a promenade linking Victoria Street to Hatfield Road, while the second design has a canopied area in front of the Alban Arena.
With over 1,000 hours of input from the community, Vanessa Gregory, chairman of Look! St Albans said the collaborative planning event “actively involved all those who love our city and want to help shape a lasting legacy for future generations”.
She said such discussions and the resulting mooted building designs could be used to inform the council, before “irreversible key development decisions have been made and expensive plans have been drawn up”.
Tony Williamson, director of Angle Property, said that as one of three landowners of the south site, “we were impressed to see so many members of the public attending [the events] and contributing to the process with enthusiasm”.
He said it was interesting to see the two indicative schemes resulting from the community workshops, the approach of which were “very similar to Angle’s scheme, that was the subject of favourable public consultation in May.
“Of particular note is that the schemes show the redevelopment of the south site can take place independently of the north site – this is logical due to the retention of Civic Close and Alban Arena, topography, ownerships, current occupation and existing uses.”
But, he pointed out, “the way forward for the north site is clearly less well advanced with regards to the existing buildings, all of which are still very much in full-time use, rather than being an actual development site, like the south site.
“From Angle’s perspective, our focus is on the south site in terms of both land ownership and planning permission.
“In this regard, we hope that the police and NHS will wish to maintain the momentum of the [design events] and work with us to seek to bring the three land holdings together, following which a planning application can be prepared and submitted.”
Tony added that, given the support shown by local residents, Angle hoped “the council will support and actively encourage the south site redevelopment”.
Cllr Julian Daly, the council’s portfolio holder for resources, said that as most of the Civic Centre site was developed in the 1960s, “it is now tired and worn. A comprehensive, high quality redevelopment of the area will be transformational for St Albans. It will make the city centre more attractive, vibrant and appealing.”