St Albans beer garden Co-op opens with unapproved illuminated sign

Co-op by The Three Hammers pub

Co-op by The Three Hammers pub - Credit: Archant

A controversial and unwanted supermarket has riled neighbours further by erecting backlit signs without planning permission.

Is the backlit light outside the new Co-op too bright?

Is the backlit light outside the new Co-op too bright? - Credit: Archant

When Sainsbury’s originally applied in 2015 to build in the former beer garden of a Grade II listed pub on Watford Road, Chiswell Green, it was described by a St Albans district councillor as the most objected to application in her memory.

Neighbours and local independent shop owners warned of a “concrete jungle” out of keeping with The Three Hammers next door, and lamented the loss of green space in the village.

The shopping giant pushed ahead with its plans, heading straight to appeal after St Albans district council (SADC) did not make a decision on its application within a statutory eight weeks - this happened twice, with the original plan and the revised re-submission.

Its first appeal was refused, but the second was accepted.

Since then, Sainsbury’s reviewed its plans and performed a U-turn. A spokesperson said: “Due to changes in the retail industry, we decided not to go ahead with our plans for the store in St Albans.”

Instead, a Co-op has opened on the site, also erecting a backlit sign which it does not have planning permission for.

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District councillor for St Stephen Ward, Brian Gibbard, said: “I am not particularly happy about it, obviously because the local residents fought against it and it makes no difference whatsoever if it’s a Co-op or a Sainsbury’s.

“But the main issue is it has opened without planning permission for the signage.”

He described it as a potential “traffic hazard” because drivers may be distracted by “this big, blue, sign”.

Chairman of St Stephen Parish Council planning committee, Michael Freeman, also expressed dismay: “It is bad enough building a convenience store that detracts from the street scene and the listed public house next door, but the developer has also failed to comply with conditions regarding building materials and has installed signage for which planning permission has been refused.”

Development manager for SADC, Laurence Moore, said it will be in contact with Co-op for discussions: “Our enforcement team is investigating the use of illuminated advertising signs without the required consent.”

A Co-op spokesperson said: “We are working with the council to find an appropriate solution.”