St Albans budget hotel plan set to become a reality

A NEW city centre budget hotel is within a whisker of getting the go ahead after councillors decided they wanted to see it built in the face of their officers’ concerns.

Whitbread had applied for planning permission to build a 125-room hotel Premier Inn abutting Adelaide Street at the top end of St Peter’s Street with three new shops on the ground floor.

But planning officers had recommended refusal on the grounds of scale, unsatisfactory design and the likely impact on the road network when it went to a meeting of St Albans council’s planning referrals committee on Tuesday night.

Almost to a man, the committee agreed that they wanted to support the scheme and deferred a decision for up to four weeks to sort out issues such as a Section 106 agreement – a legally binding agreement which compels developers to contribute to the provision of services and infrastructure – and to tweak the design. Cllr John Chambers, chair of the committee, said said a budget hotel in that position on St Peter’s Street was needed.

“It has got to be good for the district, something we need to revitalise and regenerate the high street. We have now left the developers and the officers to sort it out.”

Lib Dem planning spokesman, Cllr Chris Brazier, said: “We all think it is going to be beneficial to the area. Here we have a hotelier guaranteeing jobs and investment.”

He said that one member of the committee had likened the hotel to a pre-fab but he added: “Premier Inns are strictly budget hotels, it’s what they are and it is what it says on the tin.”

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Ward councillor Michael Green commented: “Broadly speaking I would support it. There are one or two issues which needed to be looked at and a Section 106 has to be put in place.

“That end of St Peter’s Street desperately needs some rejuvenation and a hotel will bring additional people in. There are three empty shops there now and the new shops will be of a size that makes them more in keeping with the times.

“I know there are concerns about the size and mass of it and it is difficult to tell from pictures but it seems to me that the developers have done the best they can to try and hide it.”

Retailers have been in support of the scheme from the outset and Graham Lane, president of the St Albans District Chamber of Commerce, said yesterday: “Anything that enhances the top end of town can only be a good thing. More low cost accommodation will encourage more visitors and consequently more spending into St Albans. Hopefully the new hotel will boost retail and create local jobs.”

Richard Pearson, acquisition manager for Whitbread, said: “We are passionate about our plans for a new Premier Inn in St Albans. Our investment will see new jobs created and will help revitalise the northern part of the town. Our scheme is good news for St Albans residents, local businesses and traders.

“We were pleased that members welcomed the investment and jobs our plans will bring at the planning committee. Like them we want to invest in St Albans and get the scheme delivered as soon as possible. To make that happen we need to work with the council to agree on some outstanding technical points for the scheme so we can bring it back for a final decision at the next planning committee meeting in a month’s time.”

He added: “We look forward to this and to hopefully getting a positive planning permission for the site”