St Albans city-centre developers face rejection

PUBLISHED: 08:48 21 August 2009 | UPDATED: 14:22 06 May 2010

A MULTI-million pound proposal to develop a rundown city centre site has been given the thumbs-down by planning officers. They have advised councillors to reject a joint application from Antringham Verulamium and Travelodge to build a complex on the Hertf

A MULTI-million pound proposal to develop a rundown city centre site has been given the thumbs-down by planning officers.

They have advised councillors to reject a joint application from Antringham Verulamium and Travelodge to build a complex on the Hertfordshire House site in Bricket Road.

The £26-million proposal includes an 87-bedroom Travelodge hotel, 46 residential apartments, leisure and retail facilities, and 12,600 square feet of office space which could house the police when they sell their current Victoria Street station.

The application for the site in the area known as Civic Centre South, which is earmarked for regeneration, will be determined at the next St Albans planning referrals committee on Tuesday.

The first application was submitted late last year but was retracted in March to address the highways concerns raised by planning officers, who had recommended refusal.

But planners have taken the same stance on the new application and are recommending that councillors reject the proposal on 11 grounds.

They include a number of highways issues, a lack of affordable housing and concerns that the proposal would prejudice future buildings in the area and therefore result in an "incomprehensive" development of the entire Civic Centre South site.

Planners also said the proposal would constitute an overdevelopment of the site to the detriment of the street scene, local residents, the character of the conservation area and the city's skyline.

Travelodge argues that the development would bring an annual boost to the local economy of around £1.5 million, fulfil a shortfall of local hotel beds and provide a chance for the city to capitalise on the London Olympics by attracting extra visitors to the area.

Tony O'Brien, Travelodge's UK development director, said: "If approved, this scheme will attract millions in inward investment and regenerate an area of the city centre that the council has already allocated for redevelopment in its Local Development Plan.

"During what is widely believed to be the worst recession for Britain since the Second World War, these proposals represent a significant ongoing investment in St Albans and will undoubtedly provide a boost to the local economy."

He said their experience of building budget hotels in other conservation and high-heritage areas such as Windsor, Bath, York and Chester had proved that the company was well placed to deliver a "sensitive approach that brings huge benefits".

Mr O'Brien added: "I am confident that our approach will deliver a similar boost to this area of St Albans and I hope that councillors will share this view."

Antringham Verulamium purchased the site in 2007 and the company has been in talks with the council about how best to develop it since then.

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