St Albans city centre hotel plan rejected

A CITY centre budget hotel plan has been turned down – but the chairman of the planning committee that took the decision is urging the chain behind the bid to come back with another scheme.

Despite a four week gap between the last St Albans planning referrals committee and this week’s meeting to enable officers to negotiate with Whitbreads over unresolved issues around a new Premier Inn in St Peter’s Street, councillors voted by five votes to four to refuse the application.

They followed the recommendation of their officers who were still concerned about the height and massing of the hotel which would be built at the top end of St Peter’s Street.

Whitbread wants to build a 125-bed hotel close to Adelaide Street with three shops underneath.

A month ago councillors were minded to approve the scheme but deferred it for more discussions about the design and to sort out a Section 106 Agreement which compels developers to contribute to the provision of services and infrastructure.

Committee chairman, Cllr John Chambers, said yesterday that he was still keen for Premier Inns to occupy that site. “I wouldn’t want them to go away from it but the officers and English Heritage didn’t think it was right in terms of size, scale and height.

“I think they could achieve what we want easily and would encourage them to come back. The general consensus was that it was not quite right.”

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Green councillor Simon Grover, who represents St Peter’s ward where the hotel would be situated, said he was in favour of a hotel there but the application was not suitable.

He commented: “The size and design of it was not appropriate for that location and I was really pleased that the meeting had substantially changed its mind.”

Richard Pearson, acquisition manager for Whitbread Hotels & Restaurants, said: “We are very disappointed with last night’s decision. After councillors deferred the application in October for the S106 agreement to be finalised, we went away and did exactly that.

“To then hear contradictory messages was extremely disappointing. The rejection of Premier Inn’s potential major investment into this part of the town centre and the creation of nearly 90 new jobs is a real blow for local businesses, traders and St Albans as a whole.

He added: “If given permission, our scheme would have delivered new shops, a hotel and important rejuvenation in this part of St Albans. This could all have started early next year but it has now been blocked.”