St Albans Civic Centre revamp moves closer

AFTER years in the planning, a major revamp of the Civic Centre area in the heart of St Albans looks set to move one major step closer.

St Albans district councillors were last night, Wednesday, July 11, expected to give the go-ahead to a planning brief, a blueprint for a massive redevelopment of the Civic Centre area.

The council wants to attract developers with innovative proposals to revamp the site.

Plans include turning it into a combination of offices, residential development and retail space, providing a range of leisure and service uses, caf�s and restaurants.

Dubbed the Civic Centre Opportunity Site (CCOS), the area is split into two distinct parts by Civic Close.

There is a 1.9-acre privately owned south site and 5.5-acre north site, predominantly owned by the council.

The need for a complete overhaul stretches back to 1994, when the southern half of the site was pinpointed for potential redevelopment in the Local Plan.

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The development brief recommended for adoption at last night’s full council meeting described most of the buildings as being of “limited architectural quality” and a detraction from the city centre.

Councillors would like several buildings redeveloped including the Bricket Road car park, the vacant former county council offices Hertfordshire House, the police station and the “unsightly” principal health clinic.

The Alban Arena, which occupies a significant central part of the site, is locally listed and subject to an operator’s contract until 2016.

The brief said: “A new purpose-built theatre is a council aspiration but more viable alternatives could be extensions or refurbishment.”

Other buildings detracting from the site and restricting redevelopment but likely to be retained include the Magistrates Court, as the courts are not looking to move; Lockey House, refurbished and subject to long leases, and Forrester House, under multiple occupation.

The brief said the Civic Centre site could also provide a location for a new hotel, and it might be feasible for buildings to be as high as five or six storeys.

The council is also currently considering the future size and extent of its front line services and the future of its civic offices.

Before the full council meeting, portfolio holder for planning Cllr Teresa Heritage said the proposed brief was the start of a multi-year project which she hoped would start “straight away”.

She added: “I hope that the document will give clarity to the development industry so they know what is available to them.

“The council is committed to the redevelopment. We don’t want to tell people what to do; we are not being too prescriptive, we are very flexible.”