St Albans conservation area homes scheme is rejected
PUBLISHED: 06:00 24 August 2016
Residents and objectors cheered after councillors on a planning committee turned down a new conservation area housing scheme close to their homes.
St Albans council had received scores of objections to the proposal from Beechwood Homes to demolish an existing bungalow in Mount Pleasant and build a five-bedroom detached property and six terraced houses on the site.
And councillors on the planning central committee took on board their concerns and rejected the planning application by three votes to one.
Prior to the vote, the committee heard from Roger Porter, objecting on behalf of the 17 houses in Old Garden Court, the Abbey Precincts Residents Association and affected local residents, and Dean Goodman for residents of Welclose Street.
Both raised the issue of over-development - Mr Porter maintained the six townhouses would ‘tower above houses in Old Garden Court’ - the scheme’s visual impact which was considered to be out of character and the shortage of parking spaces and access difficulties.
But Paul Atton for Beechwood Homes pointed out that the design and layout had derived from pre-application meetings with council planning officers and said that the proposed on-site parking was acceptable to both the officers and Herts Highways.
He added: “There is a pressing need for additional housing and it is important that the council ensures full use of developed land in St Albans.”
Cllr Salih Gaygysuz questioned planning officer Lydia Grainger about how close the development was to properties in Welclose Street and laughter from the audience greeted her response that the townhouses would be ‘mirror images’ of Old Garden Court, effectively finishing off a development there that Beechwood Homes had begun.
He maintained that the scheme ticked the boxes on over development and being out of character in the conservation area, pointing out that it did not resemble Welclse Street where the properties were ‘just magnificent, beautiful buildings’.
Cllr Janet Churchard, who proposed refusal of planning permission, said that when she had first looked at the site which is currently occupied by just one bungalow, she could understand why it would be developed.
She went on: “When I looked closely at the plans themselves, this is just another case of cramming as many buildings as humanly possible on the site.”
Cllr Churchard added: “The idea of a ‘mirror image’ amazed me. I heard some laughter and silently I was having a chuckle. They would be very much out of character with what is there already.”
The only voice of dissent was Cllr Tom Clegg who described the site as very substantial and said that while he had some concerns, he felt the proposals were acceptable.
The committee refused the application on the grounds that it was not in keeping with adjacent properties by reason of size, scale, layout and design and would have a detrimental impact on buildings in the conservation area. They also turned it down because car parking was unacceptable and the access arrangements would be prejudicial to the free and safe flow of traffic on the adjacent highway.