Have your say on major St Albans city centre project ahead of scrutiny meeting

Plans for a development on the site of a former police station and NHS clinic near Alban Arena will

Plans for a development on the site of a former police station and NHS clinic near Alban Arena will be under scrutiny. Picture: Space & Place - Credit: Archant

Plans for a major development in St Albans city centre are set to be under a microscope with an online scrutiny meeting open to the public.

Residents, community groups and businesses are invited to send in their views of the proposals, which would bring a development complete with 93 new homes and more than 6,000sqm of commerical space at the former police station and NHS clinic site.

The plans have been called in for examination by a number of the committee’s members, who raised concerns including the cost, the transparency of decision making and the housing mix.

Portfolio holder for commercial and development, councillor Robert Donald, will face questions by the council’s planning, housing and commercial scrutiny committee, and the public at the meeting.

He told the Herts Ad: “They have the right as the opposition to call in the plans and we will answer the questions.

“This scheme will last 50 to 100 years, and it’s more important than just getting a scheme that makes a lot of money. It has buildings that have a wow factor and beautifies our city centre and we are proud to leave for other generations to enjoy.”

Plans that were approved by the former administration in 2018 are being replaced by a new design following a public contest earlier this year.

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The new design – which will require planning permission – features 93 homes, more than 6,000sqm of commercial space and around 100 car parking spaces.

The development is known as the City Centre Opportunity Site South (CCOS South) and the cost has been recalculated at £65.8 million.

“I inherited a project when I became portfolio holder that was about submitted,” Councillor Donald continued.

“The more I looked into it, I discovered the civic society had not been able to comment and was advised by planners it wasn’t likely to get approval.

“At this point, nobody wants an increase in costs, but never am I prepared to waste taxpayers’ money by putting in an application which would not be approved.

“It’s not true to say costs only went up when we took over – they had already gone up when the previous administration was running things.”

A St Albans BID spokeswoman: “We welcome investment by the council in projects that support the vibrancy of our city centre.

“We understand that this project, which was the initiative of the previous administration, has a new design which includes retail and also flexible space which can be used as residential or office, which is a forward thinking way of managing the mix.

“The development also appears to tick the box for central government’s election pledge to transform our high streets into community hubs where people work, live and shop, which will help to diversify our footfall mix.”

Scrutiny committee chair Councillor Paul Cousins said: “Some committee members have raised concerns about a variety of issues including the cost, the transparency of decision making and the housing mix.

“These, I am sure, will be raised at the meeting and I also want to hear from the public about what concerns they may have.

“This is a huge development, one of the biggest ever undertaken by the council, and it is important that we make sure that it represents value for money and makes the best possible use of this key city centre site.”

The meeting will take place on Thursday, June 11, online at 7pm.

Anyone who wants to make a contribution to the debate can do so by emailing their views to scrutiny@stalbans.gov.uk by 3pm on the day.

The meeting will be available watch live or afterwards as a webcast at https://stalbans.public-i.tv/core/portal/home.