St Albans council seal £7.6 million deal in step towards centre rejuvenation

St Albans council offices

St Albans council offices - Credit: Archant

A £7.6 million deal to buy key regeneration sites in St Albans city centre has now been finalised.

After nearly two years of negotiations, St Albans district council (SADC) has officially bought Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust’s Principal Health Centre in Civic Close, and a nearby car park formerly owned by Angle Property Limited.

The sites are part of a wider plan to regenerate the Civic Centre Opportunity Site. This is a seven acre space around the Alban Arena and is roughly bordered by Charter Close, Bricket Road, Victoria Street and St Peter’s Street.

These two purchases, added to the acquisition of St Albans’ former police station last year, mean SADC now owns most of the opportunity site.

SADC has not released its specific intentions for the area.

Angle Property has planning permission for development of the opportunity site, but it requires 30 affordable homes and S106 payments of £434,000.

This money is set aside for social housing, schools, health services, play areas and parks.

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The designs process for these plans was influenced by a series of community engagement events run by Look! St Albans in September 2016 - called a Masterplanning Charrette.

SADC will consider using these plans going forward.

The council will also start to compile detailed plans of its own, for example to include the Civic Centre Car Park.

SADC leader Cllr Alec Campbell said this is one of the biggest and most challenging projects the council has undertaken: “We are extremely pleased to have completed these two purchases as they are essential to our ambition of transforming this whole area in a coordinated way.

“I am delighted with the help we received from both the Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust and Angle Property to make this deal happen.

“Our mission to redevelop the area began some years ago. Following this major breakthrough, we can now focus on our detailed plans for its rejuvenation.

“This site is in the very heart of St Albans and its enhancement can only benefit the whole community.”

St Albans Civic Society chairman Tim Boatswain said: “The Civic Society would welcome the redevelopment of that area, it badly needs redeveloping and what we would like is a bit of access for footfall because at the moment it is cut off.

“We welcome the opportunity to develop that site, now what we want to see is high quality design and easy access for pedestrians.”

Angle Property are continuing with its plan to develop former office block Hertfordshire House into flats.

Executive director of Angle, Tony Williamson, said: “Angle is delighted to have achieved the masterplan planning consent for the Civic Centre Opportunity Site which was so well supported locally.

“It has been a very complicated process but working with the council, the police and the NHS, the jigsaw has come together to enable a comprehensive regeneration project to proceed.

“We wish the council well as they embark on this complex project.”

Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust run services for children and adults at the Principal Health Centre, all of which will be transferred to the Civic Centre later this year - along with the Leg Ulcer Clinic and Podiatry Service currently at St Albans City Hospital.

St Albans police, SADC, and a number of community groups also share the Civic Centre.

Acting chief executive of the trust, Clare Hawkins, said: “The Principal Health Centre building is not fit for purpose and this is a fantastic opportunity to relocate our services into a newly refurbished suite in the council’s own Civic Centre building.”

Chair of Look! St Albans, Vanessa Gregory, said the group would welcome the opportunity to further collaborate with the council.

“The city centre is our collective front room, we have an opportunity to leave a lasting proud legacy for future generations. We live, work and entertain in our city centre, we know it best.

“The atmosphere and willingness of the community to work together to shape the heart of our city centre into something we can all be proud of was palpable at the Masterplanning Charrette.”

She noted however, that there have been “many false dawns over many years” for the site.