St Albans hotel-complex plan rejected

PUBLISHED: 09:36 29 August 2009 | UPDATED: 14:24 06 May 2010

A PROPOSAL to bring a multi-million pound complex including a budget hotel to the city centre was rejected by the district council this week. But while councillors were unhappy with the design for the Hertfordshire House site in Bricket Road, St Albans, t

A PROPOSAL to bring a multi-million pound complex including a budget hotel to the city centre was rejected by the district council this week.

But while councillors were unhappy with the design for the Hertfordshire House site in Bricket Road, St Albans, the majority of them were enthusiastic about the concept.

Developers Antringham Verulamium, in partnership with Travelodge, proposed the £26 million complex including an 87-bedroom budget hotel, 46 residential apartments, leisure and retail facilities and 12,600 square feet of office space which could house the police when they sell their current station in Victoria Street.

But it was greeted with a thumbs-down from council planning officers who recommended that St Albans planning referrals committee should refuse the application when it met to determine it on Tuesday night (August 25).

The panel agreed with the officers' report and voted to reject the plans on 11 grounds as well as refuse conservation area consent to demolish Hertfordshire House itself.

Speaking against the plans on behalf of the St Albans Civic Society and the Herts Association of Architects, David Lloyd said the development would prejudice any cohesive development of the entire Civic Centre South site.

He continued: "The proposal would be an over-development of the site and attempts to maximise the floor space at the expense of the requirements of the city."

But he emphasised that both groups supported the development of the site, provided that the architecture, "contributed to the public realm of St Albans city centre."

Investment

Representing Antringham and Travelodge, Michael Robson said the plans would bring major investment to St Albans.

He denied the scheme would prejudice the entire site and said the integral housing would take pressure off the Green Belt surrounding the city.

He added: "Change should not be seen as automatically harmful."

Cllr Aislinn Lee said she was excited by the idea of a Travelodge in the city centre but was disappointed by the design, which she described as "a stark, huge, mass and bulk of building which would detract from everything else around the area."

Panel chair Cllr Chris Brazier agreed that the city was in need of a budget hotel, especially considering the visitors Butterfly World would attract but he also felt the design wasn't right.

Cllr Gordon Myland, who abstained from voting on the proposal, said: "The centre of St Albans is dying, you only have to look at a number of shops that are gone or going. This is an attempt to bring some life back into a dead building. I don't dislike the style of the building but it's a pity it couldn't be set back a little further from the road."

Other concerns included the destruction of protected trees, the absence of any affordable housing in the proposal, the pressure the demolition process would place on local roads and the possibility of it creating a "ghetto" effect because families with one child would automatically take up the majority of the accommodation.

Tony O'Brien, UK development director of Travelodge, said: "We are disappointed with the decision as we believe that St Albans would have benefited from an increase in affordable hotel accommodation to capitalise on both the Olympics and the growing trend of UK residents holidaying at home.

"A Travelodge at the site would have brought £1.5 million into the local shops and restaurants annually and created jobs for local people who are unfortunately out of work.


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