St Albans London Road scheme facing refusal

THE transformation of a dilapidated site in St Albans into more than 90 new contemporary homes could be stopped in its tracks now major renovation plans have been recommended for refusal by council planners.

A three-acre area at the junction of Alma Road and London Road has been earmarked for residential development since proposals to build a large Tesco store were scrapped over two years ago.

Spen Hill Developments, who are the regeneration arm of the supermarket giant, claim St Albans district council (SADC) led them to believe they backed the new scheme, which would see 80 properties built around a unique garden square.

Yet those behind the ‘London Road Project’ have been left “hugely disappointed” after learning their planning application could now be denied at a planning committee meeting next Tuesday, August 28.

The council’s main objections relate to the design, which they are concerned doesn’t integrate with the surrounding conservation area because of its size and use of building materials.

Property expert Steve Walker, who has been heavily involved in the consultation process, claims Heather Cheesborough, head of planning and building control at SADC, applauded the modern architecture at an earlier meeting.

Mr Walker – from Collinson Hall, one of the teams acting on behalf of Spen Hill – said: “I am hugely disappointed this is going up for refusal. This has been put together over a two-year period with consultation with council officers and the local community, so the council should be able to judge it on its merits at the community meeting on Tuesday.

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“Heather Cheesborough said the contemporary style was ‘fantastic’ and it is a ‘beautiful’ design. To have this complete contradiction has to be questioned.”

At the meeting the loss of privacy to nearby residents of Inkerman Road and Alma Road will come under scrutiny because of the height of some of the properties and the use of balconies and roof gardens.

The lack of affordable housing offered as part of the central site has also been raised as a potential stumbling block for not meeting the housing needs of the district.

But developers said they had listened to concerns from the planning department and the public about these issues during months of discussions and had modified their initial designs where necessary.

Mr Walker added: “This is not just a theoretical scheme it is about delivering, so as they have raised their concerns we have addressed them.

“We are aware it is a contemporary design in a conservation area and we are not trying to push something that is not acceptable.

“The garden square design gives a public open space which is car free and the public can walk through because it’s not a gated community. It’s a new green space for St Albans.”

Currently �150,000 has been spent on rejuvenating the site and three new terraces have been constructed and another three refurbished in Inkerman Road.

Building work is also underway on a further eight houses, which if the scheme is given the green light would be put on the market next spring.

If planning chiefs vote against the development on Tuesday, Spen Hill has already decided to appeal the decision.