‘Stitch up’ over bid to save London Colney pastoral centre

All Saints Pastoral Centre

All Saints Pastoral Centre - Credit: Archant

A second bid to try and retain part of a much-loved historical local landmark as a community asset has failed.

London Colney parish council had unsuccessfully tried to get the SPEC retreat at the All Saints Pastoral Centre listed as a community asset in the autumn.

And now St Albans council has turned down its latest bid to take over the chapel at All Saints as a community asset.

The decision, which was made known shortly before Christmas, was described as a ‘disgraceful stitch up’ by parish council chairman, Malcolm MacMillan.

The pastoral centre is now owned by the Comer Group which paid around £6 million to the Diocese of Westminster and wants to build nearly 200 apartments and houses on the site.

Cllr MacMillan, who used to worship in the chapel with his family, said that the district council had turned down the community asset application on several grounds.

They included the assertion that it was not a local community chapel and not currently used for community uses, having been deconsecrated for approximately three years and being in a poor state of repair.

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Cllr MacMillan went on: “The main reasons given by the St Albans council is the ‘poor state of repair’ of the chapel but it is the appalling behaviour by the Westminster diocese that has resulted in the dilapidation.”

He described the council’s statement that the chapel had not been used by the community as ‘absolute nonsense’ and added: “I regularly met scores of local people every Sunday at chapel services and attended local weddings and funerals there”.

Turning to other ‘spurious reasons’ given by the district council for turning down the community asset bid, Cllr MacMillan accused the council of seeming to want to protect the diocese arrangement with the planners ‘for destruction of part of the site and building expensive houses on valuable green belt.”

He went on: “To say the community has been well and truly stuffed this Christmas by both diocese and St Albans council is a bit of understatement as the chapel would have made an excellent venue for events, concerts and community activity.”

Cllr MacMillan said the diocese had allowed the Pastoral Centre to fall into disrepair before last month’s sale to Comer Homes. As a result the developers would claim that private housing was needed to fund the repair work needed to restore the listed building part of the site before selling it on as exclusive apartments.

He added: “There is no community gain from any of these proposals and it feels like it is all stitched up already.”