Two St Albans hotel schemes gain council approval

ST ALBANS’ tourism sector is set to get a massive boost after two hotel schemes, including budget accommodation in the city centre, got the go-ahead from the district council.

It was a case of third time lucky for Premier Inns, which finally gained approval for a hotel at the top end of St Peter’s Street at last night’s (Wednesday) St Albans district council’s planning referrals committee meeting.

In a shock decision though, councillors snubbed a planning officer’s recommendation to reject a second hotel scheme, for a Hilton Hotel in Chiswell Green.

That hotel’s approval, however, is not 100 per cent certain as the scheme is for a major centre on Green Belt land, and therefore the council must ask the Secretary of State to ascertain whether it should be called-in.

Like the Premier Inns application, the Hilton Hotel scheme received a majority vote, with six out of eight councillors giving the thumbs-up.

The Premier Inns plan is for a 123-bed hotel, while the Hilton scheme is for a 150-bed hotel, conference and function centre on a Green Belt site on the Noke roundabout, at Copsewood.

Committee chairman Cllr Geoffrey Turner explained that members were keen to approve the Premier Inns application to help “breathe new life into a corner of St Peter’s Street which is looking a bit tired”.

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He added that councillors were conscious that the tourism sector needed a boost in the city, and there are hopes that visitors to the budget hotel will patronise local restaurants.

Cllr Turner said councillors decided to approve the Hilton scheme despite it being on the Green Belt because of “special circumstances”.

He said members felt that St Albans would benefit from the combination of a high quality four-star hotel, conference and function centre.

Cllr Turner added: “There was a lot of argument about it being built on Green Belt land. The leading planning officer said that we have to tell the Secretary of State about the scheme, and see if it should be called-in because it is a significant development on St Albans Green Belt.

“So, Premier Inns are pleased and the Hilton people are also, but not quite as much as there is another potential hurdle for them.”