Views sought on St Albans Civic Centre redevelopment

FUTURE development of a prime city centre site is back on the table with local residents being asked for their views about its future.

The St Albans Civic Centre area is currently home to the district council offices, the Alban Arena, the Principal Health Centre and the police station.

The district council has long supported the idea of drawing up a blueprint to redevelop the area and prevent it happening piecemeal – Hertfordshire House adjoining the Principal Health Centre is owned by development company Antringham Verulamium which has twice, unsuccessfully, applied for planning permission to convert the building and its half-acre site into a budget hotel, offices, residential and leisure and retail use.

Following the most recent refusal, the council decided to issue a planning brief for the overall three-hectare site which provides advice and guidance on the type and scale of development which would be considered suitable for the site which extends from St Peter’s Street to Bricket Road and from Charter Close to Victoria Street.

Planning portfolio holder, Cllr Teresa Heritage, said any redevelopment of the site was likely to comprise commercial and community mixed uses including residential, retail and leisure.

She went on: “This is an exciting opportunity to deliver a landmark development in the civic heart of the city centre. In order to optimise its potential, the council is taking a comprehensive approach to the planning of this site to ensure a high quality urban design and architectural solution which adds value to the entire city centre through the creation of a new quarter with attractive public realm.

The bulk of the site was developed in the early 1960s, in accordance with a plan drawn up by renowned New Town architect Sir Frederick Gibberd in the late 1950s.

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The plan sought to create a civic centre municipal campus to include a public square, law courts and city hall, together with shops, offices and public parking. The existing council offices were added later in 1988.

The public consultation is part of a formal planning process which will see the brief incorporated into the emerging district-wide planning blueprint, the Local Development Framework (LDF), with a view to it being applied to any future proposals for the site.

The brief can be seen at both St Albans council and Harpenden town council offices and a public display is being held at the Alban Arena from Monday, November 21, until December 5. Consultation runs until December 13.

n Work on finalising the core strategy of the LDF – planning policies and development proposals up to 2028 – is to be delayed to fit around central government decisions.

Following legal advice, the district council’s cabinet has approved an amended timetable which means the core strategy will not be issued until the government has finalised its National Policy Framework and revoked the controversial East of England Plan which previously had responsibility for housing targets for the six counties including Hertfordshire which came within its remit.

That is due to be finalised by the government next spring and publication of the St Albans core strategy will follow around three months later.