Have you had your say on City Centre Opportunity Site vision?

The design by London-based architectural firm Space & Place has been chosen for the area near the Alban Arena on the site...

The design by London-based architectural firm Space & Place has been chosen for the area near the Alban Arena on the site of a former police station and NHS clinic. Picture: Space & Place - Credit: Archant

Time is running out for the public to have their say on a major St Albans city centre redevelopment project.

Revised plans for the City Centre Opportunity Site (CCOS) South were submitted at the start of this month, with comments due by November 6 and a final decision by December 14.

The development, on the corner of Victoria Street and Bricket Road, the site of a former police station and NHS clinic, has now been budgeted at £65.8m after the finances were revised in the wake of the pandemic.

Although the original CCOS South plans were approved in 2018, they were overturned earlier this year by a new design which beat two other proposals in a public vote.

This new scheme features 93 homes, more than 6,000 square metres of commercial space and around 100 car parking spaces.

Its most prominent building will have a curved, glazed façade and will be separated by lush green walls from an adjacent residential block.

Chris Debenham, of local design group Look! St Albans, urged residents to view the proposal and comment as appropriate as he felt there had been little community engagement in the process.

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“The earliest stage of planning for CCOS South involved a Master Planning Charrette in 2016 by way of meetings between SADC, the landowners, developers and the local community to co-design the plans for the site.

“The stated intention of SADC was to continue to involve the local community at each stage of the design process, but for whatever reason SADC backtracked on this, and the current planning application is the result of what one might term old style top-down planning, where professionals prepare plans, and the community is asked to comment on them but in reality with limited opportunity to change them - especially if the application is given little publicity.”

Look! St Albans vice chair Mel Hilbrown added: “The community gave over 1,000 hours of input with the help of professional advisors to develop the original master plan for this site and CCOS North, and divided two viable plans. Unfortunately the council did not progress with this process down to the detail site planning stage.

“As a result we have gone from community engagement - which is becoming part of planning guidance and policy currently, to community consultation, which just enables the community to have a say on the work of others. We have since been through a Community Design Review, and that design was subsequently rejected, and a design competition.

“This is the outcome of that competition so this is the last chance for the community to have its say on what long-term residents will be living with in their city centre. Do make your feelings known to the council, whether you are in favour of this design or object to it. Look! St Albans’ only interest as a body is to support community engagement in design.”