New affordable homes for St Albans city centre at the cost of office space

From left to right: David Bogle (Hightown Chief Executive), Cllr Brian Ellis (St Albans City and Dis

From left to right: David Bogle (Hightown Chief Executive), Cllr Brian Ellis (St Albans City and District Council Housing and Inclusion Portfolio Holder), Andy Bugler (Managing Director of Bugler Developments), Oliver Burns (Hightown Board member), Bob Macnaughton, David Skinner (Hightown Director of Finance). Photo: Hightown. - Credit: Archant

A horde of new affordable homes are opening in a disused office building in St Albans city centre.

Elmshall Place, located off Grosvenor Road, has 58 affordable homes including 34 for affordable rent.

Hightown Housing chief executive David Bogle said: “Elmshall Place has provided us with an excellent opportunity to transform a disused building into much needed affordable housing in a prime St Albans location.”

Figures from Zoopla show St Albans is forecast to see the highest property prices in the East of England over the next five years.

Mr Bogle continued: “We are delighted that Elmshall Place is now well and truly open for business and look forward to welcoming its new residents in the coming weeks and months.”

The apartment stands on the site of Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial, and one of the postal addresses will be Rose Court.

After several years as a disused office block, Hightown were granted planning permission in 2015 to transform the office block into homes.

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Permission was granted by council officers, instead of councillors, despite concerns about the loss of valuable office space.

An officers report read: “Employment sites are generally supported by the Council to be retained for employment uses.

“The existing building is purpose-built office accommodation in a very sustainable location, given its proximity to St Albans City station.”

Reference was made to the Local Plan, which does not prevent the redevelopment of offices into housing.

The plan also supports supplying new homes in St Albans city centre, even at the cost of office space.

The report includes extracts from the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), a guide to councils on how to implement the government’s planning policies.

The NPPF compels councils to approve planning applications for change from commercial to residential use where there is a need for additional housing.

Officers concluded in their Elmshall Place report: “The principle of the change of use from offices to residential is consistent with both development plan policies and national planning policy and is therefore acceptable.”