Comment: St Albans’ evolving streetscapes shows us that change isn’t always a bad thing

PUBLISHED: 07:44 24 October 2018 | UPDATED: 07:57 24 October 2018

The Newsom Place development as it looked in February 2009, as seen from Lemsford Road. Picture: Google Street View

The Newsom Place development as it looked in February 2009, as seen from Lemsford Road. Picture: Google Street View

Archant

I love Google Street View. As brilliant as it is for current images, taking a virtual step back in time and checking out what’s changed is by far the best value use for it.

The Oaklands College building on the corner of St Peter's and Hatfield Roads as it looked in August 2008. Picture: Google Street ViewThe Oaklands College building on the corner of St Peter's and Hatfield Roads as it looked in August 2008. Picture: Google Street View

One of our most popular online stories this week was about the changing face of St Albans city centre, focusing on a few key areas which have altered massively within the last decade thanks to major development work. Ziggurat House, for example, which is unrecognisable now its glass-cladding has gone.

Then there’s the area around the Odyssey and Gabriel Square. I used to live on Approach Road and remember well how depressing the stretch of London Road between Alma and Lattimore Roads used to be. The peeling paintwork on the long-closed Odeon on one side and the boarded up shops on the other made for a less than warm welcome to the city centre – but things look very different now.

Say what you like about Gabriel Square – and many of you do, regularly and very publicly – this part of London Road looks way smarter now than it did then. And it’s not the only part of St Albans that’s benefited from a facelift.

I lived in Bernards Heath for a few years from 2004 and used to walk along Manor Road every day on my way to the station. Sadly, Street View doesn’t go back quite that far, but the memory of boarded up Oaklands College buildings is strong. Images from early 2009 show that the bulldozing had commenced and work towards the creation of Newsom Place was well underway.

The ugly college block between St Peter’s and Hatfield Roads is also long gone, replaced by the similarly boxy but nowhere near as brutal new-builds.

And what of the college’s distinctive corner building (above), which has been replaced by three striking flats?

It’s funny how quickly we get used to major changes in our surroundings. And though it might not have seemed like it at the time, hindsight often shows us that change isn’t always bad.

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