Work begins on new homes at site of former convent near Batchwood
PUBLISHED: 14:08 17 January 2018 | UPDATED: 14:08 17 January 2018
Work has started on the construction of new homes on the site of a former convent in St Albans.
Maryland Convent in Townsend Drive is being transformed into 45 new houses and flats for older people, after a long-running battle over the site.
Richard Morton Architects (RMA), working for Beechcroft Developments, gained approval for the 10 affordable flats, nine houses and 26 flats on the one hectare site near Batchwood.
Twenty-nine elderly residents and nuns living at the now-derelict Maryland Convent were controversially booted out in 2014, and in 2015 it was bought by Beechcroft.
Local councillors described the proposed scheme as a “blight” on Batchwood and expressed concerns that the buildings would be out of character with the local area. According to the developers, the plans for the site emphasise plenty of green space, and the homes will be ranged around a courtyard garden. Mature trees will be saved and will line the road frontage, while parking will be underground in an attempt to maintain the site’s visual appeal.
RMA director Richard Morton said: “Beechcroft have a great reputation for top quality landscaping and this will be no exception.
“The buildings are surrounded by a landscape belt, with roof gardens, the formal planting of the central courtyard and large numbers of trees.
“The area is currently a brownfield site and this scheme gives it new life.”
The dwellings are designated for people age 55 and over, and feature traditionally pitched roofs. Two duplex apartments will feature roof gardens at third floor level. Overall, the floor space of the area will cover about 7,000 square feet.
The scheme was initially recommended for approval from planning officers but turned down because of concerns about traffic and parking, specifically concerns that the proposed parking provision would have a negative effect on highway safety.
Councillors who voted against the scheme in January last year also felt that the age 55 and over age restriction would not be enforceable, despite assurances from the developers.
The proposal was later passed by the planning inspector on appeal in June.
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