Often referred to as the ‘City’s Watchdogs’, the Civic Society is the conservation and amenity movement for St Albans. We are a member of the national organisation ‘Civic Voice‘.
Founded in 1961 and part of the nationwide civic society movement, we are a registered charity, number 200330, and a non political organisation, ready to welcome everyone who cares about the future of St Albans.
So, do join us, maybe to offer to help, or maybe just to show you support our aims. We offer, above all, a chance to be involved and have a say in what our city looks like and how it functions.
Download our Winter 2020 newsletter
All our meetings are now online talks, see details below
George Street – making it even better
George Street, in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter, was once referred to as the (mini) ‘Bond Street’ of St Albans. Time has changed things somewhat but the street still holds special appeal and potential. Yet even before Covid-19, when the street was open to traffic, footfall was often poor. In recent years a few shops have been converted into residential, whilst some are now empty. Concern has been expressed over the future for shops in this part of the Cathedral Quarter. But concern is not enough. The ‘patient’ needs some TLC!
The Covid-19 situation has brought emergency powers that closed George Street to traffic in order to enable effective social distancing. It has been pedestrianised. Whilst it is early days in strange circumstances footfall appears to have improved. Free from having to dodge and put up with passing traffic, people are appreciating the street more. They notice the character buildings and can enjoy the various shops and hospitality venues. Could things be made even better thus establishing it as a ‘must visit’ destination to browse, shop and spend leisure time?
St Albans Civic Society circulated the George Street Enhancement proposals for consultation during November and December 2020. There were 37 responses, 28 in favour, some with ideas, 1 against and 8 expressing concerns. Read our full report here
There is support for an ENHANCED, pedestrianised George Street. However, as some respondents pointed out, further consideration is needed of how the retail and hospitality facilities function, which includes the so-called night time economy. These in themselves are important subjects. Several respondents, not unsurprisingly, commented on traffic flows. As the circular highlighted: ‘there are various options in respect of traffic flow, particularly for large vehicles using this part of the historic Conservation Area. Such options could affect nearby narrow streets, Romeland and the status of High Street.’ Perhaps inevitably, reference was made about the movement of St Albans School coaches in and out of the area and the cause of long standing complaint. There is reference to this in using the top end of a pedestrianised George Street in the Verulam Road/High Street area to set down/pick up. Whilst this deviates from the main focus on George Street it does present a possible solution to the problem existing for many years of coaches invading this part of the Conservation Area in the Cathedral Quarter. Another subject that has concerned the Society.
Recommendations and conclusions
- This has been a worthwhile and successful exercise in the Society’s aim to consult with its members and the community over important issues. The proposals have drawn responses from individuals, some Residents’ Associations and brought the subject into the spotlight. An e-petition has been set up to ensure Herts County Council (HCC) holds a consultation on the permanent (post Covid-19) pedestrianisation of parts of the city centre, which includes George Street.
- The Society continues to support and will publicise any Consultation held by HCC, inviting members to consider participating in the exercise.
- If the decision to permanently pedestrianise George Street is taken by HCC the Society asks that there should be further consultation on design aspects prior to any planning application. The comments, concerns and suggestions this exercise has received will be made available and taken into consideration.
- The Society offers to bring together the various parties to formulate a plan for the next steps.
It is clear that there are various options, suggestions and concerns from certain quarters. These come from individual residents, Residents’ Associations, St Albans School and the Society itself. There will need to be co-operation, compromise and consensus if any progress is to be made, and that could prove difficult. However, the focus needs to remain on George Street and how it can continue to be a retail and amenity magnet attracting people to this part of the Cathedral Quarter.
Thanks to Angela Mellen for the illustration.
What else have we been doing?
A quick update on some of the areas where the Society has been active recently:
- Waxhouse Gate and Sumpter Yard: liaising with the Council and property owner concerning state of the paving and piles of rubbish behind the apartments
- Vintry Gardens: encouraging the Council to address the issues arising from the mud path that has been created in the Gardens
- Blue Plaques: 16 initial nominees proposed and permission being sought from property owners, click here for more details.
- City Centre Vision: working with the BID and the Council to establish a Neighbourhood Forum to determine how the city could look
- Radio Verulam: regular interviews each month, to listen to previous ones click here
- Local Plan: participating in initial discussions on the new Plan
- Planning applications, every month we comment on a few applications. Recent examples include: illuminated fascia signs on St Peters Street, UPVC replacement windows in the conservation area, quality of design for new buildings at top end of St Peters Street
Our events are now online talks and discussions.
To request the link for these please register using the link shown on each event. Note that registration links are added about two weeks before each event.
Johanna Gibbons is a Landscape Architect and Fellow of the Landscape Institute. The St Albans Cathedral Precinct Project is one landscaping project being carried out by her firm, J & L Gibbons. The Welcome Centre landscape completed in 2019 was the first phase of a wider landscape ambition and currently work is ongoing on the Sumpter Yard landscaping. This talk continues our Greening the City theme which first started in 2020.
To register for this event please click here
Sara Croft of The Woodland Trust continues our Greening the City talks.
Tim Boatswain, President of St Albans Civic Society, will reflect on the theme of our series of talks, started in 2020 on greening the city.
Save the lime tree in Bricket Road
Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) still intend to fell this mature healthy tree because it is considered a safety issue with regard to the planned car park entrance to the Civic Centre Opportunity Site South (CCOSS) project. The loss of a fine mature tree at a most important point adjoining the Victoria Street/Bricket Road junction shows extraordinary misjudgement, which once more prioritises traffic at the expense of the natural environment at a time when every effort should be made to reduce traffic and pollution by promoting greening. This tree has been on the pavement of Bricket Road for many years without any recorded safety issues, either for traffic or pedestrians. It is ironic that felling this tree should be on the grounds of ‘health and safety’ and actually ignore the health benefits and beauty it brings to the community. The CCOSS project should take into account the importance of this tree and all the others to the citizens of St Albans and accommodate its plans accordingly and not the other way around. The petition on the County Council website has now closed with over 700 signatures on it. We await the County’s response to this request.
Supporting Housing Delivery & Public Service Infrastructure
We submitted a detailed response to the Government consultation document. You can read our read our response here
Planning for the Future
We submitted a detailed response to the Government consultation document. You can read our response here.
City Centre Opportunity Site South (CCOSS)
For the full history of our involvement with CCOSS, click here
Luton Airport consultation
Another application has been made by Luton Airport to increase their annual passenger numbers and amend the day and night noise limitations to accommodate this. The consultation is on the Luton Council website and comments must be made by 17 February. If you would like to respond there is a lot of useful information available on the LADACAN website here.
Supporting Radio Verulam
The Society has made a donation to help Radio Verulam with their fundraising to keep the service running following the impact of Covid and the lockdown. We are pleased to hear they have now assured their future through at least until the middle of 2021.
In 2019 after reviewing more than 50 development projects completed in the calendar year 2018 the Society gave its highest Award to the renovated Town Hall, and the Trevelyan Prize for the most outstanding conservation project to a 1930’s Art Deco house in Marshalswick. Read more
For its Awards, the Society looks for projects that contribute to the preservation and enhancement of the character of St Albans, and achieve the highest standards of architecture, planning, landscaping and civic design. Previous years winners can be seen here.