The Society’s aims include:

  • fostering a greater awareness of the heritage and amenities of St Albans
  • encouraging the highest standard of design in new developments
  • campaign for the retention of features which give St Albans its own special character
  • contest inappropriate development proposals
  • stimulate informed debate amongst residents, developers and the Council

Every month the Plans Group comments on current planning applications, these typically include conversion of offices to residential (such as the Ziggurat or Abbot House) and building on the car parks of former offices, as well as use of inappropriate materials, over development of small sites, and building in the Green Belt.

See below for details of some of the issues we have pursued in the last few months which include:

  • supporting action to replace the steps at the main entrance to Clarence Park,
  • pressing the Council on the continued absence of a strategy to address problems with the lake in Verulamium Park,
  • working with the owners of Waxhouse Gate to support redecoration and renovation,
  • commenting on developers plans such as for the Civic Centre South site and other significant locations.

Waxhouse Gate

Those of you who have recently walked down from the Clock Tower to the Abbey Cathedral may have noticed how pristine the passageway, known as Waxhouse Gate, is now looking. Providing pedestrian access from the town to the Abbey, the Waxhouse Gate is an open passage through the ground floor of 15 High Street. Originally there was a Gothic arch but round stone archways and brick work were inserted in C18. It may once have been Sacrist’s Gate which existed in C14 and was rebuilt 1420-40 by Abbott Wheathampstead. It is a Grade II listed building. At the north entrance on the east of the arch there is one of St Albans First World War street memorial tablets, which is also listed.

The passageway has been in a pretty poor state and the Civic Society, with the proprietor of 15 High Street, and the support of the Council, have initiated some renovation and redecoration of this important piece of St Albans’ heritage. There is still more work to be done around the passageway: the redecoration of Waxhouse Gate – still more work to be done the flanking wall and Thai restaurant, as well the cleaning and repainting to the lamp-posts that run down to Sumpter Yard. With the likelihood of an increased footfall of visitors, it would be great if this important walkway can be spick and span by the time the new Museum and Gallery at the Town Hall and the Visitor Centre at the Abbey Cathedral open.

Verdun Tree

A very special tree planted in St Albans to commemorate one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War now has an information panel to explain its significance. This was achieved through pressure from members of the Society.

The district council installed the panel, and it was unveiled by St Albans Mayor, Cllr Frances Leonard. Members of the St Albans branch of the Legion attended the ceremony, along with representatives of the Civic Society and the council’s portfolio holder for heritage, Cllr Annie Brewster.

Cllr Brewster said: “The Verdun Tree is a wonderful historical monument in the very heart of our city that has not received the interest it deserves. This smart new information panel puts it firmly in the spotlight and brings the moving story behind the tree back to life. It will be read by many thousands of people in the years to come. The Civic Society is to be congratulated for the work it has done to ensure the only tree that survived the battle is now going to get more attention. It is fitting that this panel was unveiled on Remembrance Day and in the centenary of the battle itself.”

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Verulamium Park

By way of a relief from the relentless and ever problematic lakes in Verulamium Park it was pleasing to see that during the summer the general housekeeping standards have continued to be high in the park. Litter was being collected daily (sometimes twice daily) and disposed of early on days following weekends and other busy times. The park management and staff deserve considerable credit for employing and motivating staff to do this often unpleasant and unrewarding work. The problem of litter left by vagrants (or worse) in the wooded area adjacent to King Harry continues to be dealt with by Cllr. Jessica Chivers and her loyal band of litter pickers, whose monthly gatherings keep this often dangerous detritus under control. Rough sleeping and a Traveller incursion were dealt with promptly by the park management and the police.

We have now gone three years and the Council has still not come up with action to resolve the problem of eutrophication of the lakes and the adverse effect on the wildlife. The Council was lucky this year that the frightful smell experienced in 2015 and 2016 was less overpowering. What indeed could be a magnificent park is still being badly let down.

Save Symondshyde

The Society is supporting the Save Symondshyde campaign and has made a donation to their funds. They have produced a very detailed response to Welwyn Hatfield Council’s proposal to build 1130 houses in the Green Belt close to the John Bunyan (next to Symondshyde Wood). The Plan has been submitted for public examination by an independent inspector to determine whether it meets the test of soundness. This will be the last opportunity to stop the Symondshyde development and the campaign is organising professional representation at this examination. They are currently raising funds to help with this.