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.
Our meetings programme resumes in the Autumn
A Neighbourhood Plan for the centre of St Albans
What is a Neighbourhood Plan and what is it for? Please think about this – a neighbourhood plan normally lasts for 15 years so this is long term and will affect you.
It is a plan developed by the community for a defined area and it has statutory authority and sets out how developers etc. are required to act. It sits alongside the Local Plan but has more detail for that area. So it can set out policies for a range of aspects – for example, sustainable development, transport, community facilities etc. and deliver real benefits. Deciding on the area is vitally important – not only does it define who can be part of the organisation that decides on the policies etc. and then those who are able to vote whether the plan should be adopted, but it also defines the area in which those policies apply. So, if a very narrow part of the City Centre (for example the BID area) is selected to be the Neighbourhood then not only will those outside the area not be able to vote on the plan but any policies set out in the plan (on transport for example) will only apply in that narrow area.
What area is the Neighbourhood for the City Centre area? That is the 64000 dollar question. In a parished area (such as Harpenden) the defined Neighbourhood Area is the Parish area. A large part of St Albans, including the centre, does not have a parish and for such areas the position is much more complicated. It is necessary to consult and reach agreement on what area should be the neighbourhood area and the council will have responsibility for deciding whether this is appropriate, A Neighbourhood Forum made up only of people living or working in, or councillors for, that area will then be responsible for developing the plan.
So, what do you think should be seen as the City Centre Neighbourhood? Is it a very narrow area or should it be larger and more inclusive? Central council wards is one possibility or maybe Residents’ Associations covering the central area. What else? A Steering Group led by BID (now with a Civic Society representative) is coordinating this activity (under the name of City Centre Vision) and will be organising public meetings so please get involved and feed in your thoughts on what a central neighbourhood for St Albans should be. This is your opportunity to firstly influence the shape of this neighbourhood and then to contribute to the plan itself. Please let us know your thoughts email@example.com
George Street, in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter, still holds special appeal and potential. 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? See the HCC consultation here
The Civic Society circulated the George Street Enhancement proposals for consultation during November and December 2020. Read our full report here
- 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. See the consultation here
- 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. 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.
We plan to hold this year’s AGM as an in person event which will also mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Society.
What else have we been doing?
A quick update on some of the areas where the Society has been active recently:
- City Centre Vision: working with the Business Improvement District (BID) to establish a Neighbourhood Forum to determine how the city could look
- 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.
- Radio Verulam: regular interviews each month, to listen to previous ones click here The Society made a donation to help Radio Verulam keep the service running following the impact of Covid and the lockdown.
- 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
We have submitted a detailed response to three Government consultation documents in the last few months. Please click on the headings below to read each response:
- National planning policy framework and model design code
- Planning for the Future
- Supporting housing delivery
City Centre Opportunity Site South (CCOSS)
For the full history of our involvement with CCOSS, click here
Nominations are being collected for an event in October which will recognise projects undertaken in 2019 or 2020 and completed before the end of December 2020 to qualify for these awards. This year, because of the Covid pandemic, the judgement of the awards team will be made on the exterior only and inside visits will not be possible. Please send your nominations to us firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief description and thoughts on why it should be considered.
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 and more details here.