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
Our Five Year Plan has been developed to help us identify priority areas and monitor our performance. You can find more information including our aims for the current year (2019-20) here.
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) 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 couple of years.
City Centre Opportunity South Site (CCOSS)
The Council have now announced the winning design for the largest city centre project since the Maltings in 1983 and is to be congratulated for adopting the Civic Society’s proposal that St Albans deserves an architectural competition for the large, prominent police station site. It
was a brave decision to move away from the original scheme for this site and to invite three leading architectural practices to submit proposals for a scheme St Albans can be proud of. The Council took the proposals to the public with well-illustrated, explanatory displays that were taken around the district and made available online. These displays attracted a great deal of attention and animated discussion on the merits of the three schemes. It was obvious that people valued the opportunity to comment on the responses to the Council’s brief and those comments have influenced the Council’s selection of the preferred design.
Looking back to 23 September 2019 when our meeting attended by just over 40 people heard Cllr Robert Donald, and Council Officers Tony Marmo and Jenny Stenzel give a presentation. Following that meeting our Committee unanimously supported a decision to submitted an objection. You can read our letter here In summary it says that “although supportive in principle to the mixed development of this site our objection is to the appearance of the current proposal ….. we do not see in this application the “listed buildings of the future” sought in the CCOS Development Brief / Supplementary Planning Document July 2012. Indeed what we do see is a lost opportunity to create “a landmark building as a key gateway feature” at the Victoria Street / Bricket Road corner envisaged in the CCOS Development Brief….” Our reasons for objection to this application and the efforts we have made prior to the planning application being submitted are set out here.
What we expected and hoped for was a design that would:
- enhance St Albans through excellent quality of design and detail – a ‘wow’ factor;
- have high levels of sustainability and greening;
- avoid being entirely driven by cost;
- not be designed by committee;and
- reflect the character and uniqueness of St Albans (respecting the Conservation Area).
Strategic Railfreight Interchange (SRFI)
St Albans Council’s decision to throw in the towel in opposing the Strategic Railfreight Interchange (SRFI) is disappointing but not entirely unexpected. The SRFI became embroiled in the problems over the Local Plan obtaining approval and earlier threats of legal action from the developer, Helioslough. But all is not yet lost?
The Railfreight saga has rumbled on since 2006 with the Civic Society joining in with STRIFE and the Council in opposing the plan. It gave evidence at the two Public Inquiries. ‘The Green Belt is safe in our hands’ former Minister Eric Pickles once declared. That turned out to not be the case in 2014 when he gave the go ahead for the land to be used for the SRFI.
2019 was the 50th Anniversary of a Conservation Area in St. Albans, whose Local Authority was among the first to implement the scheme. The primary purpose of Conservation Areas was “the protection and improvement of buildings of architectural or historic interest and of the character of areas of such interest”. Conservation 50 is a collaboration between St Albans Civic Society, Abbey Precincts Residents Association and Aboyne Residents Association. Public events were organised to celebrate the first St Albans Conservation Area, to assess its value to the city and residents throughout the District, and to establish what is necessary for the protection and enhancement of our Conservation Areas in the future.
Trees really matter to our city and the people who live and work in it. They are individually beautiful and in groups they can have as great a visual impact as architecture. But they are much more than decoration – they are the lungs of the city and a major natural engine for removing carbon emissions and pollutants from the air that we breathe. At a time when Earth’s ecosystem is under extreme threat from Man’s mismanagement, we cannot afford to ignore the vital role of trees. They must be respected as beautiful and dependable allies, not treated as a nuisance or a disposable resource.
The trees that touch us most are those that live among us, along our street, in the local park, beside our school or place of work, and in our gardens. Trees give the best urban landscapes their distinctive character. Like us, they grow and change, and eventually die. They need space to breathe and support to thrive.
The Society has produced a Tree Charter for our city, especially our parks, playing fields, open spaces, roads and gardens. It is not aimed at the rural landscape outside the city, but naturally the urban parts of the green belt will come into its scope.
The Society supports the Save Symondshyde campaign and made a donation to their funds. They 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 was submitted for public examination by an independent inspector to determine whether it meets the test of soundness. After almost four years of campaigning Welwyn Hatfield Council have agreed to remove the Symondshyde development proposals from their draft Local Plan. Congratulations to the save Symondshyde campaign, read more here.