Built Envoronment

Group Membership

The Built Environment Group examine all major applications for sites in Harpenden (town and rural parish) every week and where necessary makes recommendations to the planning authority at St Albans.

 

It is a part of the Society's service to the community which we believe is much valued. In addition to examination of the weekly plans lists, we welcome comments from members who may have an interest in a particular proposal. We will consider such comments and views when formulating our own response to a particular application.

 

Membership of the group is open to members of the Society. It is obviously desirable that anyone joining the Group should have an interest in architecture and the built environment, but that interest can be entirely amateur.

 

 

2021/22 Annual Report

Built Environment - Looking back

 

So far there have been fewer applications for residential extensions/alterations compared to last year although there has been a slight increase since the winter.  The rationale for this is difficult to establish, but it may be due to concerns over general rising costs and a shortage of skilled labour and mortgage interest rates are likely to rise in reaction to the predicted increase in the Base Rate.

 

The developers Beechcroft eventually won planning consent on appeal to redevelop Redclyffe, Salisbury Avenue.  Although the number of proposed dwellings was reduced, the scheme still includes 2 storey “mews style” houses in the rear garden, which is out of keeping with the area.

 

Jarvis and their partners also won consent on appeal for the proposed new Care Home in Coldharbour Lane on the site of Chelford fabrics who have relocated to the neighbouring site.

 

An application for the redevelopment of a part of the Southdown Industrial Estate to create new business units plus a trade counter, builders merchants together with car and HGV parking  has attracted considerable opposition mainly due to concerns about the increase in lorry movement and noise that would affect the nearby residential properties.  No decision has yet been made by the Council, although conditional recommendations for the restriction of vehicle movement and noise have been proposed.

 

During the last year Santander Bank in the Lower High Street has closed, but the premises have been relet to Lords at Home who should be opening shortly.  We were pleased to see that after many years of being vacant the former NatWest premises have been let to Gails Bakery (above).  An application by the Oakman Group to change the former retail premises at 6 High Street into a bar and restaurant facility with seating for over 240 people was refused by the Council as it included a roof top conservatory which was deemed out of character for the Conservation Area.  We await revised proposals by the new owners.

 

Looking forward

 

Steps have been taken to ensure the Conservation Area is protected against inappropriate development. Although the Harpenden Neighbourhood Plan provides that no dwelling in the Conservation Area shall be demolished unless it is clearly uninhabitable or unfit for use, there have been instances where the Council have been minded to allow demolition on the basis that the new dwelling would be better insulated.  Such a policy would put many older houses in the Conservation Areas under threat, which would be a great loss and undermine the character of the town.  The Harpenden Society has joined forces with other interested groups, including the Local History Society to open a dialogue with the Council to lobby for adherence to the Neighbour Plan.

 

If someone wanted to change a retail shop into say a restaurant or office, they would have had to previously obtain planning consent for “Change of Use”.  This helped the Council regulate the mix of uses within a town, but in 2020 new rules were introduced that puts all shops, offices and restaurants into the same new group – Class E.  Consequently an owner can now change the use without applying for consent.  The stated rationale for this is that the new rules reflect the changes in the way we live and work and provides flexibility.  However, this undermines the policies in the Harpenden Neighbourhood Plan and runs the risk that more and more shops will change perhaps into cafes/restaurants and potentially reduce the attraction of the town centre.  Time will tell if this helps to maintain the vitality and appeal of the town.

 

John Lowe