In January 2013 Hertfordshire County Council, HCC, announced its decision to sell the former Ariston site, including the Lower Field of Bernards Heath. HCC subsequently decided to offer the site for sale with planning permission in place for residential development and the relocation of existing community uses. Following discussions between HCC and St Albans District Council, SADC, a public exhibition of the planning proposals was held in December 2013 and January 2014. The public and interested parties were invited to comment on the proposals and when all this had been taken into account a planning application was due to be made in 2014. The site would then have been offered for sale with planning consent sometime during 2014. For reasons that are not clear the planning application has still not been submitted.
In September 2015 FoBH was invited to a consultation event to share HCC’s latest proposals ahead of submission of the planning application. Unfortunately, this was postponed and has not yet been reinstated. However we understand that the latest proposals do not differ significantly from those previously presented. If correct this should mean that FoBH’s objectives, for which we have campaigned since 2001, have been achieved. These are:
- The Lower Field will not be developed and ownership will be transferred to SADC as public amenity space. However, it remains to be seen if the recent events in Fontmell Close will have any impact on this.
- Redevelopment is restricted to the land currently occupied by the Fire Station, the Pioneer and Judo Clubs and the brown field land that runs down towards Sheppards Close.
- The Pioneer Club including the indoor skate facilities will be retained onsite.
Although this looks encouraging, none of it is yet set in stone so it is very important that we remain vigilant. FoBH will continue monitor events and report back to members.