The Herts Advertiser reports last year (Oct 26th) that a 39 year old man of no fixed abode has pleaded guilty to the charge of theft of a children’s Wendy house. The Wendy house was stolen from Highfield Lane Day Nursery and was valued at £1500, with the thief receiving an 18-month suspended prison sentence at Hatfield Magistrates Court.
The headline may be tongue in cheek but the story reflects a greater issue in many parts of our region – the lack of affordable housing.
Elsewhere the Herts Advertiser reports that the first properties at Beaumont Gardens, the site of the former Beaumont Works clothing factory on Sutton Road in St Albans, will become available in early 2018. Developer Taylor Wimpey says that the site will consist of 54 one- and two-bedroomed properties, with shared gardens and allocated parking.
In the same feature the newspaper runs a story about another commercial building being sold off for residential development. This time it is the listed former office building at 103-105, St Peter’s Street, the offices occupied by accountancy firm Kingston Smith for over thirty years. The site comes with full planning permission and listed building consent for conversion into three houses with three, four and five bedrooms, and with ten mews-style properties at the rear.
Some may argue that redeveloping redundant or out-dated city-centre properties such as these in order to increase the supply of local housing is a good thing. In many cases it is. But if we continue to eat into the stock of commercial and business premises in St Albans it begs the question – where will all these new residents work? Will St Albans city centre become a ghost-town during the day, as all these new inhabitants go off to London to earn a living, or to soul-less out-of-town business parks? And will our local high street businesses suffer from the lack of daytime visitors, leading to closures and even less choice of shops and services?
One thing is pretty certain. At a guide price of £6million for the development site alone at 103-105 St Peter’s Street it seems unlikely that our Wendy house thief will be moving in any time soon.