Oak Tree Gardens
From little acorns…
Oak Tree Gardens is a beautiful new residential development that now sits perfectly on the former site of the Museum of St Albans, commonly known as MoStA, in Hatfield Road.
The conversion process started in late summer 2014, when LOOK! St Albans was asked by St Albans District Council to host an independently facilitated design charrette for the site.
It was an important venture. Not only did the Council want to produce a design that would be a future source of pride for the community at large, but also the proceeds from the development were to be used to fund the new Museum Project in the Town Hall. It also had to be commercially successful.
Previously developed design codes played an important role in the process which involved, in total, a series of three back-to-back events in October 2014 .
Trustee landowners, Council officers, residents and members from the business community participated in the highly acclaimed three day event. It proved beyond any reasonable doubt that shaping a planning application for a significant and sensitive site within the central conservation area of St Albans need not be a battleground. It should be a shared endeavour to create a proud legacy for future Albanians.
In total 47 people contributed to an enormous 329 hours of work, an average of seven hours per person. Four different design concepts were developed and voted upon. The clear winner was Oak Tree Gardens, which proved beyond all doubt that we can be inspired by the past to picture the future.
The scheme’s architect, Kirby Cove, released a statement on how the Design Process worked.
Finally, the outcomes of the three day event can be found both in summary and in full below.
Following the very successful Design Charette, Vanessa Gregory, the Chair of LOOK! St Albans, wrote a letter of recommendation to St Albans City and District Council.
The submission of this planning application in January 2016 marked an important landmark in the progress of LOOK! St Albans in its trailblazing work!
On Monday 11th April 2016 the planning application for the redevelopment of the St Albans Museum Site Hatfield Road was unanimously passed by Councillors at the Plans Referral Committee. This application was the first in St Albans to be informed by a community led design charrette hosted by LOOK! St Albans.
As an aside, the design charrette was also shortlisted for both national and regional Placemaking awards by Planning Magazine.
Collaboration continued during the build process and Team LOOK! was delighted to be able to provide regular progress reports with the blessing of the Council and Morgan Sindall, the appointed contractor. The concept was becoming reality.
In total, ten new homes were to be built with money raised from the scheme set to go towards the £7.75m cost of the Council’s project to create a new museum and art gallery at the Town Hall in St Peter’s Street.
Team LOOK! was allowed frequent visits to see how things were progressing first hand.
In May 2018, with the build progressing well, the Herts Advertiser was invited to tour the development with the LOOK! St Albans team and very kindly produced a lovely video of the progress being achieved.
The site visit started in bright sunshine but ended in a deluge of rain, but nothing could dampen our spirits.
Vanessa Gregory, Chair of LOOK! St Albans, features in the video and commented after seeing it, “It really is emotional for me to see the development come to life hence getting in a tangle about ceiling to roof height rather than floor to ceiling height!
“So many people, community and professionals came together to create something special. When it’s finished it will not just be brand new homes – it’s got that sense of homeliness about it already. I could visualise myself here”.
Once the development had been finished, Morgan Sindall released their own video showing the completed site.
The message should go out loud and clear that if you work with communities early on in the design stage you get them on board. It’s well worth that effort to make them a part of what is going to be built.
“It just shows the level of what can be achieved if everyone works together”.
Vanessa Gregory, Chair LOOK! St Albans.