Letchworth Town Lodge set for demolition to make way for flats

The Town Lodge building on Gernon Road is set for demolition following approval for flats and an office building. Picture:...

The Town Lodge building on Gernon Road is set for demolition following approval for flats and an office building. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

An application to demolish Letchworth’s historic Town Lodge to make way for flats and an office building has been approved for North Herts District Council’s planning committee.

The five buildings on Gernon Road set for redevelopment by Croudace Homes. Picture: Promap

The five buildings on Gernon Road set for redevelopment by Croudace Homes. Picture: Promap - Credit: Archant

The virtual meeting to discuss the future of the building saw councillors vote through developer Croudace’s plans for the erection of a two-storey block of flats and one office building.

The block would comprise of nine flats – five two bed and four one bed – and the creation of new vehicular access off Gernon Road, and two cycle and bins stores.

The development will also see the demolition a neighbouring bungalow.

Family-run Croudace is set to occupy the office, having been based in the Spirella Building in the town for a decade.

The Town Lodge building on Gernon Road is set for demolition following approval for flats and an office building. Picture:...

The Town Lodge building on Gernon Road is set for demolition following approval for flats and an office building. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Spokesman for the company, Chris Evans, explained to the committee that the development will potentially enable the business to double the size of its team, and bring more jobs to Letchworth.

Concerns were raised for how the demolition of Town Lodge would impact the first garden city’s heritage, however it was raised that it would not be sustainable to use the current building as an office. Reasons for this include the building’s layout and the presence of asbestos.

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Former councillor Anthony Burrows spoke at the meeting about the importance of keeping any town or village’s character in tact.

He said: “I would respectfully ask the councillors, from wherever you are, to please bare in mind that your own town or village needs its history, it needs its social feeling kept.

“Bare in mind this is something iconic for our garden city.”

The application was supported by Letchworth Business Improvement District managing director, Chris Wilson, who believed the development would help support other town centre businesses and will benefit future generations.

The approval comes after a decade-long recognition by the district council and Heritage Foundation – who jointly own the freehold of the site – that the area was ripe for redevelopment.

The Foundation’s property director, Mark Coles, said: “Given the current economic climate and the challenges facing town centres across the country, the Foundation welcomes this decision by North Herts District Council, that will see Letchworth retaining a significant employer and the creation of new jobs, while adding to the vibrancy of the town centre.

“Finding a balance between protecting our built heritage and ensuring Letchworth develops and thrives for the future is challenging and is a responsibility the Foundation takes very seriously. Assessments of Town Lodge over a 15-year period showed that there were numerous issues with its fabric and layout and that it did not have significant heritage features that could be adapted to create a sustainable building.

“The decision to redevelop the site was not taken lightly, but the Foundation and the District Council had to be realistic about its future.”

In 2017, plans to demolish Letchworth’s first purpose-built pub, The Black Squirrel – also in Gernon Road – were approved on appeal by a planning inspector, also to make way for flats, which have since come to fruition.

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