Often referred to as the ‘City’s Watchdogs’, the Civic Society is the conservation and amenity movement for St Albans. We are a member of the national organisation ‘Civic Voice‘.
Founded in 1961 and part of the nationwide civic society movement, we are a registered charity, number 200330, and a non political organisation, ready to welcome everyone who cares about the future of St Albans.
So, do join us, maybe to offer to help, or maybe just to show you support our aims. We offer, above all, a chance to be involved and have a say in what our city looks like and how it functions.
Civic Matters Waiting to be Fixed?
The last two years have been difficult. The city and Country have endured a plague. We all know how it has affected us, mentally and physically. We are not out of the woods yet but slowly things are getting back to normal. We must be optimistic. But the Covid years have left scars and changes in St Albans life. Let’s look at some of them.
Gone are the frequent stories of Thameslink delays and overcrowding. Rather it’s been tales of sometimes almost empty trains as they have managed to keep running. For a city so dependent on its fast link to London, credit where credit’s due. Now so many people are working from home, how will this affect the future level of our services? Likewise with buses?
The city’s famous Charter Markets have taken a hit. They are often reported to be a shadow of their former selves. Is that because of Covid or the hiatus over the Council’s ongoing proposals, plus stalls versus gazebos? Perhaps it’s a combination? What is apparent is that there has been an exodus of some of our well-known traders. That’s not good for the city’s economy and image which depends so much on these historic markets.
There is the on-going debate about the Arena Theatre – suddenly closed in the pantomime season. It’s all part of the vision for the Civic Centre Opportunity Site North development. Should the Arena be demolished or not in future plans? And let’s not forget that Roman mosaic inside the foyer – sadly hidden under sticky carpet tiles! The debate continues. There is to be a competition to enable the public to express a preference.
Verulamium Park still manages to get Green Flag status. Quite remarkable really, considering its flooded, dismal loos permanently closed and now up for demolition. (That’s one way to solve a problem!). And there is the on-going saga of the stinking lakes. Lucky, then, not to have had heat wave summers in the last two years!
Yet life still goes on in this great city of ours. The Civic Society has endeavoured to be on the case with all these issues and more. It seeks the views and opinions not only from its members, but you, the reader of our regular column. This will help the committee not only to keep in touch but formulate policies and priorities on how to respond to these various issues and achieve a satisfactory fix. Do tell us what YOU think to email@example.com
Blue Plaques St Albans
Over the last couple of years the Blue Plaques St Albans group have been working to establish a scheme to commemorate famous citizens who have lived and worked in St Albans, with the aim of placing ‘blue plaques’ on buildings associated with their lives. The initiative resembles the well-known blue plaque scheme run by English Heritage in London. Under the scheme the first plaque commemorates one of the leaders of the Peasants’ Revolt, John Ball. Following the failure of the Revolt John Ball’s trial was held in the Moot Hall in St Albans, which was near the present Town Hall building, and is now St Albans Museum+Gallery. Ball was sentenced to death, offered the chance to repent but refused, and he was hanged, drawn and quartered in the presence of King Richard II on 15 July 1381. Read the Press release about the unveiling Read the BBC news coverage here
Nathaniel Cotton: a second Blue Plaque
Nathaniel Cotton was an 18th century poet and doctor who developed a form of clinical psychology at a time when many with mental illnesses were being locked up in appalling institutions like the notorious “Bedlam”, London’s Bethlem Royal Hospital. Nathaniel established a sympathetic asylum, ‘Collegium Insanorum’, literally “a college for the insane”, on the corner of what is now College Street – named after his institution – and Lower Dagnall Street, St Albans. He died in St Albans on 2 August 1788 and is buried in St Peter’s Churchyard. Stacey Turner, founder of the St Albans mental health awareness charity It’s OK to Say, unveiled a blue plaque on the site of Dr Cotton’s college on behalf of Blue Plaques St Albans to a sizeable gathering in March 2022.
What else have we been doing?
Some of the areas where the Society has been active recently:
- 60th Anniversary Grants: making available some funds for local schools, Residents’ Associations and community groups to use for projects that will look after and enhance the St Albans environment Read More
- Charter market: meeting with the Council to discuss the deterioration of the market and the what they are doing to address concerns of residents, traders and retailers. We await more information on the revised proposals.
- Arena and City Centre Opportunity Site North: Liaising with the Council on their redevelopment plans, asking them to consider how the Arena fits in and not simply demolish it as was initially proposed. Read More
- City Centre Opportunity Site South (CCOSS): For the full history of our involvement with CCOSS, click here
- Planning applications, every month we comment on a few applications, examples include: illuminated fascia signs on St Peters Street, UPVC replacement windows in the conservation area, quality of design for new buildings at top end of St Peters Street. over development of existing properties; applications that are contrary to the Local Plan or the National Planning Policy Framework
- Neighbourhood Plan (City Centre Vision) engaging with proposals for a city centre neighbourhood plan particularly in respect of the area this should cover Read More
Awards 2021 Results
Cathedral Welcome Centre which also won the Trevelyan Prize.
Residential Buildings joint winners: Beaumont Gardens & Barncroft Way
For its Awards, the Society looks for projects that contribute to the preservation and enhancement of the character of St Albans, and achieve the highest standards of architecture, planning, landscaping and civic design. The presentation event took place on 4 October 2021 to recognise projects undertaken in 2019 or 2020. The judgement of the awards team was made on the exterior only with no inside visits being possible because of the Covid pandemic.
Previous years winners and more details here.
Entries for 2022 event
We showcase projects large and small which have been completed within the city and seek out a new building, an extension, shop refit or restoration . In short, something that enhances St Albans and, for this year’s Awards, was completed by 31 December 2021.
To make the event inclusive, we also encourage nominations from people who may not be members of the Society. So, over to you. Have you noticed a new building, extension, shop refit or restoration project? Something that has caught your imagination and enhanced St Albans? Let’s have your nominations – for projects big or small. Encourage your friends to do likewise, we welcome all nominations. You don’t have to be society members. The awards ceremony is usually held in the autumn and details will be released once nominees have been finalized. Send nominations to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Society submitted a detailed response to three Government consultation documents in the last year. Please click on the headings below to read each response: