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Historic St Albans school building at risk

The Victorian Society is backing local campaigners opposed to the demolition of the Pemberton block, the last remaining evidence of the town’s historic St Albans school for boys.

Hertfordshire County Council has applied to demolish the Victorian school building to create the space for a new primary school playground.

The Pemberton block was built as an extension to the 1883 Hatfield Road Boys School and is now the only part of the school which still survives; the rest of the site was cleared to make way for the St Albans School of Art in 1973.

The attractive red-brick building is locally listed and inside the boundary of a Conservation Area. It also makes up part of a group of historic buildings in the town including the Museum of St Albans, the Liberal Club and the Peacock Public House.

'Conservation Areas are designated to protect just such clusters of buildings and this area will be not enhanced by knocking down one of the group,' said James Hughes, Conservation Adviser for the Victorian Society. 'The benefit to the community of a large concrete playground does not outweigh the loss of this attractive and robust Victorian building.'

The St Alban City Free School will eventually have a roll call of 420 but the application states that more play area is not actually needed until at least 2016.

‘The need for a larger playground is clearly not urgent. In the meantime we would like Hertfordshire County Council to look at imaginative ways to retain and reuse the Pemberton block.'

It is not clear from the application if the County Council has considered knocking down part of the 1970s School of Art in order to create the necessary space.

Mr Hughes added: 'Victorian and Edwardian schools were built to last and lend themselves well to adaptation. The demolition of the Pemberton block would be an appalling waste of a structurally sound historic building, and the site calls for a much less destructive solution.'


Friday 27 January, 2012

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