Homes switch as offices fail to find favour

13/9/2011'Dandara buliding Hemel Hempstead.  Planning story.
13/9/2011'Dandara buliding Hemel Hempstead. Planning story.

A LACK of demand for office space means town centre developers have turned their backs on plans for commercial space in favour of family homes.

Property builder Dandara, which is behind the transformation of Hemel Hempstead’s landmark Kodak tower, now wants to create 12 three-bedroom town homes and a two-bedroom apartment on the edge of the site.

The firm has spent four years trying to find a tenant for a proposed four-storey 40,000 sq ft office development, which was granted planning permission in 2007.

Dandara’s UK planning manager Rachel Allwood said: “We haven’t had any interest, which is not surprising given the amount of office space in Hemel Hempstead and the current economic climate.

“There is so much supply in Hemel Hempstead.”

She said without a tenant lined up it was difficult to get financial backing for the commercial development, which would have been close to the junction of Cotterells and Station Road.

The area is currently used for temporary parking.

There are already 13 office suites on the site, of which three have been let to businesses and two are occupied by Dandara.

Another seven retail units remain unoccupied, and of the 454 apartments that make up the development, around 100 are empty.

“Obviously we have got a lot of apartments in the development itself so there is a need for family housing,” said Rachel.

Dandara has submitted a planning application to Dacorum Borough Council for the additional homes, which will complete the development. If granted, work is expected to take place in 2012.

Dandara is not the only firm to change its plans on building office space in the town.

The Gazette recently reported that those behind building work on the former John Dickinson paper mill site in London Road, Apsley, have applied to create flats instead of offices, despite already having planning permission for a commercial block.

Winreb Finance has asked planning bosses for the green light to create 59 flats, claiming that close to one million square feet of office and industrial space is lying empty in Hemel Hempstead.