Archaeological tests are to be carried out ahead of a major regeneration of St Albans city centre.

St Albans District Council has begun work to transform the “run-down” area near the Alban Arena.

Planning permission has been granted to build flats as well as shops and the land falls within the City Centre Opportunity Site South.

A third of the new flats built will be “affordable” and car parking will be provided at basement level.

The council has acquired nearly all the land in the area including the former police station. The principal health centre has also been purchased by the council, an NHS trust which provides services for children and adults.

The services will be transferred to the civic centre in St Peter’s Street.

This development zone is within an area roughly bounded by Charter Close, Bricket Road, Victoria Street and St Peter’s Street.

Archaeological tests are being carried on before the redevelopment officially begins, in line with planning conditions. The council-owned land is approximately 75 metres from the medieval town boundary to the east and fronts onto a road leading to the main thoroughfare of medieval St Albans.

The tests, which are being carried out by Headland Archaeology, will determine the significance of this archaeological resource and help the Council fully understand the impact of the planned development.

Councillor Julian Daly, responsible for commercial and development at St Albans District Council, said: “This preparatory work marks the start of an exciting new project that will culminate in the regeneration of part of St Albans city centre. The aim is to be able to demolish the former police station buildings in the autumn.

“This large-scale Council project will enhance the area considerably, providing much-needed new homes and commercial space for the community.”

Hertfordshire House has not been acquired by the council but the former office block is being developed into flats by a developer.