A cafe in the heart of St Albans has been granted permission to keep its illuminated signs – despite the advice of planners that they should be refused.

The Aspava cafe – in front of the Alban Arena – has three signs, where the six letters of its name are internally illuminated, and with an additional low-intensity white LED strip along the existing fascia.

Planning officers at St Albans City and District Council had advised that the sign – in the heart of the city’s conservation area – should be refused.

They say the “proposed” internal illumination of the ‘ASPAVA’ lettering – which is already in place – would result in a detrimental impact on the character and appearance of this part of the conservation area.

And they say it would detract from nearby ‘listed’ buildings, Little Barn (Waterend Barn) and The Grange.

They also suggest that the use of flexi glass and composite panel, which would not be significantly detrimental in itself, would exacerbate the impact of the internal illumination.

Speaking for the applicant, planning agent Dean Goodman stressed that it was just the six letters of the restaurant’s name that were internally illuminated – and not the whole sign.

He said there was local precedent, with nearby Barclays bank having a similar style of signage.

And he said the restaurant’s “discreet” and “subtle” signage did not have the same impact as the “significantly worse” plasma screens in the windows of the Alban Arena.

He also pointed to four restaurants that had “failed” at these premises,  to increasing anti-social behaviour in front of the Arena and to the need to encourage the survival of the new restaurant.

And he concluded: “The leasee is trying hard to make the restaurant pay and promote an attractive facility on this key part of St Albans where businesses regularly fail. Please help him survive.”

During the debate, chairman Cllr Janet Churchard said that on a walk around the area she had found a variety of quite brightly lit signs in the area – and that it didn’t seem to be out of character with what was closely around it.

And Cllr Helen Campbell said she did not find the signs wholly unattractive or unappealing.

Following debate, the committee agreed that the application – in what is said to be a modern part of conservation area – would not have an adverse or detrimental effect on the visual amenity of the surrounding conservation area.

And they agreed to permit the restaurant’s three illuminated signs.

At the meeting, councillors were informed that St Albans council owned the freehold of the site but that this did not have an impact on the assessment of the planning application.