Hitchin councillor and property developer appeals despite 103 objections after NHDC reject four-storey building plans next to Windmill Hill

  Posted: 12.10.21 at 16:01 by Layth Yousif with additional reporting by Matthew Smith

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HITCHIN: As Hitchin Nub News reported on Monday developers behind controversial plans for four-storey apartment blocks in the centre of Hitchin are set to challenge the council’s refusal of planning permission.

North Hertfordshire District Council rejected the plans to demolish existing garages in Mount Garrison to make room for eight new apartments for a second time back in March.

This came after Nub News reported on the huge opposition to the application back in January.

The district council said that the size and design of the proposal would result in harm to the amenity of neighbouring homes in Garrison Court.

However, a government inspector will have the final say after applicant Garrison Court Freeholders Ltd lodged an appeal against the decision.

In their January plans, four two-bedroom flats would be built in each block, joined by a central bridge walkway.

Hitchin: Make your voice heard as councillor and property developer appeals after NHDC reject four-storey building next to Windmill Hill after 103 objections

The application, submitted by agents DLA Town Planning, was a revised scheme after originally proposing nine units across five-storey blocks.

Along with the revised plan, the developers included reports that aimed to address concerns about the loss of sunlight, existing open space and privacy of existing buildings.

The developers had also amended the scheme’s design following feedback, adding: “The proposed buildings have purposely been designed in order to make the most efficient use of the land, whilst minimising impacts to existing neighbouring occupiers, and respecting the character of the area.”

However, during the consultation period last winter more than 103 residents objected to the plans, with fears that it could ruin views from Windmill Hill.

One resident’s comment described the proposals as an “ugly building in an exposed position ruining views and damaging the look of Hitchin”.

Other residents raised concerns about the impact on existing properties, and said the blocks would be “out of keeping” with their environment.

Residents also raised conflict of interest issue with the emergence that among those associated with the applicant, Garrison Court Freeholders Limited, is Richard Thake.

Richard Thake - Hitchin Conservative councillor

Mr Thake is also a Conservative NHDC councillor for the Hitchin Priory, whose ward borders the Hitchin Highbury precinct, where Garrison Court and the evocative Windmill Hill and St Mary’s Church are situated.

The appeal will be decided through written representations, rather than a public inquiry, which will involve the appellant and the district council submitting their cases, and the inspector will also visit the site.

In DLA Town Planning’s Appeal Statement, they reject the district council’s claim that Garrison Court would be affected by the new flats or communal garden, and said there is a “good degree of separation” between the properties.

Residents will be able to make their representations on the plan as part of the process.

Hitchin Nub News spoke to NHDC who told us: “Residents and interested parties can lodge their comments in writing to the Planning Inspectorate before 4 November.”

The Planning Inspectorate 3C
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Bristol
BS1 6PN.

Unfortunately Mr Thake has been rather less forthcoming and is continuing to ignore repeated requests for us to interview him on the matter.

Hitchin MP Bim Afolami is also remaining tight-lipped on the issue that has got many voters in Hitchin talking.

With the deadline for interested parties to submit comments is November 4, this story appears as if it will run and run.

If you are interested in making your voice heard you can submit your comments by visiting the Planning Inspectorate website and quoting reference APP/X1925/W/21/3276569.

A decision on the appeal is likely to be published early next year.

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