Concerns amid Hitchin sorting office sale
HITCHIN’S Royal Mail site has gone up for sale, with a pre-application consultation indicating that it could be demolished and used for a housing development.
The Hermitage Road site, which backs onto Portmill Lane, is scheduled to close in spring next year after a controversial decision was made last November to move mail services to Stevenage.
The closing date for offers on the site is tomorrow (Friday), meaning a buyer could be appointed by the end of the year.
Steve Butts, spokesman for the Communication Workers Union (CWU), reiterated that an alternative postal collection point still hadn’t been secured, and said that the facility was an important link between Royal Mail and the town’s residents.
He added: “The news that planning arrangements for the Portmill Lane Office site, following the closure, is gathering pace is a sobering thought that at the present time there is nothing being put in place to replace the demise of the customer enquiry office.
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“These matters are not the role of this trade union to represent the community, however much we would like to, moreover this role is one for others to take on, such as our MP Peter Lilley, Chamber of Commerce and of course Postwatch the customer watchdog. All appear to have been mute on the subject thus far.”
Documents reveal that a pre-application enquiry was submitted to North Herts District Council (NHDC) earlier this year by London-based architecture and planning practice Allies and Morrison.
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The practice has, in this application, proposed to demolish all existing buildings on the site.
The site consists of a three story building, fronting Hermitage Road, with a single storey extension, a workshop and two outbuildings to the rear.
But NHDC said in a 16-page letter in response to the application that it would have some “significant concerns” relating to the redevelopment of the site.
In the letter, Hitchin planning officer Tom Rea says: “A key consideration in the preparations of a planning brief for the site will be how any development of the post office site will integrate with and enhance the redevelopment of the Churchgate Centre and key enhancement areas of St Mary’s Square and Portmill Lane car parks.
“The proposed change of use to residential will mean the loss of employment land, however the site is not within a designated employment area and therefore there is no direct conflict with any local plan policy.
“It is considered that there is a need to give wider consideration for uses on this site and how they can and need to relate to the overall future development of this part of Hitchin, particularly in relationship to the evolution of Churchgate and any emerging redevelopment solutions regarding that site, the open spaces in front of St Mary’s Church and other surroundings.”