Green light for another 24 Pirton homes despite archaeological concerns

PUBLISHED: 20:24 21 June 2018 | UPDATED: 20:24 21 June 2018

The site off Priors Hill in Pirton. Picture: The Edwards Irish Partnership LLP Architects & Surveyors

The site off Priors Hill in Pirton. Picture: The Edwards Irish Partnership LLP Architects & Surveyors

Archant

Developers tonight won planning permission to build 24 homes on the edge of a village near Hitchin, on the same field as prehistoric ring ditches and a scheduled Anglo-Saxon monument.

The site north-east of Priors Hill in Pirton. Picture: Google Street ViewThe site north-east of Priors Hill in Pirton. Picture: Google Street View

North Herts District Council’s planning control committee approved JPP Land’s application to build on the site north-east of Priors Hill, on the western edge of Pirton, by a majority when it met at Letchworth’s Spirella Ballroom.

Diane Burleigh, speaking on behalf of the North Hertfordshire Archaelogical Society and Pirton Parish Council, had urged the committee to defer a decision – saying it was not appropriate to make a decision without further archaeological survey.

She said JPP Land’s assertion that enough archaeological work had been done was “plainly nonsense” as a skeleton discovered in December 2017 was yet to be radiocarbon dated, and stressed that Historic England and the government would not schedule the site if planning consent were granted.

“If you grant planning permission then the option of scheduling, in the national interest, will be lost,” she said.

“The opportunity has now arrived where we can say if it is schedulable or not, if you defer tonight.”

JPP Land’s agent Douglas Bond told the committee the area was defined in the Pirton Neighbourhood Plan as being within the built-up area of the village, and was therefore acceptable.

Regarding archaeological work at the site, he said the applicant had been “extremely transparent” and “gone above and beyond” what was required – something Mrs Burleigh disputed. He stressed that that Herts County Council’s archaeology officers had signed off the work done on JPP Land’s behalf.

Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Clark expressed concern about the impossibility of potentially rowing back the decision “if new evidence comes to light in the next few weeks”.

Labour councillor Ian Mantle asked what would happen if significant archaeological remains were found after a grant of planning permission, to which district council planning officer Tom Rea said the reserved matters application did cover the layout – which could be amended to take new finds into account.

The committee, chaired by vice-chairman Councillor Michael Muir in chairman Councillor Mike Rice’s absence, voted in favour of planning permission by seven to three. The opposing votes were from Mr Clark, his fellow Lib Dem councillor Ruth Brown and Conservative councillor Harry Spencer-Smith.

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