Hands off!

PUBLISHED: 11:53 19 January 2006 | UPDATED: 09:27 06 May 2010

Gunnels House in Fairview Road

Gunnels House in Fairview Road

Residents win planning victory after rowdy meeting ANGRY residents have blasted a council for trying to gag them during a rowdy planning meeting. More than 40 people attended a meeting at Stevenage Borough Council offices on Tues-day night to show the s

Residents win planning victory after rowdy meeting

ANGRY residents have blasted a council for trying to gag them during a rowdy planning meeting.

More than 40 people attended a meeting at Stevenage Borough Council offices on Tuesday night to show the strength of feeling against plans to develop Gunnels House in Fairview Road.

After hearing details of the application to demolish the house and replace it with 14 flats, councillors voted against the plans despite council officers recommending they should give approval.

The councillors feared it would be an over development of the site and out of keeping with the surrounding area.

Before the decision was announced residents were so fired up that chair of the planning and development committee Cllr Joan Lloyd threatened on a number of occasions to suspend the meeting.

Residents felt they were being gagged because only two of them were able to address the committee and there was confusion over who was meant to be speaking.

During the first half of the meeting Cllr Lloyd was constantly heckled and at one point she said: "I happen to be a school teacher and my pupils behave better than you."

One woman shouted: "This is meant to be a democracy."

Residents were concerned the development would increase traffic problems in the area, would not fit in with the surrounding area and set a "dangerous precedent" for over development in the Old Town.

Russell Linard, spokesman for applicants Mr and Mrs Garrard, said the development would have enhanced the character of the local area. He was booed by the crowd when he finished addressing the committee.

After the decision was made, resident Helen Harris said: "I am delighted and relieved. It would have been outrageous if it had gone through. It is a beautiful building."

Another resident, who did not want to be named, said: "We have been treated so badly by the planning department, right up to the last minute with their attempt to stop our representative speaking.

"It was so refreshing when the committee members were able to come to the same decision as everyone else.

"It was just simply an awful idea."

Head of planning and regeneration Peter Bandy said: "There are strict policies and procedures that control how planning applications are processed.

"The constitution allows one representative to speak at the planning and development committee meeting on behalf of all objectors and the applicant is then given a chance to respond.

"In exceptional circumstances the chairman can invite more than one objector to speak and on this occasion Cllr Joan Lloyd allowed two objectors to speak.

"The second objector was an immediate neighbour, recog-nising that they had different interests to represent from the wider community."

* At the same meeting plans for the new Stevenage Police Station in Lytton Way were given the go-ahead.

Planning permission was granted to erect a four-storey extension and refurbishment of the existing police station and the creation of a decked car park.

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