Housing plan for Stevenage fire training centre

Plans to demolish a fire brigade training centre to make way for up to 95 homes were deferred at the last moment this week to get “more justification” for the move.

Herts County Council is investigating the sale of the Longfield Fire and Rescue Training Centre in Stevenage for housing development and applied to Stevenage Borough Council for planning permission. The 2.68 hectare site is the county training base for the Herts Fire and Rescue Service and command and control centre.

A HCC spokesman said the application is part of a study into funding improvements to its fire and rescue training facilities which would be located elsewhere.

But at the eleventh hour before the outline proposals were due to come up before a council planning committee on Tuesday night the application was returned to HCC by officers for clarification.

“We are in discussions with the council at the moment”, SBC planning officer Clive Inwards said. “There are a couple of outstanding issues. We were almost there. These were new issues that came up late.”

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He was unable to give details due to confidentiality agreements he added, but hoped the plans would be back on the table in March, depending on how quickly HCC got back with the answers.

Planning officers had originally recommended that councillors approve the scheme which included two, three and four bedroom housing, 40 per cent of which would be affordable homes - either social rented or low cost market housing. Plans also included 177 car parking spaces, with access to the site off Hitchin Road.

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The application proposed a two phase development initially retaining the command and control centre building before relocating it and completing the estate.

Opposition to the scheme has come from neighbouring residents and John Henry Newman School which is next door to the site.

These include concerns over the impact of the development on traffic in the area, especially at peak times on Hitchin Road – a major route in and out of the town. Impact on water pressure, green space and infrastructure were also cited.

A response by John Henry Newman said the site could be used to expand the overcrowded school and help meet a shortage of secondary school places in the town. The increase in road congestion would also “likely to lead to more accidents involving school children”.

Herts County Council said no firm decisions have been made about leaving the Longfield site and if any move does take place it is unlikely to be before 2014.

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