Plans for more than 200 flats on former Staples site approved
Matthew Smith, local democracy reporter
- Credit: Stevenage Property Ltd
Developers will be allowed to build more than 200 new flats in Stevenage town centre, after councillors backed plans to demolish vacant retail space.
The proposals for the former Staples in The Forum site will be up to 13-storeys high in place, and aimed towards renters moving to the town.
Councillors approved the plans at a meeting of Stevenage Borough Council’s planning and development committee on March 15, despite concerns about the size and amount of parking on site.
The plans, brought forward by developers, Stevenage Property Limited, include 224 flats in total, with 162 one-bedroom, 50 two-bedroom and 12 three-bedroom apartments which will all be built for the rental market.
The development will include 22 units as affordable housing, making up around 10 per cent of the total apartments.
The scheme is partially revised from an earlier version which would have included a 15-storey tower, and now includes two 13-storey towers standing at either side of the development, with a nine-storey tall link between the two.
A large podium garden and outdoor space will be above the first floor, as well as space on rooftop areas, while the ground floor will offer some communal and commercial space.
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During Tuesday’s meeting, the project’s planning consultant Richard Quelch told councillors: "We sought to deliver a high quality proposal with exciting public realm landscaping which would create a more attractive setting for this part of Stevenage.”
Mr Quelch added: “It has been designed to ensure that the new residents will benefit from excellent amenities including internal social spaces, and that includes lounges and co-working areas, as well as extensive external community amenity areas, including the large podium space.”
Councillors had raised concerns about a lack of parking on the site, which will include 28 regular parking spaces and 10 disabled bays, including no disabled bays for the commercial space.
Councillor Graham Lawrence said it was aspirational but unrealistic to hope the majority of tenants would rely on public transport, adding the council was “creating future problems for ourselves” by approving developments without adequate parking. However, he noted the plans were compliant with the council’s policies and couldn’t see any reason for refusal.
The developers said there was less demand on parking for built to rent schemes and the number was in-line with spaces provided at similar projects, but agreed to include disabled bays for any commercial unit.
Members of the committee also raised concerns about pedestrian access to the site, with developers acknowledging residents would have to walk around either Tesco or TK Maxx to gain access to the building, without any direct access from the town centre.
Officers recommended the plans for approval, saying the development was appropriate on balance and the site had been earmarked for development within the council’s local plan.
Developers will also provide financial contributions towards primary education and the NHS as part of the planning permission.
Councillors voted to approve the plans by 8-2.