Permission granted for up to 45 new homes on former school playing fields
- Credit: HCC
Outline planning permission has been granted for development on the former Norton School playing field in Letchworth, which could see up to 45 dwellings.
Councillors at Thursday's planning committee meeting voted on whether the site would be suitable for development - excluding matters such as traffic, access and layout, which are subject to separate reserved matters applications.
Aspects of the development - proposed by Herts County Council - are set to be discussed as and when relevant planning applications are submitted, but plans would see vehicular access given via Principal Court, and the demolition of the school's gym block.
The development would also provide pedestrian and cyclist access via the east of the site - and a second access route via the north of the site.
However, a planning officer told the committee: "The application has been subjected to significant delay as a result of on going negotiations about the access path to the north of the site between properties on Farm Close and Cashio Lane.
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"The applicant is Herts County Council Estates Team, and HCC's Highways Team requested further details and negotiation with the landowner try to secure access or ownership.
"Unfortunately discussions did not come to any agreement."
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He reminded the committee that layout and access matters remain a reserve matter, and it had been recommended that outline permission be granted.
Public speakers against the plans included Letchworth Grange Cllr Morgan Derbyshire.
Cllr Derbyshire said: "Norton Road is a primary road into Letchworth from the North, connecting Letchworth to Stotfold, the A507 and the A1(M).
"It's already incredibly busy. Sites LG1, LG4 and LG10 in the council's emerging Local Plan all use Norton Road as their only access into Letchworth.
"The total number of homes on these sites is over 1,000. More traffic is going to make speeding and congestion worse on Norton Road. This is why I feel there should be a Section 106 contribution towards road safety measures in this application, and any others coming to this committee from these sites."
Speaking in support of the application on behalf of the applicant, Seth Williams said: "Since the school closed the playing fields have become redundant. The application is supported by indicative details.
"The layout, appearance and landscaping are matters for your future approval, but the indicative details provided illustrate a way in which the site could be developed in a manner which is in keeping with and complementary to the character and appearance of the local area."
A proposal to refuse the application was voted down by councillors. Subsequently, a proposal was made to defer the vote until the Local Plan had been released by Inspector Simon Berkeley - following a second round of hearings earlier this year.
However, a proposal to approve outline permission had been made and seconded prior to this, and the plans were voted through.
Norton Action Group has been against the development since the proposals were made in 2018, for fears of increased traffic on Norton Road.
Spokeswoman for the group, Lisa Wallman told the Comet: "Norton Action Group appreciate that there are many issues that require consideration, but it seems that the underlying lack of transparency and threat of legal challenge is being used by HCC to block community concerns and interests.
"In particular, we are concerned about the aggregate impact of all the local housing schemes being proposed in such a small area and the significant traffic, pedestrian safety, environmental and conservation implications."