Philpotts in Hitchin to become indoor play area?

Former Philpotts furniture store, Sun Street, Hitchin

Former Philpotts furniture store, Sun Street, Hitchin - Credit: Archant

AN INDOOR children’s play area could be opened at the site of an old furniture store.

Philpotts in Hitchin

Philpotts in Hitchin - Credit: Archant

Plans to convert the first and second floors of the former Philpotts in Sun Street, Hitchin, into a play centre and crèche for young children have been submitted to North Herts District Council (NHDC).

The change of use application proposes creating a play area in a “park-like setting” with artificial grass and flowers, a sensory playroom, baby classes, a drop-in crèche, a cafe, a research desk and relaxation treatment rooms.

Applicant Isabelle Maguire – who is a lawyer and baby yoga and massage teacher – suggests it could be called Secret Garden.

A report sent to NHDC, via agent architect Dave Pucknell, says: “We propose an indoor play area in Hitchin with an emphasis on encouraging creative, imaginative play for pre-school children, whilst offering a relaxing inclusive environment for mothers and carers.

“We are committed to preserving the unique historical elements of the property.”

The application follows an unsuccessful bid to change the Grade II listed building into a bar or restaurant, although an application for a ground floor change of use to cafe or restaurant was approved earlier this month.

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The bar proposals proved unpopular with many residents and groups, who said it would be detrimental to residents and town centre businesses.

But the latest report claims impact from the play centre would be “minimal”.

“This is due to the limited opening hours and the typical customer and use,” it says.

“Customers are anticipated to arrive and leave on foot. The business is intended to relieve parents of young children to allow them to shop, dine or peruse the town, thus the present normal use of Hitchin’s car parks and public transport would be unaltered.

“There is no access to outside. Alcohol will not be served. Music will only be played at certain times if this is appropriate to the activity at the time and will be of a loudness appropriate to very young children.”

It adds: “It is anticipated that this concept will benefit local business.”

A decision will be made by NHDC officers next month.