Pirton: CALA construction access and Gladman homes plan both rejected again

PUBLISHED: 20:45 14 December 2017 | UPDATED: 20:52 14 December 2017

Holwell residents next to the entrance to a proposed off-road construction access route to Pirton, which CALA Homes has not pursued. Picture: Danny Loo

Holwell residents next to the entrance to a proposed off-road construction access route to Pirton, which CALA Homes has not pursued. Picture: Danny Loo

Danny Loo Photography 2017

Developers hoping to build 78 homes in a village near Hitchin remain without a route to get construction traffic to the site after yet another was rejected tonight.

CALA Homes – which has planning permission to build 78 homes south of Holwell Road, on the eastern edge of Pirton – again proposed to send up to 60 heavy vehicles a day through the country lanes of neighbouring Holwell for at least three years.

North Herts District Council’s planning control committee rejected a similar plan in September on safety grounds – and at Letchworth’s Spirella Ballroom tonight, it did the same again.

District council planning officer Simon Ellis had recommended refusal for this construction plan, writing in his report that CALA had proposed even less traffic mitigation than before.

He said: “I can fully understand the applicant’s frustration that they are having enormous difficulty trying to secure an agreed construction management plan for this development scheme, to build much-needed homes on a site that has planning permission.

“However, to propose a slimmed-down plan in full knowledge that it will be refused permission, so as to present this to an appeal inspector against the backdrop of earlier and more robust plans with clear mitigation, is unfortunate in my view.”

Mr Ellis said CALA had this week submitted further documents to support a route through Holwell – asserting that it was unreasonable for the committee to expect CALA to build a route off the construction site, and that the firm would have a strong case at any appeal.

John Burden of Holwell Against CALA Traffic told the meeting: “We consider this application to be an insult to the planning system and to local people.”

He recommended using electronic tracking to test the possible impact of heavy vehicles on traffic to and from the site over the expected three-year construction period.

Councillor Claire Strong, who represents Hitchwood, Offa & Hoo, praised the committee’s previous decision to refuse the application on the grounds that any route through Holwell was unsafe. She asked the councillors to come same conclusion again.

CALA did not speak in favour of its application. The company’s Philip Wright looked on from the back of the public gallery.

Councillor Harry Spencer-Smith said Mike Younghusband of Herts County Council’s Highways department had suggested the CALA traffic analysis had been carried out during a school half-term – and that it seemed “a waste of time” to be looking at it again.

He added: “I am buoyed up by the officer’s dissection of all that CALA has not provided, and I agree with his conclusion wholeheartedly.”

The committee – all, apart from Councillor Adrian Smith, present at the meeting – voted unanimously to refuse the application.

The item next on the agenda also pertained to Pirton – the application from Gladman Developments for 85 homes on the site directly east of the CALA Homes site, known as ETF2.

The committee rejected a Gladman plan for 99 homes on this site in September, and tonight district council planning officer Tom Rea again recommended refusal.

He cited the site’s separation from the limits of Pirton, the harm it would have on the beauty of the village and countryside, and the potential archaeological interest of the field.

Diane Burleigh of the Pirton Action Group told the meeting that the application was “remarkably similar” to the application rejected in September – different, she said, only in that it was slightly smaller.

Calling it contrary to planning policy and the emerging Local Plan, she said: “They’ve just bunged another application in, which is typical Gladman behaviour.”

Councillor Strong also expressed disappointment that Gladman had submitted a second application after its first was refused. She aired the possibility that CALA and Gladman might try to have construction traffic going through the villages at the same time.

When Councillor Spencer-Smith asked if anyone from Gladman was present to explain the scheme to the meeting, nobody responded.

The councillor said: “They haven’t come, they’re not here to answer questions. I’m beside myself on it, really.”

Committee chairman David Barnard stressed the natural beauty and community spirit of Pirton, saying: “This is our countryside, and once it’s concreted over that’s there forever.”

He added that if the plans went ahead, the village might be transformed into “a semi-urban dormitory”.

After the committee rejected the Gladman application unanimously, Councillor Barnard concluded: “I’m sure we will meet again.”

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