Pirton construction access route through Holwell approved at appeal

CALA Homes have won an appeal over a controversial construction access route through Holwell to Pirt

CALA Homes have won an appeal over a controversial construction access route through Holwell to Pirton. File photo. Picture: Getty/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Developers set to build 78 homes in a village near Hitchin have won an appeal to bring construction traffic to the site through winding country lanes.

CALA Homes has had planning permission for the site at Elm Tree Farm, on the eastern edge of Pirton, since March 2017. But for more than a year the firm was frustrated over its plan to send heavy vehicles from the A600 through Holwell 60 times a day – every six minutes – for up to three years.

North Herts District Council’s planning control committee three times rejected this prospect on safety grounds, but a government inspector has now ruled in the developers’ favour and approved the access route through Holwell.

In his decision published yesterday, following a site visit made on May 30 – during the school half-term break – inspector Richard Exton said that condition six of the March 2017 outline planning permission was only there “to provide the council with information”, and that the main issue was whether “the details submitted adequately convey the details of the proposed construction route”.

He said CALA’s plan to create a new passing place and two areas of highway widening was clearly identified on the proposed construction route in both directions, and concluded that “the details contained in both appeal submissions are adequate”.

Noting villagers’ calls for a new, dedicated road for construction traffic to get to the site, Mr Exton said this was “not a matter for these appeals”, adding: “I have assessed the appeals proposals on their own merits. The possibility of other construction traffic routes to the appeals site therefore carries minimal weight.”

Concerns over the number of construction vehicles, response times for emergency services and other issues were not matters for these appeals either, he said – as the wording of condition six made the scope of consideration very narrow.

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In a separate decision, Mr Exton ordered the district council to pay CALA’s costs over the appeal in full.

The inspector wrote that while he did not find the planning committee’s reasons for refusal to themselves represent “unreasonable behaviour” – the requirement for a costs reward – he did think the council had “acted unreasonably by delaying development which should have been permitted and failing to produce evidence to substantiate each reason for refusal on appeal”.

The Comet has contacted North Herts District Council for comment.