To build or not to build?

DAMION ROBERTS looks at how the refusal of a planning application for more homes may shape the future look of Hitchin WHEN councillors refused to green light an application to build 81 flats and 11 houses on Tuesday evening, their decision was greeted wi

DAMION ROBERTS looks at how the refusal of a planning application for more homes may shape the future look of Hitchin

WHEN councillors refused to green light an application to build 81 flats and 11 houses on Tuesday evening, their decision was greeted with a mixture of surprise and relief.

People sitting in at the Hitchin area committee have seen a number of developments sprout up across their town over the last few years and some feared another one was about to receive approval.

Instead, the application to build on land just off Walsworth Road, adjacent to B&Q, was knocked back.

"It is fantastic, a real relief. There have been too many blocks of flats going up across the town and we're sick to the back teeth of the sight of them," said one resident who did not want to reveal his name.

In 2006 alone, decisions were made on 10 applications which had been submitted by applicants wanting to build blocks of flats at least three storeys high in the town.

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Of these 10, six were given conditional permission. In other words one development was green lighted every two months.

Of the remaining four, three were refused and one was withdrawn.

Yet, it seems, some of these applications were agreed to with a heavy heart. As one councillor mentioned in the meeting on Tuesday evening: "We had to accept them just because planning regulations give us very little ground on which to object to them."

To find out what some residents thought of the new developments, The Comet went out to ask them on Tuesday morning.

Marina Marchant, 63, said the number of recently erected flats was ruining the character of the town.

Mrs Marchant, of Wilbury Way, said: "I'm against them. They're taking away the special character of the town as all of these places tend to look the same.

"It wouldn't be so bad if they were built to blend in with the older buildings in the town.

"Hitchin was a Quaker town and has a wonderful history and although I am all for progression, it shouldn't be at this pace."

Graham Cox, manager of The Orange Tree sandwich shop in Sun Street, said: "They are taking some of the offices out of the area and are putting in blocks of flats, so you have to think to yourself 'Is it worth it, are there too many of them now?'

"One thing I would like would be more places for people to park. I've got a shop here in town and there are only a few car parking spaces here."

Walsworth Road residents David Smith, 22, said he was not at all concerned about the number of flats going up around the town.

Mr Smith said: "I can understand people being not too happy but people need a place to live, don't they? Whether it is in the town centre or further away doesn't really bother me."

However, David French, who is 73 and has lived in Hitchin all of his life, disagrees.

Mr French of Heathfield Road, said: "They are popping up everywhere aren't they?

"If they're not careful, what this could lead to are the ghettos of the future.

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