Warning shot

PUBLISHED: 11:37 01 March 2007 | UPDATED: 11:37 06 May 2010

Stuart Kenny, Heritage Foundation director general

Stuart Kenny, Heritage Foundation director general

A WARNING shot has been fired after a town council launched an investigation into the fairness of residential planning controls in the world s first garden city. Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation (LGCHF) has vowed to vigorously oppose any attem

Cllr Raymond Smale, Letchworth GC Town Council

A WARNING shot has been fired after a town council launched an investigation into the fairness of residential planning controls in the world's first garden city.

Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation (LGCHF) has vowed to "vigorously oppose" any attempt made to terminate its current right to approve or reject planning applications in the town.

In most towns there is only a requirement to submit applications to the planning authority, usually the district council, but a Scheme of Management gives the Heritage Foundation the power to scrutinise, approve or reject applications.

Following a pending public consultation, Letchworth Garden City Council (LGCC) looks set to challenge this power, claiming only 100 signatures are required to get the ball rolling.

A lengthy court battle could follow and, if the town council loses its case, formidable court costs could land in the lap of taxpayers.

The Heritage Foundation's director general, Stuart Kenny, said: "It's not for the Foundation to have a view as to how LGCC has spent its budgets over the years and to what effect, and how it might do so in the future.

"However, I suspect many Letchworthians who either supported or were ambivalent to the formation of a town council may, with hindsight, have views both as to its effectiveness and its ambitions.

"One thing is certain. The Heritage Foundation will vigorously oppose any move by the town council, or anyone else, to terminate, vary or take over its Scheme of Management."

Mr Kenny continued: "The town council was largely born out of the campaign group, led by Cllr Smale, which opposed the Heritage Foundation's conversion of Paynes Farm into two residential units.

"The campaign group persuaded district councillors to refuse the Heritage Foundation's planning application so the Foundation took the matter to appeal, won and was awarded costs of some £32,000 against North Hertfordshire District Council.

"With such an uninspired track record in terms of taking on the Foundation - albeit using other people's money - one can only be surprised at Cllr Raymond Smale preparing to do so again."

In response, Cllr Smale said: "I'm not prepared to be dragged into Mr Kenny's personal attack.

"It is often what he does not say that's more relevant.

"The seed for a town council was sown when there was no protest from NHDC or LGCHF to prevent the closure and sale of Norton School, leaving Joe Public to protest on his own and subsequently to be ridden over."

Town council clerk Richard Bowran said: "We understand the Heritage Foundation's anxiety about the current consultation and it is our aim to work with them to ensure our town is run for the benefit and with the consent of the citizens that form our unique garden city.


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