North Herts District Council have developed a plan for a new car park to provide additional spaces for the Swim Centre and Archers Health & Fitness Club. The car park would be built within their existing plot, behind the Fitness Club. But because it would need an access road from the existing car park, the Council proposed to build one down the west side of the swim centre. As this is registered common land the Council had to apply to the DEFRA Planning Inspectorate for consent – their original application can be found here – nhdc application 16-11-16. The sharp eyed will have noted that they used an out of date plan and proposed an 80 place car park. They seemed to have forgotten that there are now two dance/fitness studios on that part of the site – so the actual number of spaces would be about 37.
Hitchin Forum sent a Letter of Objection. The Friends of Butts Close similarly sent a detailed Objection Letter to the Planning Inspectorate – objection letter – read here which also pointed out this error. The Council subsequently submitted an amended application for consent – the Amended S38 Form Jan17 is here, with a new draft Car Park Plan 1-2-17. This showed the reduced size of the car park. It also carried a new proposal – a fence running along the whole length of the access road.
The Planning Inspectorate has decided that this matter should be dealt with by way of a Public Inquiry. This is a rare event – it’s mostly done as a paper exercise – and probably because the evidence put forward by the Council was so thin and the objections so substantive. An Inquiry process is not dissimilar to a hearing in a Civil Court; the public may attend, and it would be very helpful if as many people could go.
The date of the Inquiry is November 21st and it might go on to the 22nd – all details are in the Friends of Butts Close Newsletter.