Updated Saturday 11th April 2009
Sports Centre Plan Extended
The District Council have extended planning permision for a proposed Sports Centre at Archers Spring for a second time.
David Lloyd submitted a new planning application for the centre on the outskirts of town back in November after their first extention ran out.
The Council's Development Control Sub-Committee approved the application at a meeting on 11th February, despite opposition from local groups, although 38 conditions were attached to the decision.
A spokesman for David Lloyd said that there were currently no plans to start building the sports centre.
Planning approval was first granted in 2001 following a public enquiry. However, after five years of inactivity on the site, David Lloyd Leisure sought to have the five year time limited extended by three years. Following a further three years of inactivity, the company have now submitted a further planning application as the extention expires at the beginning of 2009.
Previous Planning Extention
DLL were granted an extention to planning permission obtained in 2001 for a sports centre on the Welwyn Road site close to Sele Farm Estate.
The three year extention was granted by district councillors despite objections from the Town Council and Civic Society.
Proposals for a sports centre on the site were first made in 2000 but to date there has been no activity on the site, other than by off-road motorcyclists, who attract regular complaints from local residents and warnings from the police.
The Civic Society have previously said that they would like the land returned to the green belt, whilst Hertford Town Council sees the site as ideal for housing development.
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Planning Amendments Court Controversy
In March 2003, developers of the sports centre sought to amend strict conditions applied after planning permission was granted by a government inspector in 2001.
In June 2007, owners Whitbread sold David Lloyd Leisure to London & Regional, a property investment firm, and Bank of Scotland.
As at July 2008 there has still been no activity on the site.
The current extention to planning permission expires on 20th January 2009.
Architects submitted changes to the original plan, which included the removal of public recreational facilities and a reduction in landscaping and tree planting.
At the time of the public enquiry in 2001, a community package was offered by the developers that gave local schools and organisations access to facilities on the site. The amendments sought removed this offer, despite it being a condition of planning approval.
Architects working on the project asked East Herts District Council to deal speedily with their amended application "preferably at delegated level".
Hertford Civic Society strongly criticised the developers for trying to circumvent the planning conditions and have suggested that their actions may be interpreted as "a major try-on".
The Welwyn Road site of Archers Spring has a troubled history of gypsy invasions and unfulfilled plans. After ten years of laying derelict, the green belt land was three times invaded by gypsies, leading to loud protests by local residents of the nearby Bentley Road.
Groundwork to prepare the site for a leisure facility originally began in June 1997, but was halted a few months later following the arrival of more gypsies. In 1998, the developer successfully applied for more time to complete the groundworks, but work ceased late in the year when asbestos was discovered on the site. It transpired that the "groundworks" were a front for a gravel-digging and waste tipping enterprise. The local council was criticised by a government ombudsman following complaints about how the authority had dealt with issues surrounding the site. Following this episode the site was abandoned. The then owner, Craig Ravenscoft, sold it in 1999 to Colin Sullivan, a local property developer.
Plans for a multimillion pound sports centre were then submitted to East Herts District Council before being called in by the Secretary Of State. Following a public enquiry in May 2001, planning permission was granted for a sports centre to be run by Next Generation. Since then there has been little activity on the site.