Local News

Gasworks appeal allowed

Thursday 30 January 2020

Plans to build 375 new homes on the site of the former Gasworks in Marshgate Drive have been given the go-ahead after St.William Homes won an appeal against the District Council's refusal of planning permission.

Planning permission was refused by East Herts District Council last year due to poor design, overdevelopment and highways capacity. The District Plan identifies the site as suitable for around 200 homes.

The government's planning inspector, Phillip Ware, dismissed the council's view that the proposals represented bad design, saying: "I consider that the proposed apartment block respond positively to their riverside location and would not represent an overbearing or dominant form". He also noted that the buildings would be set back 8 metres from the towpath, allowing it to be widened.

Overall and on the basis of the above matters I consider that the appeal scheme represents good design, and that the Council's concerns are not justified. It complies with DP policies HERT2, DES1 and DES4, Framework guidance and the provisions of the Mead Lane Urban Design Framework (2014).

Phillip J G Ware BSc DipTP MRTPI, Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State

The highways issues that were cited in refusal of planning permssion relate to the effect of traffic at the Blucoats roundabout and the junction of Ware Road and Mill Road. The town suffers congestion during peak hours, with traffic backing up across town and on the Mead Lane industrial estate.

The government inspector, in his report, states: "My very clear conclusion is that the roundabout and the junction, whilst exhibiting some queueing on the approaches, display little stacked traffic on the roundabout itself. What blocking back did occur during my visit was brief in duration and appeared to be well managed by the signals".

The inspector also pointed to evidence that traffic flows on the A414 have been decreasing in recent years: "This is suggested by a significant reduction between 2006 to 2015 ... The Council sought to cast doubt on the reliability of DfT figures but, whilst I appreciate that some of these are estimates or spot counts, they contribute to the overall picture."

I do not consider that there would be a severe capacity impact adversely affecting the free flow of traffic on the approach routes to, and at, the key junctions.

Phillip J G Ware BSc DipTP MRTPI, Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State

The recently adopted District Plan - which was endorsed by a previous government inspector - allocates the site for around 200 homes. However, St.William's proposals for almost double that number was one of the main reasons for refusing planning permission. By allowing the appeal, the enquiry inspector appears to be overturning the previous inspector's endorsement of 200 homes.

The view of the enquiry inspector is that the figure of around 200 is based purely on limitations imposed by the  highways issues -  which he discounts. In his report, the inspector says: "The reason that the District Plan seeks to limit the residential content  ... to around 200 homes is, in my view, clearly related to highways matters. No other reason for this limitation was put forward and the officer’s report."

The inspector continues: "I consider it of note that none of the commonly found issues related to overdevelopment are alleged here. In many instances overdevelopment expresses itself in a range of ways, for example cramped living conditions and inadequate amenity space. With the exception of the natural light issue related to residents off the site, none of these issues are alleged here."

Overall the proposed residential development would not be excessive in size and scale. It would not be contrary to the various policies in the DP set out in the reason for refusal.

Phillip J G Ware BSc DipTP MRTPI, Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State

Reaction from local councillors and political parties has been swift, with Peter Ruffles calling it "solemn news for Hertford".

Councillor Suzanne Rutland-Barsby, Executive Member for Communities at East Herts District Council, was critical of the outcome:

The local Liberal Democrat party called the decision "outrageous".

Town Councillor Jane Sartin described the news as "hugely disappointing".

The District Council is expected to issue a statement shortly following the Planning Inspector's decision. 

The council has the option to challenge the decision in the High Court if they believe the Planning Inspectorate made a legal mistake. They can also apply for a Judicial Review if they believe the decision is irrational or that there was some procedural irregularity.

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