Hatfield residents claim victory in planning battle

RESIDENTS concerned about plans to build at least 116 homes on a disused highways facility in Hatfield have won a hard-fought planning battle against Hertfordshire County Council.

Householders living near the former county supplies depot, in Mount Pleasant Lane, have long been concerned at the council’s plans to develop it for housing, the main bone of contention being access to the site.

Under the council’s planning application, the homes would only be accessible from Mount Pleasant Lane, whereas presently the site can also be reached from the A414.

Closing off the A414 access, residents believe, could cause more accidents and impact on the safety of children using the nearby Ryde School.

And last Thursday, members of Welwyn Hatfield Council’s planning committee agreed with them.

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Around 70 people packed the council chamber at Campus West for the meeting, which ultimately saw councillors throw out the plans.

This decision was taken despite a recommendation from planning officers that the application be accepted.

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Speaking at the meeting, Simon Laurence, for the Ryde Residents Association (RRA), said: “We are of the opinion the Mount Pleasant Lane entrance in isolation is simply not safe.”

He also warned councillors: “If you agree to this application and there is a fatal accident, the coroner will question this decision and the local authority will be investigated for corporate manslaughter through gross negligence.”

The committee considered the proposal for around an hour-and-a-half as they wrestled to come up with planning grounds under which to reject it.

But committee vice-chairman John Nicholls ultimately came to the rescue, with his suggestion that “the council does not consider that the safety aspect of the access to the development has been adequately addressed”.

Henry Brzeski, for the RRA, applauded the committee’s ruling.

He said: “This was a brave decision by the committee against the recommendations of planning officers.

“The RRA is not opposed to the site being redeveloped for housing but consider that the current proposals utilising the existing Mount Pleasant Lane entrance are unsafe.”

He added: “We urge the county council to reconsider its proposals and to fully consult with the RRA before taking this application any further as we believe a satisfactory solution for all parties can be found through proper consultation.”

Welwyn Hatfield MP and housing minister Grant Shapps also welcomed the decision and implored the council to come back with a revised application once it had taken account of residents’ concerns.

However, a county council spokeswoman said: “We are surprised by the decision to refuse planning permission on highway grounds, as an independent highway consultant and the highway authority support our plans.

“At the current time we are planning to appeal the decision.”

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