Monday, September 26, 2011

What is the point of a Development Brief

The Cinema project rumbles on but what of the document that started this off. The Development Brief outlined all the planning considerations needed for a development of whatever type to go ahead. It also has some graphics which show the planning problems.

The above picture sets out the many issues with the site. The whole idea was for the car park to use the Lidl car park entrance. The Huntingdon Street entrance was to be used for service vehicles. There are two strong arrows allowing for the protection of Neighbour Amenity. The inclusion of "high quality building frontage" with the effects on the listed buildings in Cambridge Street.
The above picture sets out the basics of what any new development is likely to look like taking into account. The main entrance is via the Lidl car park. The service entrance is off Huntingdon Street. The arrows protecting neighbour amenity are still there. The "important building frontage" is still there. What is extra is the car parking on the recreation ground. 

Now move onto the planning application:
There is no access from Lidl. All the traffic is coming from Huntingdon Street. The "important building frontage" is no more. The car park on the recreation ground has increased from 40% to 75%. The arrows "protecting Neighbour amenity" have been breached and breached significantly.

I tried to marry the two pictures together:
This is not totally exact. But it is a good indication of the significant breach of the "protect neighbour amenity" arrows. The entrance by Cressener House is now the main entrance to the car park. A new access road is along the north side running behind the fence of the properties in East Street.

Now the Development Brief are guidelines. This is supposed to be a living document. I can understand that some minor alterations can and have taken place. What is not minor is the change from the entrance being through the Lidl car park from Cambridge Street to the entrance designated as a service vehicle entrance in Huntingdon Street. Another major change are the significant breaches of the arrows to "protect neighbour amenity". Another major change include the extension of the car park further into the recreation ground.

So why weren't these major changes put back out to the community for further consultation? It is not as though these are minor changes.

There is something else. The site is owned by Huntingdon District Council and St Neots Town Council. As the lead the District Council decided to have a cinema on this site with Turnstone Estates as their preferred developer. 

So HDC is the owner and also decides the planning application on its own land. The Officer in charge of this application is:
The same Jennie Parsons who gave pre-application advice to Turnstone Estates.
Is there anything wrong with this arrangement. Legally, this is very acceptable because it is HDC's duty to decide this application. But HDC does need to go that extra mile to ensure what it decides is correct.

One of my concerns is this is public land owned by HDC and SNTC. The politicians who run HDC have agreed to Development Brief (DB). They should abide by the (DB) in their consequential decisions. So as Turnstone Estates have submitted a plan at significant variance to the DB then HDC should either stop this because of the significant variance or go back out to public consultation to ensure the residents are in agreement.

Both HDC and SNTC are taking a shortcut. They own the land yet they but there seems to be a divorce between their own policy and that of the planning department. I know many of our local politicians want the cinema because it will be a feather in their cap. I feel this is in the wrong place for the cinema. Local residents are going to have the amenity of their properties severely affected by this development. Just saying this is a planning issue when HDC and SNTC own the land doesn't work for me

In the end what is the point of producing a Development Brief which isn't adhered to by the Council that produces this brief. SNTC is a laughing stock when it make recommendations of refusal to HDC. The Planning Department at HDC will become a laughing stock if it approves plans that are significantly at variance with the Development Brief it wrote. The only way this is going to be approved is if HDC Planning throw out their rule book.

HDC will get its way for this titchy cinema with little access and only seen up an alley. Our local politicians will be joyous at the building of a cinema. The St Neots residents may be less welcoming once it is open and they compare and contrast with other cinemas they go to.


Oh and to prove this is the current Development Brief I went to the HDC website and did a crummy video of the draft link. See below.

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