Tuesday, December 13, 2011

HDC Planning decides for the cinema!

The reason why I'm interested in this application has to do with the District and Town Councils owning the land on which this cinema complex is to be built. I'm not normally interested in general planing applications but follow those for publicly owned land. I also look at the Useless Planning Committee of the Town Council to show how useless it really is.

The Cinema is due up for decision on 19th December 2011. The 20MB planning report is here. The original Development Brief is here.

Reading the planning report I was first struck by one paragraph.
The proposals certainly differ from the Development Brief. The access from Huntingdon Street was supposed to be a minor entrance with the main entrance from Lidl Car Park.

Access from Huntingdon Street.
This is what the Development Brief says:
What is shown is this is a minor access and not the only access. This was to be the service access.
The much bigger arrow shows the main access will be from via the Lidl car park.

The "broad principle" here is the main entrance is from the Lidl car park. I cannot see how having sole vehicular entrance from Huntingdon Street is a "broad principle". The "broad principle" in this context is for a two entrance car park. If the car park entrance had been moved to round the back of Lidl then, I feel, this "broad principle" would be acceptable. No second entrance then the use of the term "broad principle" is very wide indeed. I believe this is totally meaningless.

The provision of a larger scale building (neighbour amenity)

The size of the building is also important. I have never seen how a 7 screen cinema as originally envisaged could fit into the area in the Development Brief.

This is a very strong double headed arrow which gives the impression that HDC Planning takes Neighbour Amenity seriously. Taking Neighbour Amenity into account this was the final drawing on the Development Brief.

Taking into account the Broad Principle of Neighbour Amenity, this means the potential larger scale building is  restricted in where it can go. This is clearly set out in the picture above. The Double headed arrows clearly set out the clearance needed to protect Neighbour Amenity.

The first sentence of paragraph 7.5 says: "The Development Brief makes it clear that it is intended to guide development with indicative concepts, rather than provide a prescribed layout."

That statement I can agree with. It is here to give guidance to the developer and land owners (District and Town Councils) on what the site can be used for. The double headed arrow for "protecting neighbour amenity" as the Planners inform the public has been shot to pieces. Even in broad terms the principle of "protecting neighbour amenity" has been trashed
The cinema is much larger than the "potential larger scale building here" as indicated in the picture above. 

Whether or not the development is within the "broad principles" is open to debate. Protecting Neighbour Amenity has been trashed. Protecting Green Open Spaces has also been trashed. HDC, along with the Town Council are owners of this land. If Development Briefs are to mean anything then they must be adhered to by the owners - both Councils - who should tell the developers to adhere to the Development Brief or they won't sell or lease the land.

The planning department and HDC shouldn't get away with their "broad principles" argument. This is being used selectively to cover up the obvious real differences between the Development Plan and the Planning Application. In the drive to get a cinema, at any cost, HDC has gone to the public with a consultation which maps out a scenario. Then, in secret, it has trashed its own Development Plan. As the larger building is larger than the boundaries drawn then HDC should have gone back to the public with an amended Development Plan. That would have been democratic and inclusive. Instead the public has been kept in the dark.

The "Broad Principles" mean:

Important Building Frontage has gone.
A much larger building than mapped out.
More "Open Green Space" taken than the Conservatives "We will protect Open Green Spaces" envisaged.
Neighbour Amenity, as mapped out, trashed.
Lidl car park entrance not being used.

The message from HDC is loud and clear. In Planning terms HDC can do what it likes with its land. The people are of no real concern. St Neots must have a cinema has been the cry. Right from the start I have blogged that a cinema wouldn't fit into the area outlined. Right from the start I have said HDC will have to trash the Development Brief to get this cinema through. HDC owns the land where the cinema is going. Whether as owner or planning authority should have done the decent thing and be honest with the local residents over what is coming. Instead HDC hides behind "broad principles".

In the end this devalues anything said by HDC over Planning. Any "Development Brief" is really not worth the consultation and time wasted in producing this document. Why waste time and effort on "development briefs" when HDc can simply ignore them anyway.

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