Res­i­dents an­gry at de­ci­sion

Coun­cil plan ap­proved de­spite more than 1,000 peo­ple reg­is­ter­ing their ob­jec­tions

Harefield Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - by Kather­ine Cle­men­tine kather­ine.cle­men­tine@trin­i­tymir­ror.com

A highly-con­tested youth cen­tre in a green space sur­rounded by houses in Hare­field, has been given the go ahead de­spite ob­jec­tion from res­i­dents and coun­cil­lors.

More than 1,000 sig­na­tures were gath­ered against the plans, which came from Hilling­don Coun­cil, for a sin­gle­storey youth cen­tre, with a two-storey sports hall, play­ground, car park­ing, light­ing and fenc­ing, on the green space on Ash Grove, Hare­field.

Richard Barnes, a Hare­field res­i­dent who was pre­vi­ously Deputy Mayor of Lon­don un­der Boris John­son, and a de­s­e­lected Hilling­don Con­ser­va­tive coun­cil­lor who later de­fected to UKIP, spoke at the meet­ing which de­cided the youth cen­tre’s fate, on Wed­nes­day last week.

He said: “I thought it was per­verse that four coun­cil­lors should de­ter­mine what was good for Hare­field, when the church, the res­i­dents’ as­so­ci­a­tion, and 600 res­i­dents were against it.

“It’s just a to­tal overde­vel­op­ment of the site. They’d be cram­ming it in be­hind lord knows how many peo­ple in Ash Grove.

“When the houses were built there it was recog­nised that they needed a bit of green space for the kids to play around in and now they’re fi­nally go­ing to build on it.”

Mr Barnes will be supporting an ap­peal against the de­ci­sion.

He said: “It is a Hilling­don ap­pli­ca­tion de­ter­mined by Hilling­don coun­cil­lors and I be­lieve they’ve reached a per­verse de­ci­sion.

“We’re tak­ing it out of the hands of po­lit­i­cal ob­jec­tives. Prior to the ap­pli­ca­tion be­ing heard, or con­sul­ta­tion the coun­cil was say­ing this is go­ing to hap­pen.

“It would ap­pear it’s all been to­tally pre-judged and the lo­cal res­i­dents count for ab­so­lutely noth­ing.

“It was sig­nif­i­cant that there wasn’t one sin­gle Hare­field coun­cil­lor there. It’s a dis­ap­point­ment.”

There are two lev­els of ap­peal, one for the lo­cal ad­min­is­tra­tion to the om­buds­man and then res­i­dents will be tak­ing their case to the plan­ning in­spec­torate.

The Ma­jor Plan­ning Ap­pli­ca­tions Com­mit­tee ap­proved the pro­posal de­spite a to­tal of 114 let­ters of ob­jec­tion set­ting out is­sues in­clud­ing los­ing an amenity, traf­fic, park­ing, crime, emer­gency ser­vice ac­cess con­cerns. There were only five let­ters in sup­port.

Hilling­don Coun­cil’s fi­nal re­port states: “The pro­posal is con­sid­ered to com­ply with cur­rent plan­ning poli­cies which seek to en­cour­age en­hanced com­mu­nity pro­vi­sion.

“Whilst some loss of open space would oc­cur, jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for this has been pro­vided such that, on bal­ance, the ben­e­fits of the devel­op­ment are con­sid­ered to outweigh this loss.”

Lead pe­ti­tioner and Ash Grove res­i­dent, Lisa Whicker, asked the Plan­ning Com­mit­tee to care­fully con­sider the im­pact both to res­i­dents and the al­ready ex­as­per­ated traf­fic as they had not built any­thing like this in over 20 years, as it will be open 52 weeks a year.

“I may as well have sat there naked. They’d made their minds up be­fore we went in there.”

She high­lighted other con­cerns about fire safety ac­cess and get­ting the bins out.

“With it open 52 weeks a year we’ll get no respite. Even with a nearby school you get respite in hol­i­days but we get none of that.

Ms Whicker added: “We are not against a youth cen­tre – how­ever we do feel 2.8 mil­lion pounds is be­ing ploughed into this Youth Cen­tre – Is this really money well spent on just one build­ing?”

Cllr Tony Egin­ton, rep­re­sent­ing Barn­hill for Labour, also be­lieves the cen­tre is in the wrong place.

He said: “The roads are very nar­row and there’s lots of parked cars and it’s tak­ing away the only open space in that es­tate, which is used by fam­i­lies.

“We should be pro­vid­ing bet­ter youth ser­vice. It would be more sen­si­ble to try and use the fa­cil­i­ties at Hare­field Academy, which, be­cause it’s in­volved in sport would be an ideal place.”

n UN­HAPPY: Neigh­bours of the Ash Grove site will ap­peal against the de­ci­sion to build the youth cen­tre

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