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Churchgate Planning Context

This section provides an overview of the planning policy work carried out which has shaped the Churchgate proposals. Here also are relevant planning documents that the developer will need to have regard to when preparing a planning application, as will the Local Planning Authority when determining a planning application for the site.

Planning Policy

Relevant policy documents include the Hitchin Town Centre Strategy, adopted in November 2004 as the Council’s Statement of Policy; and the Churchgate Area Planning Brief, also adopted as the Council’s Statement of Policy in November 2005.

The town centre strategy provides the context for promoting changes and improvements in the town centre. The Churchgate Area Planning Brief, prepared by John Thompson & Partners was one of the key projects to come forward from the adopted Town Centre Strategy. The Planning Brief includes development concepts, potential uses, design principles and an indicative masterplan for the site. The planning brief is not a blueprint, in that it does not specify exactly what type of development the Council expects on site, rather it presents a set of guiding principles. Its purpose is to set out planning principles and a robust design rationale to guide and allow for the high quality redevelopment of the site.

A Final Report was also prepared by John Thompson & Partners (May 2005), as a background paper to the Planning Brief. This Report outlined the consultation process and the various development options considered for the area including making reference to the longer term vision, which included the possibility of development on the St. Mary’s and Portmill Lane car parks. The guiding principles in the adopted Planning Brief are clear and any development on the Churchgate development area and its surrounding area should have regard to the Planning Brief and other relevant planning documents.

Other relevant planning documents include:

  • Retail analysis studies prepared by Nathaniel Litchfield and Partners (NLP) in 2004 (updated in 2006 and 2009)
  • the emerging Core Strategy;
  • national planning guidance
  • other relevant housing and transport related stratgies and reports.

These are all important documents that need to be taken into account by the Local Planning Authority when a planning application for the Churchgate development project is submitted.

The developer will have to ensure compliance with these policy documents when preparing his planning application and undergoing pre-submission discussions with the Local Planning Authority. If they seek to depart from them, they will have to justify such departures to the Council acting as Local Planning Authority (LPA).

Simons will also have to undertake a number of other, scheme specfic, steps prior to submitting a planning application. Examples of these steps include the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the Transport Assessment (TA). These technical assessments will be required to address the wider environmental and transport impacts of any proposed development and will form an important part of the eventual planning application.

At the time that a planning application is determined by the LPA, the LPA will need to consider the planning application based on all planning policies that are applicable at the time. Whilst the Planning Brief is highly relevant to this development, and of course the most locally specific policy document, it is only one document among many others which may have overlapping or even competing priorities. The objectives of the Planning Brief must therefore be balanced against all other applicable planning policies.

The planning officers who have been part of the Churchgate Project Team will play no part in the decisions of the LPA and, for clarity, the officers of the LPA who will be dealing with any planning application have been entirely excluded from the process.

More detailed information on the planning context can be found in the Planning Context archive page and by clicking on the highlighted links in the above text.