Rejected flats could be replaced with an office block

IAN MacKELLAR ian.mackellar@archant.co.uk RESIDENTS who objected to plans for 14 flats across the road could end up looking out onto an office block instead. Huntingdonshire District Council wanted to bu

IAN MacKELLAR

ian.mackellar@archant.co.uk

RESIDENTS who objected to plans for 14 flats across the road could end up looking out onto an office block instead.

Huntingdonshire District Council wanted to build the flats as part of the £16.5million redevelopment of its headquarters site in St Mary's Street, Huntingdon.


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The two-and-a-half-storey building was originally intended as part of the office complex, with the nearby Castle Hill House sold as flats. But, when English heritage refused to agree to the developers' proposals for the Grade II* listed building, HDC decided to keep it as offices and re-design the St Mary's Street building.

Neighbours objected to the proposal, urging that the site, originally part of the garden of Castle Hill House, should revert to urban green space. They said the design was out of keeping with the terraced homes opposite in St Mary's Street, and they were concerned for the structural stability of their own homes.

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Huntingdon and Godmanchester Civic Society also objected to the design, which it said would clash with the late Victorian houses and former drill hall opposite. The society commended the high quality style used in new builds around Victoria Square.

HDC's own development control panel agreed last week, prompting a re-think by architects of the huge project.

The first option is to submit new plans for the flats, with a redesigned front elevation designed to meet the objections.

But, if that fails, the fall-back position is the original outline planning consent for an office block.

Richard Preston, the council's head of technical services, who is managing the project, told The Hunts Post: "Our preference is still for a residential consent. The reason for rejection, as I understand it, is around the treatment of the elevation fronting onto St Mary's Street. So the principle of 14 flats is accepted.

"We shall see if we can make it more sympathetic to the conservation area."

A new planning application is expected towards the end of January, with a view to a decision by the development control panel in March, following further consultation with neighbours and the public.

"The fallback position is that we already have a consent for an office development," Mr Preston added.

That would revive the question of the future of Castle Hill House, which would no longer be needed by the council.

English heritage's objections revolved around sub-division of the building into flats. So the building could be re-designed as a small number of expensive luxury apartments - much as Cambridgeshire County Council has done with Walden House, next to All Saints' Church in the market square.

"Equally, if someone were looking for prestige offices in Huntingdon town centre, it might lend itself to that," Mr Preston said.

"But for the moment we are hoping it's just the treatment of the elevation that's the concern, and that we can find something that will meet the objections and satisfy the members of the development control panel.

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