Town council ‘built play area without permission’

Huntingdon Town Hall, home of the town council.

Huntingdon Town Hall, home of the town council. - Credit: Archant

A council jumped the gun when it built a play area in Huntingdon.

Building the play area, off Devoke Close, meant Huntingdon Town Council had to apply to Huntingdonshire District Council for retrospective planning permission for the site, which has five pieces of play equipment.

The committee approved the scheme following a recommendation by council planners.

Councillors heard that people living near the play area said it had led to an increase in parking problems, a rise in noise levels and it being used by older people, including drunks, into the night.

The town council had to apply for retrospective permission to build on the land because it had not made a formal agreement to do so with the district council which owns it. If an agreement had been in place, the town would not have had to seek planning permission.

A report to the committee said: "Had the land within the application site been within the ownership or maintenance of Huntingdon Town Council at the time of the commencement of the works, the play area would likely have complied with permitted development criteria and would not have required the submission of a planning application.

"However, this was not the case and a planning application has been submitted, which has been assessed on it merits."

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The report said the scheme did not fall within permitted development rights for councils which enabled them to build on land belonging to, or maintained by them, without having to seek permission.

"However, it is understood that at the point at which work on the play area commenced, no formal agreement or lease had been put in place between Huntingdonshire District Council, which owned the land, and the town council.

"As permitted development rights cannot be applied retrospectively, a planning application has been submitted."

Two neighbours had complained about disturbance from the play area and one said that "democratic process has been ignored in order hasten construction of the park".

Police said the site was very well used and well lit and was considered an area of low risk to crime.

But a police officer said the lack of fencing could attract older children than intended.

and that fencing could prevent the risk of cycles and dogs coming close to the equipment.

The officer said that with fencing signs could be put around the play area showing the age it was intended for.