Planning panel turns down application for more than 100 homes on former lab site

Forensic Science Services lab at Huntingdon. Picture: GEOFF SODEN

Forensic Science Services lab at Huntingdon. Picture: GEOFF SODEN - Credit: Archant

Plans for more than 100 homes on the site of the former forensic laboratory in Huntingdon have been refused – despite a last minute push from council officers.

Members of Huntingdonshire District Council’s development management panel branded the proposal by Persimmion Homes for 103 houses on brownfield land off Christie Drive, Hinchingbrooke, as “unsustainable and diabolical”.

Resident Ben Fuller, who started a petition signed by 380 people calling for greater infrastructure, told the meeting that residents weren’t against the site’s redevelopment.

“It’s a bit of an eyesore. The site does meet the requirements for approval but we are asking for common sense,” Mr Fuller said.

“We are asking for infrastructure improvement, parking improvements, expansion of Cromwell Academy, and improved access in and out of the estate, it becomes gridlocked during large event days in the park and this estate [forensic site] is going to add to that.”

Questions were raised by members and the around 100 residents that attended the meeting as to how a Highway’s Authority report deemed there won’t be an increased traffic problem.

This is despite only one entrance for the site and evidence that at peak times there are tailbacks of around 45 minutes on Hinchingbrooke Park road and a wealth of parking issues.

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Committee member, Councillor Jason Ablewhite, said: “I don’t think anywhere else in our district that has this level of traffic in peak times.

“The infrastructure doesn’t support what is already there let alone the increase in houses, it doesn’t support it because we have our district hospital there.”

Simon McDonald, director of Persimmion Homes East Midlands, said the development would only remove the parking problems around Hinchingbrooke.

“Any development such as this in the heart of an existing community is always going to cause concern,” Mr McDonald told the meeting.

“I firmly believe the new site will improve parking on the site and remove unregulated parking that already exists.

“There is no significant, detrimental or severe highways impact which could warrant a refusal.”

Mr McDonald added that if the site is given permission it will take the company two and a half years to complete construction.

Councillor Tom Sanderson, who represents the Hinchingbrooke, raised concerns that children from the site were expected to join Huntingdon Primary School, almost three miles away from the development, rather than attend the nearby Cromwell Academy.

During the debate members were told by officers that if they turned down the site it is likely that a planning inspectorate would approve the application without conditions, this was backed by Councillor Graham Bull.

“This is something we can control at the moment but if we turn down this application this is something we lose control of,” Cllr Bull said.

Persimmion Homes have six months to appeal against the decision which members voted eight to six to refuse the application.