On Thursday 4th February, the Planning Committee of Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council (WHBC) met to discuss the proposal to build large blocks of student flats on what is currently the extension to the Comet Hotel. These blocks were up to five stories high, and had no provision for parking, and had understandably generated a large amount of concern from residents in Ellenbrook.
As the Chair of Hatfield Town Council’s planning committee, I attended the WHBC meeting to submit an application, not just on behalf of Hatfield Town Council, but on behalf of the many people of Hatfield who had contacted me with their concerns. A few key points raised were:
“Whilst I think most people would accept that student housing is an issue in Hatfield, this proposal is not the solution. This proposed development is completely out of keeping with the neighbouring areas, both the hotel and houses, and, in my opinion, would certainly constitute overdevelopment.”
“These residents did not sign up to having large accommodation blocks towering over them, and it seems unfair that this application proposes to thrust this upon them. You need only walk down parts of High Dells now to see the impact on placing multi-storey buildings in close proximity to family homes.”
“It is naïve to believe that there are enough spaces on this application to incorporate the residents of this proposed building, along with staff and customers of the hotel. The natural nearest street to park on would be Ellenbrook. However as that has strict parking restrictions, vehicles will be parked in other areas, such as the Garden Village or Bishops Rise, which already have significant parking issues”
A local resident spoke after me and echoed the points raised. A brief debate followed, after which the WHBC councillors voted to reject the application.
So is this the end of the plans for the Comet Hotel? I somehow doubt it. The applicant has the right to appeal, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did. Alternatively, they can come back with revised plans. So whilst we have secured a significant victory this time, I strongly suspect the fight is not yet over.