Agenda item

22/00170/FP The Lord Lister Hotel, 1 Park Street, Hitchin, Hertfordshire, SG4 9AH


Change of Use from Hotel (C1) to Sui Generis (accommodation with support) and associated external alterations (as amended by plans and additional information received on 6 May 2022)


RESOLVED: That application 22/00170/FP be DEFERRED to receive a response from Highways regarding the installation of a gate and to request further details from the Police regarding anti-social behaviour in the area.




Audio recording – 4 minutes 25 seconds


The Conservation and Development Manager advised Members of the following corrections to the report:


·         Paragraph 4.1.1 should read 21 self-contained bedrooms, not 24 as written.

·         Paragraph 4.2.2 should read ‘managers and staff accommodation is within the existing building.


The Conservation and Development Manager presented the report in respect of application 22/00170/FP supported by a visual presentation consisting of photographs and plans.


Councillor David Levett advised that as Chair of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee, he had requested a Call To Account of relevant Members and Officers involved in decisions around Lord Lister Hotel and therefore he would not take part in the debate or vote on this item or Agenda Item 8, but would remain to hear the debate.


The following Members asked questions:


·         Councillor Nigel Mason

·         Councillor Amy Allen

·         Councillor Tony Hunter


In response to questions, the Development and Conservation Manager advised:


·         If the conditions in the report are not applied then Breach of Condition Notices can be issued by the Council, where it seems no action is being taken by the applicant.

·         It was not the duty of the Development and Conservation Manager to answer for plans within the building.

·         The other application included within the report was not entirely comparable, but demonstrated the considerations that the Planning Inspector had applied to this application and that decisions had to be made around Planning Concerns. There were other bodies responsible for other aspects of the development.


The Conservation Officer advised that having visited the site recently that was a large meeting room which in reality appeared to be a break out area for residents, with soft furnishings. There would need to be further clarification from the applicant or their representative as to whether this was the plan.


The Chair advised Members of the details of the Call to Account to be undertaken by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. 


The Chair invited Mr Scot Moir to speak against the application and advised he had been allocated 10 minutes.


Mr Moir thanked the Chair for the opportunity to address the Committee and gave a verbal presentation, including:


·         He was speaking as a neighbouring resident to the property and was speaking on behalf of his friends, family and the local community.

·         The property had been run as outlined in the proposals since 2021 and therefore residents have a clear idea of how it functions.

·         These were not self-contained units, and the 21 residents would have to have access to shared kitchen and laundry facilities.

·         Typically when the building was used as a hotel, the patrons would stay for a short period of time and would spend little time in the room. This would not be the case under the proposals.

·         The installation of a gate on the front arched entrance will have an impact on the highways and vehicles will now have to breach the pavement for access.

·         Since the change of use has taken place the police and emergency services have been called out and, due to the location of the site, they are required to park on the pavement, causing issues for pedestrians and pub users next door.

·         The issues on site have been coming from both the main building and the annexe, where these were never an issue when used as a hotel, and the high turnover of residents made noise mitigation measures difficult.

·         Nine of the rooms on the plans are less than 12 square metres and there was no communal areas indicated on the plans, other than the kitchen and laundry.

·         The Half Moon pub next door had never experienced problems with anti-social behaviour, but since the change of use there has been an increase in noise, disturbance, littering, loitering and begging, which has impacted the trade at the pub and has led to customers leaving the venue.

·         Police cars parked outside the pub not only prevent customers from accessing the venue, but also cause reputational damage for the business.

·         The appeal decision included within the report offered very few parallels with this application. The application in Portsmouth applied to be a HMO, adjacent to an already existing HMO, it was not a support centre as proposed in Hitchin.


There were no points of clarification from Members for Mr Moir and the Chair thanked him for his presentation.


The Chair invited Councillors Keith Hoskins, Claire Strong and Sam Collins to speak against the application as Member Advocates and advised they had been allocated 10 minutes to share.


Councillor Hoskins thanked the Chair for the opportunity to speak and advised the Committee of the following:


·         He was speaking a Ward Member on behalf of 200 residents and had made clear than any objections to the application have to relate to planning law.

·         Although the hotel had ceased trading during Covid restrictions, there was no evidence supplied in the report of the benefit to the loss of the building as it existed.

·         Planning should not be granted unless it can be demonstrated that there is a benefit to the community and therefore existing businesses and communities should not have unnecessary limits place on them by decisions taken after their establishment.

·         The Council can apply mitigation measures where the proposals will impact on the existing community, but none of these have been highlighted within the application.

·         As detailed in the Kingsley Smith solicitors’ submission, developments should be safe, inclusive and accessible, which promote health and well-being. The existence of, or fear of, crime should not undermine the quality of life of those existing communities.

·         The example included from Portsmouth is of interest, but not comparable, as this site had permission for hostel status granted in 2009.

·         The wealth of objections submitted are not speculative, but are confirmed over experiences of the last seven months.

·         The requirement of the Local Authority to tackle the issue of homelessness should not impact on the existing communities.


Councillor Strong thanked the Chair for the opportunity to speak and advised the Committee of the following:


·         Speaking as the Member, alongside Councillor Hoskins, who called in this item to the Committee.

·         The new proposed use of the site would not be similar to a hotel. Guests at a hotel will come and go from the building, but the residents at the hostel will stay in their room throughout the day.

·         Developments should function well and add to the quality of the area, both in the short term and longer term.

·         Planning training had advised Members that they should look at the harm and whether there were mitigations that could be put in place to deal with these. If not, then planning should be rejected.

·         Residents are already having to deal with the noise issues from the property and the conditions in the report would not stop this happening.

·         There had been no community consultation prior to the change of use and, furthermore, no consideration applied to the loss of the hotel in relation to the town centre and tourism strategy for the town.

·         This was in contradiction with the emerging Local Plan and the NPPF.


There were no points of clarification from Members for Councillors Hoskins and Strong, and the Chair thanked them for their contribution.


The Chair invited Ms Renu Prashar Prinjha, as applicant’s representative, and Mr James O’Grady, as applicant, to speak in support of the application and advised they had been allocated 10 minutes to share.


Ms Prashar Prinjha and Mr O’Grady thanked the Chair for the opportunity and advised of the following:


·         They had not been made aware of the extension allocated to speakers on this item and therefore had been unable to prepare a 10-minute verbal presentation.

·         There is no adopted policy that requires a viability assessment with regards to the loss of the hotel.

·         The hotel was chosen as this would require the least number of changes to the property to bring up to operation standards for supported accommodation.

·         Local Authorities had often been required to use hotels for emergency accommodation, and this would take place without any consultation or relevant conditions being applied.

·         This application was an example of sustainable development, due to the town centre nature within an existing building. The proximity to amenities and public transport was vital due to the residents not having access to a private vehicle.

·         Comments raised on the planning portal had been looked at by Keystone and, where possible, mitigation measures had been applied through the secure by design principles listed in the report.

·         The life expectancy of homeless people was almost half of the average life expectancy nationally.

·         There was a wiliness to engage with communities, whilst providing services for those in need, so that the residents themselves can eventually become part of the community.


The following Members asked points of clarification:


·         Councillor Morgan Derbyshire

·         Councillor Amy Allen

·         Councillor Nigel Mason

·         Councillor Tom Tyson

·         Councillor Tony Hunter


In response to points of clarification, Mr O’Grady advised:


·         There would be 24/7 support available on site for residents.

·         The site would offer supported accommodation for residents.

·         The staff on site are there to support the service and it is their job to make it a safe environment. The applicant would work with the Local Authority to establish what staffing requirements were required for that accommodation.

·         Some of the measures included under the secure by design process include secondary glazing to prevent noise travelling externally, as well as to adhere to the quality of life of those inside. There had also been higher fencing included at the rear of the site.

·         The meeting room as labelled on the plans would be a multi-purpose room for residents, it would not be a formal meeting space.

·         Staff on site are provided with 40 modules of training, in agreement with the Local Authority.

·         Due to the nature of the site and the services provided, there would be constant consultation with partner organisations (police, social services, Local Authority, etc) and relevant adaptations to the service provision will be made.


The Chair thanked Ms Prashar Prinjha and Mr O’Grady for their contribution.


The Chair invited the Development and Conservation Manager to respond to points raised during the public and Member Advocate presentations, including:


·         The application is for assisted living and therefore it was implicit that the need for assistance was there. Therefore, regarding this application, this would be a relevant planning consideration.

·         The appeal included in the report was a precedent, but wanted to highlight the considerations the Inspector took, and where these were relevant to this application.

·         Issues with crime are included within the report, but these are not within the planning considerations and are overseen by other authorities and legislation.

·         The safe communities detailed in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) applies more to the built environment and is not applicable to a change of use in this instance.

·         Similarly, the NPPF does talk about protecting the loss of community facilities, but this does not protect hotels and there are other options of hotels remaining in the town, and therefore would not be a material consideration in this application.

·         The Environmental Health Officers had not raised any concerns regarding the living conditions within the building or the noise concerns. If the Committee refused along these lines, they would not be supported by the relevant consultees.

·         The Highways Authority had not been consulted on this application, but as raised by Mr Moir, the barrier at the arched entrance would alter the free flow of traffic and so would be a suitable reason for deferral until further consultation can be held with Highways.

·         The Police would not support any rejection of the application on appeal. Should deferral take place to consult with Highways, then it would be possible to ask the police for some further information, but they were unable to compel them to comment on the application.


The following Members took part in the debate:


·         Councillor Tony Hunter

·         Councillor Morgan Derbyshire

·         Councillor Simon Bloxham

·         Councillor Tom Tyson

·         Councillor Ian Moody

·         Councillor Nigel Mason

·         Councillor Amy Allen

·         Councillor Val Bryant

·         Councillor Alistair Willoughby


Points raised in the debate included:


·         There had been nothing within this report that the application is not supported by the Police and other than local objectors, there was no indication that anti-social behaviour had taken place on or around the site.

·         There were several representations made this evening which made it difficult to support the application, but there remained compelling arguments in favour. Sometimes Members of the Planning Control Committee need to take into account other aspects of the development. This is not necessarily a suitable site in Hitchin and, should the refusal go to appeal, this may be a risk the Committee has to take.

·         The behaviour of those involved should not be considered when deciding on the application and that whilst there was sympathy for residents’ views, these were not necessarily planning matters. It was not the job of the planning department to manage people’s behaviour on the sire.

·         Concern regarding the use of the phrase “in this location”, someone is always likely to be upset by the decision regardless of the location.

·         It was important to have all information in front of Members and deferral to receive a response from Highways regarding the installation of a gate would be appropriate.

·         The Committee has the ability to go against the suggestions of the Planning Officer.

·         The Committee Members have only heard of the harm being done to the area and existing residents, and without further evidence from the police it is difficult to align with creating healthy and safe communities.


Councillor Tony Hunter proposed and Councillor Morgan Derbyshire seconded and, following a vote, it was:


RESOLVED: That application 22/00170/FP be DEFERRED to receive a response from Highways regarding the installation of a gate and to request further details from the Police regarding anti-social behaviour in the area.



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