Agenda item

22/01173/FP 131 London Road, Knebworth, Hertfordshire, SG3 6EX


Change of use and conversion of existing first floor retail unit to one 2-bed flat


RESOLVED: That the application 22/01173/FP be GRANTED planning permission subject to the reasons set out in the report of the Development and Conservation Manager



Audio recording – 1:24:20


Thomas Howe presented the report and gave a verbal presentation, which included:


·         The plot is a first-floor unit within the London Road high street area. It is designated as a local centre in the Emerging Local Plan and there is a retail area in the Knebworth neighbourhood plan.

·         There are two updates for the application. In the principal development section policy KBL3 from the Knebworth neighbourhood plan should be referenced. However the principal development is still supported as its not the loss of retail space and its not the loss of a service.

·         The unit was most recently used as a tattoo studio which can be seen in the photos displayed in the presentation

·         The flat would be laid out as two bedrooms and a large dining/living room/kitchen area. It will also have an ensuite and a main bathroom

·         Another update on the site history of the report has an application which says pending. This is the change of use from a tattoo parlour to a massage parlour. This was granted conditional permission on 4th October.

·         The flat would benefit from large internal areas exceeding space standards set nationally with built in storage on the first-floor level and within the stairwell. It would benefit from various amenities from the high street such as shops, leisure, employment opportunities and transport links. Buses and the railway station which is in walking distance. Whilst there is no parking provided, this is a sustainable location that does not necessarily require a vehicle.

·         The surrounding area does benefit from various retail uses within the class E use class


The following Members asked questions:


·         Councillor Michael Muir

·         Councillor Tom Tyson


In response Thomas Howe advised:


·         When you look at the street view it looks like it was in use by the tattoo parlour in April 2021, but there was no information received when it was vacated


Nurainatta Katevu also clarified that the tattoo parlour and the application for it to change to a massage parlour is a different application to the one we are considering today of residential use


The Chair invited Claire Graham to speak against the application.


Claire Graham thanked the Chair for the opportunity to address the Committee and gave presentation, including:


·         I am objecting on behalf of Knebworth Parish Council due to the lack of parking provision required by parking policy and impact on local business

·         This property is part of the local centre which is small as we are a village

·         The property was a tanning salon prior to being a tattoo parlour and has recently received planning approval to become a massage parlour.

·         Loss of business premises regardless of category will have a negative impact on the vitality of the village centre because business brings in potential customers for other shops

·         In recent years two pharmacies, a better shop, a builder’s merchant and a bank have all been lost from the high street. The builder’s merchant has been replaced by 47 assisted living flats and three small empty retail units. This has sterilised a large part of the high street

·         A previous sand yard is currently in construction and will have a retail unit plus four flats with only three parking spaces

·         Knebworth has serious parking and traffic problems with many streets used as unofficial car parks by rail commuters. It also has one of the highest car ownership statistics for the district.

·         The officers suggest the North Herts parking policy can be ignored because there is on street parking available within a 4-minute walk. However in reality this isn’t true. The majority of roads in the vicinity have some form of restriction such as one hour parking, controlled parking zones, or double yellow lines.

·         The few roads with long term parking are already fully occupied. There is no surplus parking provision within walking distance.

·         Herts County Council is currently consulting on North Herts LCWIP which proposes a segregated cycle way along the B197 and Station Road. This would remove all on street parking on Stevenage Road, London Road and Station Road which would put added pressure on on-street parking because no alternative provision is proposed

·         The officers report states that the proximity of transport nodes alongside shopping, leisure and employment opportunities overcome the shortfall of parking provision, but this does not.

·         The Local Plan has not identified any employment area in Knebworth and larger employers within the village have sold up and their sites redeveloped for housing mainly in the form of flats.

·         The waste response requires space for the bin lorry to stop and collect so parking restrictions may be required, which means a loss of parking space on the high street.

·         The loss of parking space has a negative impact on the village centre. This was seen when Herts County Council imposed its covid town measures and the loss of parking along the high street resulted in a loss of trade for all shops.

·         To permit buildings to be converted without at least one parking space per dwelling is contrary to North Herts parking policy.  


There were no points of clarification from Members


The Chair invited Councillor Lisa Nash to speak against the application as a Member Advocate.


Councillor Lisa Nash thanked the Chair for the opportunity to address the Committee and gave presentation, including:


·         This application impacts the neighbourhood with the removal of the economic opportunity, the lack of parking provisions and an already large number of empty flats in the area.

·         The reduced economic opportunity also coincide with an excess number of empty flats. We have also lost the bank which has become a church. There are very few employment opportunities within the village with no room for economic growth

·         The majority of working age villagers have to travel outside the village for employment

·         22 out of 47 two bed flats are unoccupied for older people. 11 two bed and 1 one bed flats out of a total of 12 flats are occupied. Many other flats are unoccupied

·         We don’t have a need for flats in the village. We do need economic growth. We have lost one half of the high street which could have been used as businesses and employment opportunities

·         The LCWIP indicates there is no employment in Knebworth.

·         Contrary to the officers report, the village has limited entertainment venues with one medium sized pub, two small cafes which are only open during the day, the Royal British Legion, and one Indian restaurant. For a population of 4496 in the 2011 census, there is very little entertainment and local residents report travelling to local towns for leisure purposes.

·         Contrary to the officers report, Knebworth has very poor travel and transport links. Knebworth is the nearest railway station for the residents in nearby villages who have to drive to the railway station. There are huge parking issues within the village as there are no other alternative safe transport provision available for them.

·         Knebworth provides the railway station for the outlying residents but other shops and services for them.

·         These reasons also impact on the restricted parking issues within the village. There are no long-term car parks. Commuters park on the streets to use the trains.

·         This application is in direct conflict with the NHDC parking policy

·         We know from the RAC 2021 report that people are dependent on their cars

·         Knebworth has one of the highest car ownership levels of North Hertfordshire because the transport and travel links are so restricted.


The following Members asked points of clarification:


·         Councillor Daniel Allen


In response to points of clarification, Councillor Lisa Nash advised:


·         There are some unoccupied retail units but there are no advertisements for them


The Chair invited Thomas Howe to respond:


·         The unit directly below the flat was vacant

·         There is no objection due to policies relating to the loss of retail as it is a first floor flat

·         There was a consideration that the close transport links would reduce the need for the access to a private vehicle for the residents within the flat and there are shops nearby.


The following Members asked questions:


·         Councillor Michael Muir


In response Simon Ellis advised:


·         I don’t think that other empty flats in the village is a sustainable ground for refusal. In terms of car parking, if this was a retail unit it would still generate a need for car parking so it being residential wouldn’t impact this as much.


Nurainatta Katevu also added that we refused another application because there wasn’t parking on site and that got overturned when it went to appeal because it was in a sustainable area.


Councillor Daniel Allen proposed and Councillor Michael Muir seconded and, following a vote, it was:


RESOLVED: That the application 22/01173/FP be GRANTED planning permission subject to the reasons set out in the report of the Development and Conservation Manager


Supporting documents: