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Cllr Simon Speller, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Climate Change, said:

“I am disappointed on behalf of the people in our town that the Government’s Planning Inspector has approved the redevelopment of the historic Icon building.

“The proposal to redevelop the unique building was overwhelmingly rejected in March 2020, by Stevenage Borough Council’s Planning and Development Committee. The Committee raised concerns that the proposed development would be out of character for the area and could impact on local infrastructure. We have worked hard to defend this decision, including through a successful legal challenge in 2021 that led to this new Planning Inquiry.

“I firmly believe that planning decisions should always sit with the elected Members of local councils, who are guided by national and local policies, and are accountable to local communities. We will review the Planning Inspector’s decision in detail and consider what steps to take next.

“The Icon building is in the heart of our town, a well-known landmark with a proud history and vibrant design. There is a great deal of affection for the Icon and I will continue to make the case to the owners of the building that there is great need for a bright, iconic future for the site that we can all be proud of in our town.”

Background Information

The application

In 2019, Stevenage Borough Council received an application for planning permission for the demolition of the existing Icon office building and for the development of seven apartment buildings comprising 576 flats, together with associated parking, open space, landscaping and infrastructure.

This application was considered by the Stevenage Borough Planning and Development Committee in March 2020. The Committee refused permission for the development, giving the following reasons for refusal:

  • The proposed development by virtue of its height, design and appearance would result in an incongruous form of development which would be harmful to the visual amenities of the area.
  • The proposal comprising 576 dwellings in 7 flatted blocks on this constrained site would result in an overdevelopment of the site which would be harmful to the character and appearance of the area.
  • The proposal would fail to provide the necessary mitigation required to deal with the impact that the proposed development would have on the demand on the infrastructure required to support the proposed development.

The appeal

  • Under national planning rules, an applicant can seek to appeal the refusal of the permission by asking for a Hearing, Inquiry or written representations, to be conducted by a government-appointed Planning Inspector, employed by the Planning Inspectorate.
  • The developer opted to challenge the decision of the Planning and Development Committee and sought an Inquiry.
  • The Public Inquiry took place between 20 – 27 July 2021.
  • The Inspector issued his decision on 20 August 2021, granting permission for the development subject to conditions.

Legal challenge

  • Stevenage Borough Council submitted a claim to the High Court for Judicial Review of the decision of the Planning Inspector to grant permission for the development
  • The Secretary of State conceded that there were grounds that this decision was flawed, and quashed the decision of the Planning Inspector to grant permission for the development.
  • This led to a new Public Inquire, for a new Planning Inspector to consider the Appeal against the Council’s original refusal of the application.

Further appeal

  • A further Public Inquiry took place in June 2022, with a new Planning Inspector considering the appeal. In July 2022 the Secretary of State upheld the appeal and approved the development.

Update on the Icon development

2 November 2022

The Council’s Planning Department recently received an application from Hill Residential Ltd (The Developer) to seek Prior Approval to demolish the Icon Building (Planning Reference: 22/00866/PADEMO).

In accordance with Government Regulations, the Council only has 28 days to make a decision. If the Council failed to make a decision within this timeframe, the developer would receive automatic approval. Furthermore, due to the limited timeframes to determine such application, it was dealt with under officers delegated powers. The Prior Approval was granted by the Council on 26 October 2022. Therefore, as confirmed by the developer, they will commence demolition of the site in November 2022 with demolition taking approximately 20 weeks. Following demolition of the building, the Council has been advised that the developer Hill Residential Ltd intend to commence construction of the approved residential development in Spring 2023.

Please visit the Hill Residential Ltd website for more information.

In terms of the regulations which deal with Prior Approvals for demolition of building, these are set out in the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (as amended). Specifically, Schedule 2, Part 11, Part B deals with demolition of buildings. Further details on these regulations can be found on the Legislation website.

To view a copy of the Prior Approval application including supporting documentation, and the officers delegated report, please search our planning portal. When searching the Council’s Portal for the relevant application, you will need to use reference number 22/00866/PADEMO.

You can also view the original application including the Planning Appeal Decision for the redevelopment of Icon, by using planning reference number 19/00474/FPM.