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Cllr John Gardner, Portfolio holder for Environment and Regeneration at Stevenage Borough Council:

“This decision is not what we hoped to share with the people of Stevenage and I am disappointed on their behalf.

The application to redevelop the unique Icon building was overwhelmingly rejected by the Stevenage Borough Planning and Development Committee in March 2020, with the Committee concluding that the height, design and appearance of the proposed development would be out of character for the area, and raising concerns over the impact on local infrastructure.

There is a great deal of local affection for the Icon building and I believe it is vital that this location needs to have a high quality and iconic solution in the future.

As a council, we firmly believe that decisions on such planning matters should stay with elected Members of local councils, who are best placed to make decisions about local developments and are accountable to local people.

Now the Planning Inspector has made this decision, we will review their report in detail and consider what steps to take next. It is vital that the developer improves the plan to ensure this is an iconic development for the town to be proud of and where people would choose to live.”

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 on 3 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 or Inquiry, 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 Inquiry took place this year between 20 – 27 July, 2021.
  • The Inspector issued his decision on 20 August, granting permission for the development.

The Local Plan and the site

  • The site had previously been used for office space but has been unused for several years.
  • It is not an allocated site for housing within the Stevenage Borough Local Plan (adopted 2019).

The Icon - Timeline

Planning application submitted to the Council – August 2019

Planning application refused by SBC Planning and Development Committee – March 2020

Appeal lodged to the Secretary of State – July 2020

Planning Inquiry – July 2021

Appeal Decision – August 2021

Planning Inspectorate Appeal Decision