Harpenden Jubilee arch ‘fiasco’

PUBLISHED: 07:00 23 September 2012

Queen's Diamond Jubilee arch in Harpenden

Queen's Diamond Jubilee arch in Harpenden

Archant

THE bunting has long since been removed, and the Union Jack flags and British paraphernalia returned to storage.

But there is a nagging question being asked in the streets of Harpenden - where is the special wrought iron arch constructed to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee?

It was put up in time for the Jubilee weekend, from June 2, but taken down after five days because it did not have planning permission from St Albans district council (SADC).

Despite the council giving the go-ahead in early July there is still no sign of the arch, prompting locals to slate the project as a “fiasco,” delayed by bureaucratic red tape.

District councillor and town mayor at the time of Jubilee celebrations, Michael Weaver, agreed to the installation of the arch as locals constructing it had worked around the clock to complete it in time for the long weekend.

Defending his action, Cllr Weaver explained it was part of a wider town regeneration scheme and he had not had time to consult Harpenden town council’s (HTC) clerk.

But it now transpires that the arch, commissioned by HTC for several thousand pounds, still needs additional permission from another tier of local government – Herts Highways.

Although the close has a dead end and traffic cannot drive through it, it is legally classified as a road so responsibility for it rests with the highways department.

Independent town councillor John Chambers slammed the project as a “fiasco”: “It should never have got to this stage. As far as I’m concerned it has been a marred process.

“It should have been given temporary permission until it had full permission. It’s gone from bad to worse. The town is the loser in all of this.”

Cllr Chambers’ comments have been echoed by Harpenden businessman, former town councillor Tony McFarland.

He said: “It’s a bit farcical. Why did the town council spend over £4,000 for the arch without getting prior planning permission?

“Why has it taken so long? It is a council dealing with another council. We effectively have permission for the arch but not its ‘legs’.”

Mr McFarland said that as the road had been stopped for decades, he could not understand why, “everyone is dragging their heels.”

A spokesman for HTC admitted that bureaucratic red tape had made the installation take longer than anticipated.

He explained that as the arch would be attached to special stands either side of the close rather than buildings, a licence was needed from Herts Highways. Even though motorists cannot drive right through Thompsons Close, the application for that permission had to include a traffic assessment as well as data on the height of the arch and its wind resistance.

The spokesman said the arch should be installed by the end of October and he did not anticipate any further hitches.

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