Herts Ad Comment: You reap what you sow

Herts Advertiser comment

Herts Advertiser comment - Credit: Archant

There were many petty complaints made by a tiny cabal of neighbours as part of their relentless bid to close down The Brickyard cocktail bar in Verulam Road, St Albans.

These included objections about children playing in the garden during the day, people laughing and talking loudly outside after a certain hour in the evening, and patrons smoking on the pavement at the front of the venue.

Quite what they will do when the building is converted into a residential property is hard to fathom, as they will no longer have the option of threatening the venue’s licence or making endless complaints to environmental health.

They certainly won’t be able to demand that nobody uses the garden after 10pm.

Instead, they may find themselves left with the same grievances, but with no avenue left to turn.

When The Brickyard becomes a family home these neighbours’ unwarranted complaints about excess noise are likely to fall on deaf ears, and if the owner wants to entertain his friends in the garden every weekend throughout the summer then that’s entirely his right.

Mind you, that didn’t stop one person unreasonably demanding that the garden should be completely returned to its original grassy state as part of the change of use planning conditions - as if they should somehow be entitled to have a say on the appearance of any private dwelling.

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I firmly believe that the actions of a handful of individuals forced the closure of this popular and profitable city centre business, and if they subsequently find themselves reaping the consequences of their campaign then they have nobody to blame but themselves.

How much are you prepared to pay to keep council leader Julian Daly happy? Would it stretch to tens of thousands of pounds, because that’s how much a legal challenge over the Strategic Local Plan could end up costing council taxpayers.

Cllr Daly refuses to accept that he has put a foot wrong over the planning blueprint, and has challenged the conclusions of a planning inspector that the document is unfit for purpose.

He is now seeking a judicial review of the decision, claiming further delays will have a detrimental effect on future planning decisions in the district.

Ironically, any talk of delays seems to overlook the fact that this draft document has taken decades to reach this stage, due in part to procrastination by successive council administrations. This newspaper has warned about “development by appeal” for years, but all of a sudden this has been highlighted as a cause for concern. Unfortunately that horse has long since bolted.

What we need now is for the district to open up negotiations with neighbouring authorities, to exercise a degree of give as well as take, and to try and reach a compromise over local housing allocations. Instead, what we see is a stubborn refusal to accept responsibility which is likely to hit taxpayers in their pockets.