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STAFFORDSHIRE: Scout hut plans refused after dozens of residents object

STAFFORDSHIRE: Scout hut plans refused after dozens of residents object

Caption writer: Kerry Ashdown,

Dozens of residents have opposed a Cannock Chase Scout group’s bid to move to a new venue after concerns were raised that elderly neighbours would be kept awake by noise and green space would be lost.

There are also fears that the new Scout building could be hired out for parties and other functions, meaning it could have an alcohol licence.

But Mayor of Hednesford Emma Hunneyball told Cannock Chase Council’s planning committee there had been a “campaign of misinformation” in response to the plans put forward by 1st Hednesford Scout Group for land at the end of Tower Road and Plantation Road.

The group has been providing activities for young people in the area for more than a century and previously owned the site where it is now looking to build a new facility, before the land was sold off for housing in the 1950s.

It is currently based at Mavis Road but has been looking to move to a new venue for several years to help meet demand from youngsters wanting to join.

Hednesford town and district councillor Mandy Dunnett said: “Scouting is a growing movement and the Hednesford branch having outgrown their Mavis Road premises need a new base where they can continue to offer activities, education and fun to our local children. New housing developments in and around Hednesford will bring more children into the area and with no youth clubs and very little provision for children, Scouting is hugely important to the community and can only become even more so in the future.

“I understand that they have been searching for a more suitable site for years with very few options available. Having seen the proposed site I feel that this would be an ideal position for the new building, it may be classed as ‘green space’ but I have never actually seen it in use and as it is just grass I can see no ecological reason to object it. It also offers direct access to Cannock Chase which is perfect for activities.

“I can see that the plans make every effort to ensure that their new home in Tower Road would fit in with the existing community and cause minimal disruption. It seems obvious that the Scouts intend to be good neighbours.”

The application for the new venue had been recommended for approval by planning officers but committee members refused permission on Wednesday (October 13) because of concerns about loss of green space.

More than 65 people submitted objections to Cannock Chase Council in response to the plans. They said the open space is needed for air ambulance landings during emergencies and the land and the area is home to wildlife including deer and lizards.

Objectors feel there are more suitable sites elsewhere that could be considered.

A nearby resident said: “It isn’t in any way, shape or form a Scout Hut – it is in fact a two-storey brick building.

“More than 60% of Brindley Road residents are over 50 and disabled. Our bedrooms are on the back of our bungalows and face Tower Road. Most of the residents, myself included, are in bed for 8.30 or 9pm, especially when I am feeling unwell which unfortunately is becoming more and more frequent.

“We are very lucky as we don’t have any kids hanging around our local streets. The thought of the older lads walking home at 9pm or 9.30pm, laughing and joking as kids do, let alone the horns beeping and problems with parents dropping off and collecting.

“We have also been made aware that they intend to hire out the venue for Space Scheme-type activities during the holidays. The daily noise would be awful.

“The venue has a kitchen included in the plans – does that mean they intend to hire the hall out for birthday parties? I couldn’t think of anything worse than taxi horns going off, drunk people walking home and no doubt the odd fight.”

Another objector said: “We are parents of children who have been and currently are Beavers, Cubs, Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Scouts; I myself have volunteered with a local Guiding group so we are personally aware and very experienced in recognising that the usage being stated does not comply with the numerous extra activities and occasions associated with a successful Scout group. For a building of this size private hire outside of meeting hours would be essential to meet ongoing costs.

“Private hire would be made available to private parties as well as community clubs, which would then involve later opening hours, traffic, noise, lighting and alcohol; all affecting residents bit more concerning, damaging the established wildlife. So much land has already been developed for The Fallows and Deer Rise estates that protecting any established green space and wildlife must be a priority.”

Another letter said: “There are currently already issues surrounding the lack of car parking spaces for residents. This plan would only add to the issue due to the amount of cars parking to use the Scout Hut.

“The area is populated mostly by elderly people who are usually in bed early, around 8pm. The noise and lights produced by the hut will keep residents awake, especially because meetings last up to 9pm and staff will leave later than this.

“The space is regularly used by residents and especially younger children who use the field for running around, football, playing in the snow and to exercise.”

In response to residents’ concerns 1st Hednesford Scouts said the proposed building would not be let for private hire.

“There is no bar in the plan, nor are we applying for a licence”, they added. “At the time of writing this letter the Scouts have the required funding to both build and maintain the building.

“We propose to build a single-storey building with a room in the rafters. It will be lower than the surrounding houses and less than two metres to the ridge height of the bungalows. We have designed a modern building – the old wooden Scout huts aren’t suitable for today’s use.

“The Scouts have a long history with this site – we used to own it. The land was compulsorily purchased in the 1950s for housing but not all of the area was built on.

“We’re asking to come back to this land, which is also close the Chase for our young people’s activities. The site is only 1km away from our current site on Mavis Road and is well-placed to serve Hednesford’s growing community.”

Words:  Kerry Ashdown, Local Democracy Reporter

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