New homes could still replace a community hub after a planning blunder forced Dacorum’s politicians to retract an earlier decision to reject the development.
Tring’s New Mill Social Centre – which was a meeting place for clubs and societies – was closed last year.
Owner Tring Team Parish says the building was under-used, beginning to deteriorate and had reached the end of its useful life.
Church leaders want to build four three-bedroom and two two-bedroom houses in its place – one of which would be home to a full-time chaplain for Tring School.
But Dacorum Borough Council’s development control committee voted last month to refuse planning permission for the proposal.
A key reason for the refusal was that policy 68 of the authority’s planning regulations states that community facilities should be provided elsewhere when replaced by a new development.
But a meeting of Tring Town Council heard that the policy has since been superseded by a new policy, called Core Strategy 23.
Part of it says: “Existing social infrastructure will be protected unless appropriate alternative provision is made, or satisfactory evidence is provided to prove the facility is no longer viable.”
The meeting heard that because of the error – pointed out by borough council planning officers – the refusal has now been annulled.
The development control committee will have to reconsider whether or not to grant planning permission for the development at a meeting next Thursday.
Town councillor John Allen said yesterday that it is viable for New Mill Social Centre to be used by community groups, as grants could pay for the building’s improvement.
He said a lottery grant of more than £200,000 helped Tring’s once-empty Temperance Hall become the community facility and teenage after-school club that it is now.
He said the plans for New Mill should still be rejected, even under the new policy. He said: “The church is determined to drive it through willy nilly, against everybody’s will.”
Dacorum Borough Council later reiterated that some of its previous planning policies had been ‘updated or replaced’ in its recently-adopted core strategy for development until 2031.
Manager for development and planning Alex Chrusciak said there was a ‘small error’ in a report to councillors to help them make their decision last month. The corrected report has now been given to them, and they will now have to decide on New Mill all over again.