#Local Government
Lichfield City & District Councils
United Kingdom

Having been persuaded to withdraw its previous planning application for Darwin Hall, following the residents’ petition to save Cathedral Walk, Lichfield City Council has begun preparing ‘a revised scheme’ to build the hall, albeit somewhat smaller, on the same unsuitable ½ acre site.

Cathedral Walk - is a 1Km long tree-lined avenue running from Sante Foy Avenue (soon to be Lichfield's southern bypass), through the heart of the new Darwin Park estate, emerging at Friary Gardens. Through its entire length ’Cathedral Walk’ offers stunning views of Lichfield’s greatest building, its 3-spired cathedral. The Western Recreation Zone is the open meadow land (to either side and in front of Waitrose) and is defined by Lichfield District Council as being ‘south of Walsall Road and east of the proposed Lichfield Southern Bypass’.

Placing Darwin Hall at the location proposed by the Council will, as the following images show, obliterate the stunning views along ‘Cathedral Walk’, destroy this new ‘gateway to the city’ and impact the potential for the Western Recreation Zone to deliver additional amenities.

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The City Council claims its ‘revised scheme’ addresses many of the concerns expressed about the previous planning application for Darwin Hall, yet:

1. the demand* from residents for almost £1 million of their money (see Note 1 below) to be spent on the community hall (Darwin Hall) is far from proven. (*: According to Lichfield District Council’s spring 2007 survey of residents’ views on how ‘their section 106 money’ might be spent, a community hall ranked 4th-equal (14% of the vote).

2. the overall size of the Hall (430 sqm) is still much too large to be ‘just a community hall’, the Boley Park Community Hall (250 sqm) is a little over half its size. Also, one the rooms in the proposed hall (there are 4 in total) measures 186sqm, this is 80 sqm larger than the Garrick Suite at the George Hotel – which can seat 100 people for a banquet!

3. a Boley Park-size community hall (250sqm) would be significantly less costly to construct. The saving in construction cost could be directed to the outright purchase of an alternative site and / or the provision of additional amenities for which there is a greater demand* from residents. (*: According to Lichfield District Council’s spring 2007 Darwin Park: Shape the Future consultation, ‘Casual Play / Kick about space’ ranked 1st, ‘Junior & youth playing pitches’ ranked 2nd and ‘Equipped play space’ ranked 3rd.)

4. the location of the hall within the proposed site is CLOSER to some residential properties than it was in the previous planning application. Also, whilst some residents purchased their property aware of the proposed site for the Hall, they could not have known of its proposed scale, the inadequacy of the onsite parking or that the principal access would be via Heathcote Place (a narrow residential cul de sac) rather than the more obvious and appropriate Waitrose supermarket service road.)

Tony Thompson, Leader of Lichfield City Council is quoted as saying, “residents need to consider if the hall doesn’t go on the allocated site … the land can only be used as a community hall or it goes back to the developer and the developer might have ideas other than trees and sheep for it.” This is scaremongering; Lichfield District Council Local Plan Policy L36 states: “In the Western Recreation Zone (the Council’s proposed location for Darwin Hall), development other than for recreational purposes will not normally be permitted … the land shall remain open in the long term and shall not be used for built development other than that associated with outdoor recreation or agriculture.” In essence, if there’s no hall then there’s nothing at all.

Note 1: As a condition of the Section 106 Agreement, between Lichfield’s Councils and the developers of the Darwin Park / Chesterfield Road estates, £2,000 of the purchase price of each of the 1,100 homes is to be directed toward the provision of local amenities.

Lichfield City Council now proposes to spend about half of this money, almost £1 million on the community hall.

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To: Lichfield City & District Councils

Re.: Location of Darwin Hall – Council Proposals

We, the undersigned, object to the Council proposals for the location of Darwin Hall. Our grounds for objecting to the proposed location include but are not limited to those outlined above.

We call upon the Council to resolve:

- that plans for the location of the Darwin Hall at the proposed site be abandoned.

- that officers be instructed to procure an alternative site and / or provide additional amenities for which (according to Lichfield District Council’s spring 2007 surveys) there is a greater demand from residents.

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The Say NO To Lichfield Councils' Proposed Location For Darwin Hall petition to Lichfield City & District Councils was written by Steve Wilcox and is in the category Local Government at GoPetition.