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Councillors 'fly in the face' of officers to approve demolition of the historic Chatteris Quaker Meeting House

An historic building in a Fenland town is set for demolition to make way for two homes despite strong opposition from various heritage organisations.

Now Chatteris Past, Present & Future have promised to challenge the decision made on Wednesday by Fenland's planning committee if councillors fail to give a good enough explanation as to why they went against officer's advice.

Mr D Brooks has applied to demolish the Quaker Meeting House at the rear of 76 High Street and build up to two three-bedroom houses. The building already has permission to be converted into a home.

The Quaker Meeting House in Chatteris is set tobe demolished to make room for two houses. (28063217)
The Quaker Meeting House in Chatteris is set tobe demolished to make room for two houses. (28063217)

An officer's report recommended refusal and said: "The application fails to adequately assess the significance of the heritage asset or understand the impact of the development on the asset and the adjacent historic environment. Furthermore, the application fails to demonstrate that it has explored all optimum viable uses for the asset.

"As such, the application would result in the unjustified loss of a non-designated heritage asset which would consequently harm the character and appearance of the conservation area and the setting of the grade II listed building, number74 High Street contrary to planning policies.

However, the town council backed the application and there were also 10 letters of support with those in favour arguing it would make use of a'"dead space" and bring much needed new homes.

In a statement issued after the meeting the Chatteris group said: "Despite strong opposition from our society, The Georgian Group, the Cambridgeshire Historic Environment team, Fenland's own Conservation Officers, and the recommendation of the planning officer, Fenland's planning committee approved plans to demolish the 1757 Quaker Meeting House in Ash Grove.

"As a society, we're deeply disappointed with this decision. We had hoped that the building would be listed by Historic England sometime this year.

"Councillors described the building as "ugly", seemingly unaware of the typical architecture of Quaker Meeting Houses and the important part this building plays in the story of our town.

"We're also very concerned that councillors approved the application, in part, due to the fact that the building is "derelict". This flies in the face of the National Planning Policy Framework which councillors are required to follow when making planning decisions.

"The NPPF clearly states:'Where there is evidence of deliberate neglect of, or damage to, a heritage asset, the deteriorated state of the heritage asset should not be taken into account in any decision'.

"Councillors are required to give specific reasons why they felt the need to overturn the planning officer's recommendation and why they decided to give different weighting to the NPPF guidance than the officer.

"We are yet to see the final written decision notice, but we will be pressing the council to provide answers if we believe that sufficient reasoning was not provided and will raise the matter with the Local Government Ombudsman if necessary.

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