A long-running saga about the possible loss of four parking spaces in Stevenage Old Town has come to an end after Stevenage Borough Council's planning committee made their decision.

Cinnabar submitted plans to remove nearby parking bays and expand the footpath in July 2023, in the hope they could later erect an outdoor seating area.

It came after they had withdrawn similar plans in 2022.

A decision on the latest proposals had been twice deferred by the planning committee, but in a meeting on Thursday, December 8, they finally agreed to approve the proposals after Cinnabar amended their plans.

There will be a net loss of three parking spaces on Bell Lane, to the side of Cinnabar. Four parking spaces will be removed, but the dropped kerb behind the proposed seating area will be removed to create a new parking space.

The planning committee initially deferred their decision in October to allow the council to assess the implications of the newly passed Levelling-Up and Regeneration Act 2023, while the second deferral, in December, came after councillors raised concerns about plans to make a small extension to the footpath at the front of the building.

The area in front of the footpath is not a designated parking spot, but is often used for that purpose, and so the extension would have resulted in a de facto loss of parking space. No changes will now be made to the area at the front of the building.

The plans met with a mixed reaction from residents, with Stevenage Borough Council (SBC) receiving 73 letters objecting to the proposals, and 53 letters in support. Many raised concerns that the changes will have an adverse impact on nearby businesses.


One of the objections came from the Stevenage Old Town Business & Community Partnership. Their statement said that their members were "very concerned" by the proposal, and expressed worries about both the loss of parking, and the precedent that could be set for changing the space from public to commercial use.

But Hertfordshire County Council Highways raised no objection to the principle of the application, and SBC's planning officer recommended that planning permission be granted. They judged that "there is a good level of alternative parking in close proximity of the site".

Stevenage Borough Council's engineering department raised no objections, and said in a statement: "We have supported the applicant for the last two summer seasons by supplying temporary water filled barriers on Bell Lane to provide for tables and chairs to be put out.

"The loss of parking during these periods has not, as far as we are aware, caused problems in the area and we remain supportive of the principle of permanently extending the footway width in this area."

Speaking at the crucial planning meeting, Russell Linard from Cinnabar said that he thought the hospitality sector "plays a very important role ... to enhance the vibrancy and vitality" of the High Street, benefitting other nearby businesses.

He added that, in his opinion, this was a "splendid opportunity to create a well-liked service that generates increased local activity and improves the overall experience of the high street".

However, councillors still had some reservations about the plans. Cllr Graham Lawrence told the planning meeting that he was still "very uncomfortable" and "unhappy" with handing county council land to an independent business, but accepted that the amendments had dealt with the reasons for the December deferral.

Cllr Forhad Chowdhury, meanwhile, referred to a long-time user of the Old Town who is disabled and had told him about their concerns that the changes would make it more difficult to shop there.

The council's planning officer confirmed that as none of the parking bays to be removed are disabled bays, there is no requirement to provide any additional disabled bays elsewhere.

Responding to Cllr Chowdhury and Cllr Graham Snell, who had asked whether the forthcoming county council plan for the High Street would override any of these changes, SBC's development manager said that the county council are "fully aware" of Cinnabar's proposals.

He told the councillors that he had asked the county council to consider the amount of disabled parking in the Old Town, and his understanding is that they are "looking to put in more definitive disabled bays along the High Street".

The council's assistant director of planning confirmed, in response to a question from Cllr Chris Howells, that Cinnabar will not be charged any ongoing fee for the use of the land.

Cinnabar will now have to separately apply for a pavement licence, permitting outdoor seating and the required change of use of the land.