Decision-makers have granted planning permission for 71 new homes near Hitchin – almost seven years after developers made their application.

The new homes project at the former Bowman flour mill, in Ickleford, stalled because an agreement could not be reached on viability and affordable housing issues, followed by the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020, according to North Herts Council documents.

Developers proposed the application in 2017, which was approved in a decision dated March 2024.

As part of the planning permission, 40 per cent of the 71 homes – 28 in total – must be “affordable”.

A “Mill Quarter” area is proposed close to the River Oughton. The three to four-storey building is set to become a “local landmark, reducing the need for residential gardens in this area, increasing density and providing a more extensive range of dwelling types”.

Properties that are part of the “Riverside Frontage” would feature two or three storeys with parking to the rear.

A “Village Quarter” would feature a “more traditional layout of two-storey dwellings or cottages with small front gardens”, with larger family homes overlooking nearby green spaces.

Weighing up the application, council planning staff said in their report: “The application stalled because agreement could not be reached on viability and affordable housing issues and more recently also because the applicant wanted to concentrate on its core business during Covid-19.”

They added: “Overall, based on the illustrative masterplan layout, it is possible for the site to deliver 71 high-quality homes on previously developed land outside of the green belt and within the village settlement boundary that responds to local character.”

Developers have secured outline planning permission, which means the principle of development has been green-lit.

More detailed plans could emerge later in the planning process, at the “reserved matters” stage.