Saffron Walden concert hall plans are right on song

RESOLVING the issue of extra parking spaces was all that was required for planners to approve a new world-class concert hall for Saffron Walden.

Uttlesford District Council’s development control committee gave the green light for the County High School to construct a state-of-the-art auditorium able to pack in 850 people.

When finished the new facility will replace the school’s existing and out-dated 1950s hall and an extra 502 parking spaces will be put in to satisfy residents who initially voiced concerns.

Headteacher John Hartley was visibly pleased with the decision and said that the project would “benefit the entire community and bring in arts and music from around the world”.

He said: “We responded to resident’s comments and amended the application so that more parking will be available, but not next to houses in Copperfields. We met with residents and they are now happy, the town council supports us and I believe that this project will bring enormous benefit for people in the town.”

This was the second time that the plans had been put before UDC. Last time out they were rejected because 415 parking spaces were judged not to be enough.

As well as the increase in spaces, improvements to areas for easier vehicle movements have also now been proposed.

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Cllr Doug Perry said: “All the problems have been addressed and I for one support this project. My only concern is that it could be open seven days a week up to 11.30pm, but that is unlikely to be the case.”

Other members of the committee were less sure. Flagging up the late opening times and distress it could cause residents, Cllr Christina Cant said: “With a 11.30pm finishing time it could be 12.30am before the final cars are leaving. The volume of traffic means that it will take a long time to get out.

“Residents could be disturbed – I think 11.30pm is too late for a residential area.” Despite her reservations Cllr Cant voted in favour and the committee unanimously agreed the application.

The new hall will be multi-purpose with options to change acoustic settings to alternate between concerts and plays.

It will also serve as a base for other school activities and provide much needed teaching and social space for the sixth from which Mr Hartley described as “heavily oversubscribed”.

Start dates and project costs have yet to be revealed.

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