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Mixed reaction to plan for comedy and live music venue at old Barclays bank in Sawbridgeworth

A group of residents packed Sawbridgeworth Town Council’s chamber on Monday to air their objections to a plan for a comedy club at the town’s former Barclays Bank.

A planning application has been submitted to East Herts Council to convert the building at 28 Knight Street to an “evening entertainment venue in the form of stand-up comedy and some live music”.

The applicant says it would be “complemented” by the sale of alcohol and earlier in the evening hot food may be served.

Police called to the building in 2021 found a cannabis factory inside
Police called to the building in 2021 found a cannabis factory inside

News of the plan was posted on Sawbridgeworth’s Facebook group by Cllr Angus Parsad-Wyatt, a member of Sawbridgeworth Town Council and East Herts Council. It attracted 141 comments, with the response largely positive.

One woman wished the applicant good luck, saying “someone was thinking outside the box, for a change”. Another said the plan was the “greatest news”, claiming laughter was “the best medicine”, while a fellow poster called the plan a “fabulous idea”.

But residents who attended the town council’s planning committee meeting on Monday raised numerous concerns, including over parking and noise, and they criticised the lack of detail in the application.

One resident aired detailed objections, including noise pollution and the applicant’s failure to deal with issues over waste management.

Another highlighted the fact that the car park at the venue backs on to a retirement complex which already suffered disruption from the Queen’s Head pub.

Parking was described by one as “an absolute nightmare” and another resident said the plan would be “detrimental” in a relatively quiet area of the town.

After allowing members of the public to air their views, councillors on the committee gave their reaction to the plan.

Cllr John Rider stressed the venue would be “opposite” Fawbert and Barnard Infants School, adding he was “totally against it”.

Cllr Angus Parsad-Wyatt said: “My initial reaction was this seems a very good idea, but we are lacking detail.”

In a statement sent to the Indie afterwards, planning committee chair Nathan Parsad-Wyatt said: “We strongly welcome plans to invest in this empty building and bring it back into use. However, the current application is flawed in several areas.

“Our main concerns include the lack of a parking assessment, no assessment of potential noise pollution, road safety risks, inadequate measures to address potential anti-social behaviour, unclear strategies for deliveries and waste management, and a lack of details regarding hours of operation and capacity limits.

“Most notably, the absence of a comprehensive impact assessment and community consultation is a major oversight.

“Given these shortcomings and the fact that there are strong reservations from nearby neighbours, we recommend the applicant withdraw this proposal, engage in detailed consultation with residents and revise the plan to address these critical issues more effectively.

“We would like to thank all those residents who came and spoke at the town council’s planning committee meeting and gave their views on the potential impacts of this application on neighbours”.

The bank was closed by Barclays in October 2018. Although put out to let, the building has remained vacant ever since.

In August 2021 a man was charged with production of a controlled drug after police discovered a cannabis factory there.

If the application is not withdrawn, East Herts Council will decide whether to approve or reject it.

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