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COUNCILLORS have given the green light to plans which will see Wickford Library demolished and replaced in the Willows shopping centre.
The Planning Committee was assured last night that the new facility would be ‘fully operational’ before the old one was bulldozed to make way for a five-storey block of flats.
The community centre will also be demolished, with its replacement at the Nevendon Recreation Ground due to open in the coming months.
Developer London and Cambridge Properties will replace the existing library and community centre with a block of 65 flats.
Conservative councillor Carole Morris raised concerns about the parking provision, as the developer will supply only 43 parking spaces, even though roughly half of the new flats will have two bedrooms.
The proposal will also wipe out roughly a third of the Willows shopping centre’s current parking spaces for shoppers.
Cllr Morris said the planning report had suggested that people would park outside nearby businesses, but she said that area was already usually filled up with cars and people even parked on the corners.
Cllr Morris also raised concern about plans to plant fruit and berry trees in the area.
A spokesman for London and Cambridge Properties had earlier told the meeting that the development would include ‘two new avenues of trees’ in Market Road and Market Avenue, as well as pollinating plants to attract bees and new bird and bat boxes.
But Cllr Morris said the planning report suggested the new trees would be ‘fruit and berry-producing’.
She said she was ‘unhappy’ about this, explaining: “I’m very concerns about fruit and berries all over the path and residents slipping on it.”
Fellow Conservative Tony Hedley said he ‘welcomed’ the proposal.
He told the meeting: “This is a real bonus for Wickford… This was a very tired site with a dilapidated library and a really dilapidated community centre… I just hope that we can bring forward similar schemes in other town centres.”
Council officers agreed to vary the planning conditions regarding the trees, after which the committee unanimously voted to approve the development.