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Agenda item

20/00140/OUT - Land off A38, Coombe Hill, Gloucester

PROPOSAL: Outline application for up to 150 dwellings, associated infrastructure, ancillary facilities, open space and landscaping. Construction of a new vehicular and pedestrian access from the A38 and pedestrian access to the A4019.





40.14        This was an outline application for up to 150 dwellings, associated infrastructure, ancillary facilities, open space and landscaping. Construction of a new vehicular and pedestrian access from the A38 and pedestrian access from the A38 and pedestrian access to the A4019.

40.15        The Development Manager reminded Members that outline planning permission had been granted for up to 40 dwellings on this site at the Planning Committee in June 2019. That application remained undetermined as the S106 Agreement had not been concluded. This was an alternative scheme which was now the subject of a non-determination appeal upon which the Council needed to advise the Planning Inspectorate of its views in order to inform the Council’s approach to the appeal. The current proposal saw a significant increase in numbers but the site was the subject of a draft allocation in the emerging Borough Plan with an indicative capacity of 50 dwellings. On that basis, and on the basis that Members had previously resolved to grant permission for housing on this site, the principle of housing led development remained acceptable. The benefits of the provision of 150 dwellings, 40% of which would be affordable, would be substantial and should not be underestimated. There would also be economic benefits arising from the scheme both during and post-construction with contributions made to the local economy. On the other hand the application had a number of shortcomings; firstly there was an unresolved objection from Natural England in respect of the potential ecological impacts of the proposal particularly on the Severn Estuary Special Protection Area which had functional links to the Coombe Hill Canal SSSI and Coombe Hill nature reserve which were close to the application site. Whilst mitigation was proposed, the mitigation resulted from discussions relating to the numbers set out in the allocation, rather than the 150 dwellings now proposed. Although the Council could not currently demonstrate a five year land supply of deliverable housing sites, Special Protection Areas and SSSIs were among those habitat sites referred to in footnote 6 of the NPPF which meant that, given the potential impacts on these sites provided a clear reason for refusing the development proposed, the tilted balance was not engaged in this case. There were also serious concerns with the quantum of development proposed; the draft local plan was arrived at following a robust assessment of the site having regard not only to its sustainable location with good public transport links to Cheltenham, Tewkesbury and Gloucester but also to the rural nature and scale of the existing settlement. Notwithstanding the conflict with the emerging policy, which must of course be afforded reduced weight, Officers were far from convinced that the site could accommodate 150 dwellings in an environmentally satisfactory manner.  The emerging policy sought a landscape led approach to the development of the site which was not apparent in these proposals. The numbers proposed in this application meant there would be less scope to provide appropriate levels of landscaping to help assimilate the development into the wider landscape and the indicative material submitted with the application showed a scheme that would result in a highly urbanised form of development which would be alien to the otherwise spacious and organic character of Coombe Hill.  It was the Development Manager’s view that the proposal would not deliver the high-quality design aspired to in government guidance and local planning policies. In respect of drainage and flood risk there were also outstanding concerns regarding the modelling that had been carried out and the way that surface water run-off would be attenuated which may result in the potential increased risk of flooding to the A4019 and to the adjacent property, The Bellows. Given these shortcomings it had not been adequately demonstrated that the development proposed would not increase the risk of flooding to the site and elsewhere contrary to national and local planning policies. There were also technical objections to the proposal due to the lack of planning obligations relating to affordable housing, community and education facilities including library, waste and recycling facilities as well as open space and outdoor recreation and sports facilities. It was possible that these matters could be agreed in advance of the public inquiry although in the appeal submissions, the Appellant had indicated non agreement to the requested education and library contributions whilst Officers considered that these contributions were justified and no viability evidence had been put forward by the Appellant. There were no objections from Highways England or County Highways on highway grounds. Similarly, there would be an acceptable impact on heritage grounds and any impacts on the amenity of existing and future residents could be adequately controlled by way of planning conditions or at reserved matters stage. Overall, whilst there would be substantial benefits arising from the development, for the reasons set out in the report those benefits were outweighed by the identified harms and consequent conflicts with the Development Plan. As highlighted earlier and in the Officer report, the tilted balance was not in play but even if this were the case the conflicts with the Development Plan arising from the proposal would represent significant and demonstrable harms which outweighed the benefits when reading the NPPF as a whole. In conclusion it was the Officer recommendation that the Planning Inspectorate be advised that the Council would have refused the application for the reasons set out in the report.

40.16        The Chair invited the objector to address the Planning Committee who reminded Members that he had come before them in June 2019 when a proposal for forty houses had been considered. At that time he had held up a plan showing the full intent of the developer which was not for forty houses but for development of the whole site. He was therefore dismayed and frustrated that some 18 months later a proposal was now being considered for 150 houses. He indicated that from his perspective he would respectfully suggest that the Committee had been at best mis-lead and completely played by the developer and developer’s full intentions for the field adjoining his property and land. There had been a total lack of regard and empathy shown by the developer to the residents and community of Coombe Hill as a whole. He indicated that the same issues that he had raised back in June 2019 had not been resolved or addressed and drew attention to his previous objections that had been submitted on the planning portal at the end of March this year. He proposed to concentrate on two main issues the first of which related to the increased risk of surface water flooding from the proposed development to his property. Replacing an open agricultural field with brick and tarmac would greatly increase the existing risk of flooding to his property which already had a history of flooding. He noted the existing deficiencies in the drainage network in particular the culvert across the A4019 outside of his property and the fact that everything on the Tewkesbury side of the A38 runs off and collects at this point. The culvert was not man enough to manage the upstream flows which put his property at risk of surface water flooding every time there was heavy or a prolonged period of rainfall. He was pleased to see that this point had finally been acknowledged by the Highways Authority and maintained that allowing this development to go ahead would only exacerbate the real issue of flooding to his property that already existed. He highlighted recent guidance issued by the RDFC’s which urged local planning committees to be mindful at the planning stage when considering new developments which would create or increase surface water flooding issues. The guidance stated that the Committee had a duty of care and, if there was a perceived risk of flooding to the existing landscape, the proposed development should be refused. In fact, it was made clear that advice on the vital importance of achieving sustainable drainage in all new development should be prominent, clear and unequivocal. Local Planning Authorities should ensure that appropriate professional expertise was brought to bear in decision-making on all applications where there were surface water drainage implications; the submission of drainage plans being ensured at an early stage in the planning approval process with the whole development being carried out in accordance with the approved plans. The objector’s second point related to the loss of amenity, intrusion of privacy and loss of value to his property should the development go ahead. As his land ran along the boundary for the majority of the development he would suffer increased noise, air pollution from proposed sewage treatment works and general disturbance to his mental health and personal wellbeing all of which had been completely overlooked by the developer; he had been treated with utter contempt by the developer. Finally, he drew attention to the submission from the Parish Council which eloquently addressed the issues and summed up the general feeling of the local community. After the last meeting in June 2019, the developer had suggested that the failings lay with Tewkesbury Borough Council as it had not met the quota for regional housing numbers in the area. He maintained that this should not be a justification for the application to be approved and certainly Coombe Hill as an area should not suffer the consequence of this should this be the case. A development of this size and magnitude had no place in the rural setting of Coombe Hill and he urged the Committee to vehemently refuse the proposal.

40.17        A Member noted that photographs of the site made it look level, but it was not and on a Member’s question it was confirmed that the non-determination appeal was in respect of this application and not the up to 40 dwellings application. It was moved and seconded that the Officer recommendation of ‘minded to refuse’ be supported. Upon being put to the vote, it was

RESOLVED          That the Planning Inspectorate be advised that the Committee                                     is MINDED TO REFUSE the application.

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