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Agenda item

20/00636/OUT - Parcel 4967 Opposite Cherry Orchard Lane, Twyning

PROPOSAL: Outline application including access, with all other matters reserved for up to 36 (maximum) residential dwellings for over 55's.

 

OFFICER RECOMMENDATION:  Refuse.

Minutes:

40.18        This was an outline application, including access, with all other matters reserved for up to 36 (maximum) residential dwellings for over 55’s.

40.19        The Planning Officer advised that outline application for up to 50 dwellings on the site had been refused at the December 2019 Planning Committee for a number of reasons including its location, landscape impact, design and layout, impact on the road network and ecology as well as a number of technical reasons relating to the lack of a signed Section 106 Agreement. The current application was a resubmission of the previously refused scheme with a couple of notable differences; firstly, the number of units had been reduced to 36 and, secondly, the scheme was now proposed as an over 55’s development. The agent had advised that the open market units would be age restricted, although spouses or dependents who were not over 55 years old could still live in the properties – it was also noted that the proposed affordable housing would not be age restricted. It was evident that there was a need for accommodation for older people within the Borough and the Joint Core Strategy (JCS) set out that, in 2011, older people accounted for 13% of the population of the JCS area which could increase by 20% by 2031. However, other than a general need, nothing had been provided by the applicant to demonstrate that the proposal would meet a specific housing need in Twyning. Whilst the proposal was for specialist accommodation, it was still subject to the Council’s housing policies. As acknowledged in the Committee report, the Council could not currently demonstrate a five year supply of deliverable housing sites and therefore its policies for the supply of housing were out of date which meant the weight that could be afforded to the policies was reduced and the presumption in favour of granting permission was triggered as per paragraph 11 of the framework. There would be considerable benefits arising from the development, including the delivery of specialist housing for older members of the population, affordable housing delivery and economic benefits. However, there would also be harm to the landscape and the gap between Church End and Twyning and the scheme would not represent good design. Also, insufficient information had been provided to demonstrate that the proposed development would not have an adverse impact on Great Crested Newts which were a protected species. Officers were therefore of the view that the harms identified clearly and demonstrably outweighed the benefits and the application was recommended for refusal.

40.20        The Chair invited the representative from Twyning Parish Council to address the Committee. The representative advised that the Parish Council fundamentally objected to the planning application. He explained that the application site was agricultural land outside the Twyning Parish development boundary and was regularly used for rural activities. He also reminded Members that outline planning permission for 50 dwellings on the site had been refused by the Planning Committee less than 12 months ago. The only changes made in the current application to mitigate the strong reasons for refusal were a tailored reduction in the scale of the development and a re-focus on specialist housing for over 55s. He felt this was an attempt to circumnavigate policy and practical issues on this site. The proposal had not removed the locational flaws, the detrimental landscape impact, the incongruous design and layout or the inappropriate impact on the road network and local ecology and biodiversity. Importantly, the application sought to challenge the robustness of the ‘made’ Twyning Neighbourhood Development Plan and the Parish Council was delighted the Officer’s report concluded that the Twyning Neighbourhood Development Plan remained an integral part of the adopted development plans and decision-makers should continue to have full regard to it in determining planning applications. The Parish Council was of the view that any decision not to integrate the Twyning Neighbourhood Development Plan policies in determining the application would seriously undermine the integrity of that and the six other Neighbourhood Development Plans in the Borough. He advised that this was an outline speculative application which, even with the application of the ‘tilted balance’, failed to address the erosion of the open character of the countryside and would damage the distinct settlement patterns and sense of place in Twyning and Church End. Twyning Parish Council welcomed the recognition by Officers that the site was an integral part of the strategic gap between Twyning and Church End and any development would be contrary to policies ENV2 of the Twyning Neighbourhood Development Plan and LAN3 of the emerging Tewkesbury Borough Plan. The Parish Council fully supported the Urban Design Officer’s comments and did not consider this an appropriate location for further expansion of the village as it did not respond to the urban structure of the village or character of the surroundings, and it encroached into open countryside so it would not enhance local distinctiveness or address the urban structure and grain of the Twyning locality. The poor quality and inaccuracy of applications for the site indicated the continued disregard for local context with the generic and poorly argued case for sustainable development quickly shifting to propose over 55s housing without any evidence to support demand or any proposals for additional facilities for those residents. Twyning Parish Council completely agreed with the Planning Officer’s conclusion that the adverse impacts of the development significantly and demonstrably outweighed any benefits and endorsed the recommendation to refuse the application.

40.21        The Chair advised that the objector’s submission to the Committee would be read by the Development Management Team Leader (North). On 18 December last year, the Committee agreed with the recommendation of Officers to refuse application 19/00531 - the reasons for the refusal were sound and at least the first five objections on that application remained valid for this one. Central to the decision-making process was the perceived integrity of the Neighbourhood Plan, a plan four years in the making put together in partnership with the Borough Planners, endorsed by an independent Inspector, and fully approved and bought into by Tewkesbury Borough Council. The relevant policies in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the Joint Core Strategy, the emerging Local Plan and the Neighbourhood Plan remained extant and underlined the very good reasons why this application should be refused – those policies had been fully identified by Planning Officers and the previous speaker. It was recognised that the Neighbourhood Development Plan was over two years old and, as such, no longer benefited from the protection that would have been afforded by Paragraph 14 of the NPPF but attention was drawn to the concluding sentence in Paragraph 7.11 of the Officer’s submission. The Planning Committee’s decision last time was policy based and it was felt there was no substantial difference this time so it was hoped that the Committee would honour its undertaking to Twyning Parish in regards to the validity and integrity of the Neighbourhood Development Plan and the policies contained therein. To do anything different would set a damaging precedent, invalidate this and all other Neighbourhood Development Plans with development boundaries, and encourage a raft of further applications so the objector wholeheartedly agreed with the examination of the application by Officers and fully endorsed their recommendation to refuse.

40.22        The Chair invited one of the local Ward Councillor’s for the area to address the Committee. The Ward Councillor asked that the Committee refuse the application. He explained that just under 12 months ago it had refused an application for 50 houses on this site and, whilst this application was for a slightly reduced number, he felt it was dressed up in the guise of specialist accommodation for older people – although as the report made clear, it was not age that restricted all occupants of the dwellings nor would it apply to 40% of dwellings that would be affordable. It was a speculative development that tried to circumnavigate the reasons for the previous refusal but failed to overcome the main obstacles of harm to the environment and countryside. It was an isolated development, outside the residential development boundary, and not well linked to the main part of Twyning. Its position would expose the risk of coalescing Twyning with the hamlet of Church End which the Local Neighbourhood Plan was expressly against and, in terms of landscape impact, it would stand out like a ‘sore thumb’. In addition, for an elderly population there was hardly any public transport serving the area and care and medical facilities would be miles away. He felt the application was against JCS policy SD10 and policy GD1 of the Twyning Neighbourhood Development Plan which, despite the tilted balance, still carried significant weight and, when added to the harm caused by the proposal, made this an inappropriate development which he hoped the Committee would refuse.

40.23        In the absence of the applicant’s agent who had registered to speak, the Chair invited the Development Management Team Leader (North) to read the submission. The application would deliver 14 unrestricted affordable dwellings and 22 homes for over 55s, a specialist form of accommodation which the Council’s own evidence pointed towards there being a need for. There was clearly an identified need for specialist accommodation within the Borough, and indeed the Country, for which this type of housing would meet the needs of the local community. The accompanying supporting detailed assessments demonstrated that the impacts of the proposals were minimal and that: there were no significant impacts on the highway network; the landscaping provided for a soft transition to the surrounding area; and ecological and archaeological impacts were mitigated. Appropriate ecological reports accompanied the outline planning application, in line with Natural England’s guidance, and it was felt that the Council’s ecologist was unreasonable in their request to provide up to date Great Crested Newt surveys, as any appropriate mitigation could be suitably controlled through appropriate conditions, which was common practice. The technical reports confirmed that the submitted proposals constituted sustainable development in accordance with the NPPF and Local Planning Policy. In terms of housing land supply, the Council’s Officers acknowledged that it was not in a position to demonstrate a five-year housing land supply and accepted, as evidenced in recent appeal decisions, that the shortfall was substantial. Twyning Neighbourhood Development Plan allowed for housing in the open countryside if a future local plan identified a need for additional housing development and the draft Tewkesbury Borough Local Plan (submitted in May 2020) responded to an additional need for housing land supply. The applicant respectfully suggested therefore that the onus was on Tewkesbury Borough Council to approve applications for sustainable development in order to significantly boost the supply of its housing in locations such as Twyning.  In terms of the benefits of the application, the accompanying documents set out the significant social, environmental and economic benefits of the scheme summarised as: delivery of 36 high quality homes in an accessible location, including specialist accommodation for persons over 55 in age; 14 affordable dwellings and a part contribution towards off site affordable housing provision to be secured by a S106 agreement, promoting sustainable and balanced communities contributing towards the affordable housing and need; the generation of 111 jobs;  resident expenditure benefits generated by new housing development including increased spending power to Twyning estimated at £948,211; delivery of biodiversity and landscape gains; access to local services and public transport improvement contributions which would reduce the need to travel by car; and provision of recreational open space for use by the existing and future residents. The country as a whole had a significant housing shortfall, especially in affordable housing, and the main benefit of this application would be the delivery of much-needed affordable homes and specialist accommodation for the over 55’s in Twyning. The delivery of affordable housing carried substantial weight - Inspectors had confirmed that this was the weightiest factor in the overall planning balance. In conclusion, the Committee was asked for its support for the approval of the application for sustainable development in order to significantly boost the supply of housing in Twyning.

40.24        It was proposed and seconded that the application be refused in accordance with the Officer recommendation. Questions were asked about the weight that could be attributed to the Neighbourhood Development Plan, as it was more than two years old, and also the likelihood of success in defending a refusal on appeal. The Planning Officer explained that the Neighbourhood Development Plan would still have considerable weight as it was still part of the development plan and in terms of success on appeal he felt that there were strong reasons for refusal including landscape, poor design and the gap between Church End and Twyning. A Member commented how good it was to see that the emerging Borough Plan was gaining weight and reliance could be placed on the Strategic Gap Policy which Members and Officers had worked hard on.

40.25        Upon being put to the vote, it was

RESOLVED          That the application be REFUSED in accordance with the                                     Officer recommendation.

Supporting documents: