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Agenda item

20/00464/FUL - Part Parcel 3152, Tewkesbury Road, Deerhurst

PROPOSAL: Hybrid planning application seeking; 1. Full planning permission for the erection of a B2 unit (general industrial) with associated landscaping, access and parking. 2. Outline planning permission (all matters reserved except access) for a mix of B1, B2 and B8 use classes (employment).

 

OFFICER RECOMMENDATION: Delegated Permit.

Minutes:

72.7          This was a hybrid planning application which sought: 1. Full planning permission for the erection of a B2 unit (general industrial) with associated landscaping, access and parking. 2. Outline planning permission (all matters reserved except access) for a mix of B1, B2 and B8 use classes (employment). 

72.8          The Planning Officer advised that the application site comprised of a parcel of land which was currently classified as agricultural. The site was roughly rectangular in shape and bound to the west, south and east by hedgerows and interspersed trees and wooden fencing. Cursey Lane was located to the south of the site, beyond which were a pair of semi-detached residential properties and a business enterprise known as Charles Russell Transport. To the north of the site was Highfield Business Park. The application site was proposed to be allocated as a Rural Business Centre in the Emerging Local Plan. The application was submitted as a hybrid application and sought full permission for the erection of a B2 unit (general industrial) with associated landscaping, access, and parking and outline permission with all matters reserved, besides access, for a mix of B1, B2 and B8 use classes (employment). The full application comprised a B2 unit, with ancillary office space. The main B2 building itself would have a total footprint of 1,882 square metres and a ridge height of approximately 11.8 metres. In addition to the B2 building, a new access was proposed off Cursey Lane. It was proposed that a new pedestrian and cycle lane would be included within the site that joined the existing path along the A38. The new building was intended for the end user,  to replace their existing factory premises in Cheltenham. The outline application sought permission on the remaining 1.15 hectares of land for a mixed-use development comprising of Class B1, B2 and B8 employment uses. The application sought to determine access as part of the outline element of the application; however, appearance, landscaping, layout and scale were reserved for future consideration. Further to the Officer’s recommendation, and Committee report, a revised Landscaping Strategy Plan had been submitted following comments from the Council’s landscape consultant. The consultant considered that the revised strategy now indicated sufficient planting for the proposed development subject to the final planting detail being provided by way of conditions. On the whole, Officers considered that the proposal would conflict with JCS Policy SD1 and saved Policy EMP3 in that the main B2 unit associated with the full application was larger than expected on a rural business centre. However, there were economic and job creation benefits arising from the proposal. It was also considered that the proposed development would have an acceptable impact on flood risk and drainage, contaminated land, ecology, archaeology and residential amenity subject to imposition of appropriate conditions. The site would allow for the expansion of existing businesses that had outgrown their current premises. As such it was considered that, on balance, the benefits and limited harm, which could be further mitigated by careful design and landscaping proposals, would outweigh the conflict with the development plan in respect of the scale of the B2 building. It was therefore recommended that permission be delegated to the Development Manager, subject to conditions and the preparation of a Legal Agreement to secure a financial contribution in connection with the monitoring of the travel plan.

72.9          Unfortunately the objector registered to speak was not present due to technical difficulties accessing the meeting. Upon confirming that this was the case, the Development Manager read the objector’s submission to the Committee. The objector had very strong objections to the application in particular his concerns related to the proposed access to the site off Cursey Lane which mirrored the same objections expressed by Elmstone Hardwicke and Deerhurst Parish Councils as well as residents and businesses in Cursey Lane. He was both surprised and annoyed that no mention whatsoever was made in the Officer report to the recent examination into the Tewkesbury Borough Plan which had looked closely at the access arrangements for the additional Highfield Business Park employment land allocation. He had observed the discussion throughout and it was clear that the Examination Inspector himself considered that the optimal access to the additional employment land should be via the traffic light controlled existing junction off the A38. Indeed, the Officer addressing the Inspector made this very point and said that this was the best access. It was only when the Senior Officer addressed the Inspector that reference was made to Cursey Lane and the objector had been shocked that the Senior Officer had failed to advise the Inspector of the level of objection from the two Parish Councils and others. He had felt obliged to raise the matter directly with the Inspector because there was complete disregard to the objections that had been raised. The old access off Cursey Lane was the subject of a closure procedure in lieu of the new traffic light controlled junction. There was, to this day, a Section 106 Agreement which required the Cursey Lane access to be closed permanently but there was no mention of this in the Officer’s report. Members would be well aware that Cursey Lane was not suitable for any more commercial traffic, especially when the existing traffic light controlled junction was more than adequate to serve the proposed additional employment land. To have standing HGV traffic on a fast moving stretch of the A38 made no sense whatsoever. He fully supported employment in the Borough and the key growth aspirations of the Council but in doing so it must be sure that all development did not add to issues on traffic corridors. He felt certain in saying that, had Member site visits been possible, then the access arrangements would have been a major factor in Member considerations. He repeated again that access to the site off Cursey Lane was totally unacceptable. Before Members made a final decision on this application, he would urge them firstly to ensure they had before them the previous Cursey Lane Section 106 closure agreement and secondly await the final decision of the Tewkesbury Borough Plan Inspector on the question of access – the Inspector advised Officers that he would be undertaking a site visit and in the interests of fairness he considered that the Committee should await the Inspector’s decision on this matter.

72.10        The Chair invited the applicant’s agent to speak in support of the application. He thanked Officers for a comprehensive and thorough planning report and the positive recommendation that reflected current planning policy and the fact that no objections had been raised by any of the key consultees in this case.  The application had been made as a hybrid submission so the detailed part of the scheme could progress immediately to enable his client, which was a specialist engineering firm, to move from its current premises in Cheltenham to this site, which would be a purpose-built facility and allow for the expansion of its workforce. The site formed an allocation in the Emerging Tewkesbury Borough Pre-Submission plan and there had been no objections to the expansion of the business park as the plan had progressed. It was noted that objections had been received to the application from Elmstone and Deerhurst Parish Councils suggesting that the access to the site should come from the existing estate to the north.  It should be noted that those elements had been carefully considered by the highways authority that raised no objections subject to conditions. They considered the access into the site to be suitable and raised no objection on highway safety grounds or impact on the highway network.  The applicant was in the process of agreeing a cost associated with the travel plan with the highways authority and would provide Officers with an update on this shortly. Concerns had been raised over the scale of the building that had been carefully considered in landscape terms to understand how it would impact on the wider area.  In this case, careful consideration had been given to this as part of the planning submission and the Council’s landscape consultant was content that the wider landscape implications could be mitigated through suitable planting. Overall, the proposals would enable the creation of a number of jobs and specifically an existing established business currently located in Cheltenham to relocate to Tewkesbury Borough securing the longevity of the company and providing further employment opportunities. 

72.11        A Member indicated that he often used Cursey Lane which was very narrow and unsuitable for heavy lorries. He and the Parish Councils of Deerhurst and Elmstone Hardwicke were supportive of using this land for employment purposes but wondered why the existing traffic light-controlled junction off the A38 was not being used. The representative from the County Highways Authority indicated that a planning condition was proposed which would restrict left turn movements out of the proposed access along Cursey Lane so there would not be any vehicles using the narrower sections of the Lane. In terms of access through the adjoining site obviously the plans that had been submitted showed access off Cursey Lane so an alternative access through a neighbouring site had not been considered. As the consultation response stated, the County Highways Authority was satisfied that the proposed access met the required standards and therefore there was not a road safety concern. The Development Manager referred to the statement by the objector which in particular referenced the previous legal agreement which required closure of the access onto Cursey Lane and advised Members that was many years ago now and there had been significant changes in material considerations from that time including a grain store and poultry unit down that Lane so improvements had been made and further improvements were planned to be made to the highways infrastructure particularly around that junction. He reiterated the point made by the representative of the County Highways Authority in relation to the restriction on left turns out of the site so vehicles could not go down Cursey Lane and access the other end at Elmstone Hardwicke so vehicles would be coming onto the junction onto the A38 which as the representative from the County Highways Authority had said had been assessed and found to be safe. He understood that there was a lot of history but it was necessary to look at the current application in relation to the current position and this was found to be acceptable in terms of planning policy. A Member indicated that the objector had raised some very serious concerns and clearly there was a dispute over how this site in the Borough Plan should be accessed. He understood from the representation that had been made that a decision on that would be made at some point by the Examination Inspector, which was quite significant in terms of the matter being raised at the Examination in Public, therefore he felt that the decision of the Inspector should be awaited before any decision was taken on the access. He understood that the application had to be dealt with but was of the view that this should be in the context of planning policy which in this instance was the Borough Plan that was currently awaiting a decision from the Inspector specifically in relation to this access. The Development Manager indicated that obviously the Inspector had heard objections in relation to this access that were similar to the objections to the planning application but the Council’s response would have been that the County Highways Authority has looked at this and considered it to be acceptable in planning policy terms. He maintained that there were many occasions where the Committee had not found it necessary to await the outcome of the Borough Plan Inspector’s deliberations, it was possible that there may be deliberations or decisions or recommendations made by the Inspector which would conflict with decisions that had already been made by the Council. The Development Manager did not think that it was necessary to await the outcome of the Inspector’s deliberations; the Council had allocated the site in its Plan for employment purposes and this had been sent to the Secretary of State and in this instance the specialist consultee, namely the County Highways Authority, was advising that the access was acceptable. Whilst it may perhaps be better to use the traffic light controlled junction that was in existence that was not what was in the application and therefore was not what the Committee was being asked to consider, the application put forward a different proposal which the Local Highways Authority advised was acceptable. Another Member indicated that he had followed the Examination in Public extensively and the Inspector had been very concerned about this access and this was one of the sites that he felt that he needed to visit in order to formulate in his own mind the reasoned justification for a non-traffic light system access using Cursey Lane. Based on this, and the fact that investigations were looking at the speed limit at the access point being increased to 70mph resulting potentially in HGVs turning in and crossing the path of vehicles travelling at that speed, it was proposed that the application be deferred to await the findings of the Borough Plan Inspector in respect of this access. The motion was seconded and further Members expressed their concerns about the safety of the access. Before the motion was put to the vote, the Development Manager  referred to the concerns about traffic turning right out of the Cursey Lane junction and asked Members to bear in mind the previous permissions which had been granted including the poultry farm and grain store, there was also a transport business on the other corner of Cursey Lane, there were other businesses using that access, two of which had been permitted relatively recently with the same transport layout and there were further improvements required to the junction as a result of those permissions. He asked Members to bear in mind consistency of decision-making and the view of the County Highways Authority that the access was acceptable. In terms of the concerns about the condition on left turns being effectively enforced he indicated that if it did not already it was possible to amend the condition to require that the access be designed to actually prevent vehicles turning left onto Cursey Lane from the site, there was a similar access at seven bends in relation to the poultry unit in that area which Members may be familiar with. Obviously, it was a matter of judgement for Members as to whether they felt it was necessary for the Inspector to give a view on his deliberations in this respect but, as far as he was aware, the Inspector was not a highways specialist whereas the specialist advice from the County Highways Authority was that the access was acceptable. He advised that it was a matter for Members as to whether they felt that permission could be granted at this stage taking account of the risk of an appeal for non-determination and costs given the specialist advice from the County Highways Authority.

72.12        Further discussion ensued during which a Member expressed concern about the size of the industrial unit and whilst she accepted that landscaping measures would be put in place, she did not feel that a unit of this size would be hidden. She also endorsed the comments in relation to access to site. It was queried whether any discussions had taken place with the applicant in relation to using the business park for access to the site, whether any of this land was in the ownership of the applicant and whether it was in the gift of the Committee to ask that an alternative access be considered. It was indicated that the business park was not in the ownership of the applicant and no discussions had taken place with the applicant on an alternative access although the applicant may be prepared to engage in such discussions to explore an alternative access after hearing the concerns of the Committee at today’s meeting. Reference was made to the Officer report and specifically paragraph 7.54, which indicated an expected 20 vehicle movements two-way during the peak hours according to the Transport Statement, and paragraph 7.56 where Highways England stated that there could be up to 50 two-way trips in each peak hour; and it was queried which figure had been used by the County Highways Authority in determining that the access was acceptable. The representative from the County Highways Authority indicated that the difference in the figures for trip generation was in relation to the outline element of the application which referred to a B1, B2 and B8 usage. As B1 usage was office accommodation which was a much higher generator of vehicle movement than B2 and B8 and, as the exact breakdown was unknown, the Highways England response was made on the worst case scenario which was that the outline element would be entirely a B1 use. There was an improvement scheme in that location which had received consent as part of other applications that had gone through technical approval so there was a high possibility that these would come forward before this site was actually operational. The representative from County Highways indicated that if it would give Members more confidence a negatively worded condition could be placed on this application which would mean that the premises could not be occupied until the improvement scheme was in place. In terms of the assessment as to the acceptability of this access whether it was 20 trips or up to 50 trips one vehicle per minute through this A38 junction would not result in a capacity concern or a highway safety concern when the proposed improvement in that location was taken into account. In response a Member asked whether the analysis of vehicle movements for B Class employment usage was under the new B Class usage or the old B Class usage as this would have a major impact on traffic movement. He reminded the Committee that Members had been promised a seminar with regard to the change in legislation and whilst he understood that times were difficult he would of thought that something could have been scheduled by now. Having said that he reiterated his motion which had been seconded that the application was premature in view of the fact that, during the Examination in Public of the Borough Plan, the Inspector had taken a particular interest in this application site and its access and on that basis any determination should await the deliberations of the Inspector. He stressed that he was not against the development he just had concerns about the access and although he understood the view of the Highways Authority he did not agree with it and felt that in view of the Inspector’s specific distinct interest that the application was premature at this time. It was questioned whether, when reserved matters were received based on the actual B class usage and it was then shown that there would be greater traffic movement, would it be proposed that a traffic light controlled junction be placed at this access onto the A38. The representative from the County Highways Authority stated that there were no plans to signalise this junction and he did not think it would be proportionate to require this development to put signals in this location, based on the evidence available it was considered that there would be no harm caused to this junction as a result of the development. The Development Manager indicated that in respect of the changes to the Use Classes Order, he was in discussion with the Head of Development Services to work out a suitable date and programme for a seminar on this subject which was likely to take place in the next couple of months but condition 43 did restrict the use classes for the reason of maintaining a supply of employment land but Members could add to that reason to include highway safety if there was a concern that different uses may create additional traffic.

72.13        Before the motion was put to the vote, the Legal Adviser sought clarification on the deferral in that, if the applicants were minded to amend the access point prior to the Inspector reporting on his deliberations in respect of the access to the site, the Committee would be prepared to reconsider the application. Members confirmed this to be the case and, upon being put to the vote, it was

                 RESOLVED           That, in view of the Inspector’s specific interest in the access to                           this site when conducting the Borough Plan Examination In                              Public, the application be DEFERRED pending his findings in                              respect of the access subject to paragraph 72.13 above.

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