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Agenda item

20/00608/FUL – Land North of Perrybrook, Shurdington Road, Brockworth

PROPOSAL: The erection of 47 dwellings and associated vehicular access, public open space, landscaping and other associated infrastructure.

 

OFFICER RECOMMENDATION: Delegated Permit.

Minutes:

7.2             This application was for the erection of 47 dwellings and associated vehicular access, public open space, landscaping and other associated infrastructure.  The application had been deferred at the Planning Committee meeting on 16 February 2021 for an independent view on the highway issues.

7.3             The Planning Officer advised that, since the Planning Committee meeting in February, the Transportation Consultancy had been appointed by the Council to undertake a review of the traffic and transportation submission document; this review had subsequently been carried out with the highway and transport review report being published at the end of May.  Based on the conclusions of the review, Officers maintained the view that the development would not result in an unacceptable impact on highway safety or have a severe impact on congestion, therefore, there were no justifiable grounds on which an objection could be maintained.  Given that the review did not raise any matters which altered the initial Officer assessment on the impact of the development in terms of highway safety, the assessment of the material considerations of the proposed development remained the same, as set out in the Conclusions and Recommendations section of the original Committee report – when taking account of all the material considerations and the weight to be attributed to each one, the identified harm would not significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits in the overall planning balance, therefore, it was considered that the proposed development would constitute sustainable development in the context of the National Planning Policy Framework as a whole. 

7.4             The independent consultant explained that The Transportation Consultancy had been appointed by the Council to carry out an independent transport and highway review of the proposal and the assessment had been carried out by a specialist infrastructure planning consultancy.  This had been done with specific regard to the National Planning Policy Framework and the review had concluded that the impact of the development would not be severe and was in line with, and supportive of, the National Planning Policy Framework.  It should be noted that the application was recommended for approval by both Gloucestershire County Council and Highways England.  The review had made two recommendations: a footway connection linking the site with the Mill Lane junction – the consultants had since advised that, in response to the review, the applicant had confirmed that delivery of the footway would be acceptable if planning permission was granted; and, further modelling of the proposed site access junction which the consultants had indicated could be addressed at the Section 278 stage.  Given that the assessment had confirmed there were no existing highway safety issues and the proposals, including the footway, would improve pedestrian connectivity, it was concluded that there were no highway or transport grounds for refusal.

7.5             The Chair invited the representative from Brockworth Parish Council to address the Committee.  The Parish Council representative explained that Brockworth Parish Council worked hard to ensure that Brockworth was a safe and sustainable community and a pleasant place to live and its objection to the development was fully supported by residents who had written numerous objections with 300 people signing a petition in support of its stance.  The application was outside of the agreed Perrybrook masterplan and was proposed to be built on land previously allocated for strategic green infrastructure.  The Secretary of State had granted approval for 1,500 houses in Perrybrook, not 1,547.  The current level of green infrastructure allocation was deemed necessary to mitigate the harm caused by the development, to provide wildlife corridors and improve the amenity of local residents; that situation had not changed and the requirement was still absolutely necessary and should be protected.  Development on this site would result in the loss of the last piece of green space on that side of Brockworth which had not been swamped by the Perrybrook development, restricting access to the countryside for existing and new residents which was essential for health and wellbeing.  The site was totally unsuitable as a healthy location for new housing development with pollution from the A46 and A417 dual carriageway and slip road, and queuing traffic at the roundabout likely to cause significant noise nuisance and harm through poor air quality to any residents living on the proposed development.  Connectivity from the site to neighbouring developments and facilities was poor, without cohesive design, layout and access, therefore harming the ability of new residents to integrate into the community.  Despite the conclusions of the independent highways and transportation review, the proposed location and design of the access into the development on the approaches to the slip road from the A46 to the A417, and in the vicinity of the bus stop, was extremely dangerous and that would be recognised by anyone who had visited the site.  Brockworth Parish Council did not feel the recommended mitigation would overcome the fundamental dangers caused by the location of the site access and increase in traffic and congestion.  The proposed development offered nothing to the community to overcome the additional pressures that would be caused by the increased population which would exacerbate existing infrastructure issues in the area including pressure on local schools, doctor surgeries and roads.  In conclusion, for the numerous reasons that had been outlined today and detailed in Parish Council’s written representation, and given the strength of public opinion locally, Brockworth Parish Council wished to object in the strongest possible terms to development on this site.  Further housing was not needed in the area with Brockworth already having taken more than its fair share, contributing to the overall housing supply for the wider borough.  This development was considered to be unjustified, unnecessary and unwanted and would provide no benefits to the local community, or any mitigation for the harm it would cause.  As such, the Brockworth Parish Council representative urged the Committee to refuse the application.

7.6             The Chair invited the applicant’s representative to address the Committee.  The applicant’s representative reiterated that the application had been deferred solely for an independent and professional view on highways – it ticked every box in all other respects.  The highway review had been completed and, in the words of the Transportation Consultancy “the site was in a sustainable location; the proposed site access junction was acceptable subject to Section 278 design; there are no existing highway safety issues; and the scheme’s impact is immaterial” – immaterial in the context of the local highway network.  Under Section 38(6) of the Planning Compulsory Purchase Act, the local planning authority was tasked with deciding whether the application was in accordance with the development plan as a whole.  In that respect, Planning Officers had identified a single aspect of planning harm, set out at Page No. 62, Paragraph 8.7 of the Committee report, in relation to the scheme’s connectivity with the wider allocation.  Due to third party land ownership which was beyond the applicant’s control, it was simply not feasible to provide a direct route across the northern site boundary into the wider allocation; however, access could be achieved through the route shown on the proposed site plan i.e. through the community orchard in the south-eastern corner of the allocation, a distance of just over 100 metres from the site boundary.  Given that fact, any planning harm as a consequence could only be given very limited weight and it could not weigh significantly against the scheme’s compliance with the relevant policies of the development plan as a whole.  It did not deprive the application of its statutory presumption in favour of the development plan and grant of planning permission.  The government was clear – proposals that accorded with the development plan as a whole must be granted planning permission without delay.  Any decision contrary to the Officer recommendation would likely lead to unnecessary and significant downsides in terms of Council costs and resources.  As a site falling within the boundaries of the strategic allocation – an area identified specifically for the delivery of new homes – granting planning permission would provide a meaningful boost to the Council’s deliverable housing supply, strengthening its position to defend future appeals against housing schemes in less desirable locations.  The applicant reminded Members of the words of the recent Inspector for the appeal at Coombe Hill which had been allowed on 1 June 2021: “the planning balance is entirely one-sided”; “the site is entirely appropriate for residential development” and “overall, the public benefits of the proposal clearly outweigh the minor harm”.

7.7             The Chair indicated that the Officer recommendation was that authority be delegated to the Development Manager to permit the application, subject to the addition to/amendment of planning conditions as appropriate, and the completion of a Section 106 Agreement to secure heads of terms for £9,212 towards library resources; £18,959 towards a Travel Plan, Bond and Monitoring Fee; £49,217 towards improvements to Henley Bank Sports Centre; £73 per dwelling towards waste and recycling equipment; 17 on-site affordable housing units; and provision of an on-site local area of play, and he sought a motion from the floor. 

7.8             A local Ward Member for the area queried a concern that local residents had initially been told that an area of the application site was allocated for green space as opposed to housing but that now did not appear to be the case.  She thanked the Planning Officer for what was a very detailed report and indicated that she was pleased to see the proposal included electric vehicle charging points and a cycle path around the outside of the site.  Notwithstanding this, she was not convinced that the area of land left for play and recreation at the top right hand corner would be well-used given that it would be the most noisy and polluted part of the site.  She drew attention to recommended condition 16 which stated that no development should commence on site until details of the Toucan crossing and access into the site and two bus shelters had been submitted to, and approved in writing by, the local planning authority and that the dwellings should not be occupied until the approved works had been completed and were open to the public – she raised concern that this did not mention the footway connection to link the site with the Mill Lane junction and indicated that she would like to see that included.  Any children living on the site would have to go down Shurdington Road and cross the road at the top before walking towards the access at the bottom in order to reach the school but she was of the view that they would just not do that and were instead likely to walk along what was a very busy road so it was extremely important that the footway was provided by condition.  She was saddened that the proposal did not include any one bedroom properties as there was a real lack of that type of accommodation in the area which made it difficult for young families to get onto the property ladder and she would like to see the Council making one bed properties available.  She noted that the heads of terms set out in the Officer recommendation included a contribution of £9,212 towards library resources and asked whether it could be stipulated that be used on something other than the building itself, such as staffing, as there had already been a significant amount spent on the building and yet the opening hours were very limited which seemed to her to be a waste of money. In terms of the £49,217 contribution towards Henley Bank Sports Centre, she queried whether this could be caveated to ensure that the public could use the building as, currently it was used by the school and was only open to the public when not being used by the children.  She asked Officers if there was any way that a contribution could be sought towards a doctor’s surgery as this was desperately needed in the area.

7.9             In response, the Development Manager confirmed that the footway to link the site with Mill Lane could be included in the conditions or Section 106 Agreement.  In terms of the point about open space, he reminded Members that the masterplan in the Joint Core Strategy was indicative and when looking at what had been permitted there was actually a surplus of green space within the site as a whole.  The open space within the application site was not in the same position but there was a substantial amount which certainly made up for its loss in terms of quantum.  A Member sought clarification as to which parts of the site were designated for open space as the site location plan was confusing and this was pointed out on the relevant plan.  The Development Manager reiterated that there was a calculation in the Officer report which showed that more open space was proposed on the strategic allocation as a whole than had been indicated on the map within the Joint Core Strategy.  With regard to the library contribution, this could be negotiated via Section 106 as to what it was spent on specifically; however, times of use of Henley Bank Sports Centre was not something which could be specified by planning and should be discussed outside of the planning arena.  In terms of the doctor’s surgery, no consultation response had been received from the NHS requesting a contribution in that regard and it was his understanding that money was not necessarily the issue, rather it was to do with land and identifying somewhere for the surgery to go.  The Planning Officer confirmed that, although it could not be guaranteed, she could certainly put in a request to Gloucestershire County Council as to how the library contribution should be spent.  The Development Manager Team Leader (North) clarified that a doctor’s surgery was proposed for the site as a whole and discussions were taking place with the landowner, the NHS Care Commissioning Group and the GP surgeries to try to resolve the issue regarding the land and deliver the new surgery as soon as possible.

7.10           It was proposed and seconded that authority be delegated to the Development Manager to permit the application in accordance with the Officer recommendation, subject to a further condition/Section 106 obligation in respect of the footway connecting the site with the Mill Lane junction.  The proposer of the motion indicated that, whilst she appreciated the views of the local community, she had made her proposal in the absence of any sound planning reason to refuse the application.  A Member noted that The Transportation Consultancy had identified that further highways modelling was required and he sought clarification as to what was needed.  In terms of the library contribution, he understood that over £600,000 had been raised for Gloucestershire County Council for that purpose through Section 106 Agreements since 2011 and he questioned where this money was going and whether it was being spent within Tewkesbury Borough.  He noted that the applicant had made a veiled reference to the extra costs to the Council if the application was not permitted and he assumed it was being suggested it would be taken to appeal which was not a consideration for the Committee in determining the application.  Finally, he recognised that, if permitted, there would be an impact with regard to housing land supply and he asked what that would be specifically.  In response to the query regarding the impact on the five year housing land supply position, the Development Manager advised that he did not know what that would mean in terms of what the supply would be when it was next calculated; notwithstanding this, it would be a contribution of 47 houses which was a significant consideration in respect of the planning balance.  With regard to the Section 106 contribution to library resources, the Planning Officer confirmed that, in this case, Gloucestershire County Council had stated it would be for resources within the Brockworth area but she would liaise with Officers at the County Council to seek clarification on exactly what the money would be spent on.  The independent consultant explained that highway modelling and assessment of traffic impact was a very complex process and different methods had been used by the applicant and the consultants during the review; however, it was considered there would be no material impact arising from the different approaches so this had been highlighted as a technical point.

7.11           A Member expressed the view that he was not in a position to support the proposal as it stood.  He was disappointed the local Ward Member had not requested a Planning Committee Site Visit in order to assess the impact of the proposal on the ground.  He drew attention to Page No. 52, Paragraph 7.23 of the Committee report, which set out that the National Design Guide stated that, whilst buildings were an important component of places, a place was more complex and multi-faceted than a building and good design involved careful attention to other components with successful development depending on a movement network that made connections to destinations, places and communities, both within the site and beyond its boundaries.  Paragraph 7.24 of the Committee report went on to state that Policy SD4 required new development to be designed to integrate, where appropriate, with existing development, and prioritise movement by sustainable transport modes and should be well-integrated with the movement network within and beyond the development itself; provide safe and legible connections to existing walking, cycling and public transport networks and ensure accessibility to local services for pedestrians, cyclists and those using public transport.  He also referenced Page No. 53, Paragraph 7.25 of the Committee report, which indicated that Paragraph 92 of the National Planning Policy Framework stated that planning decisions should promote social interaction, to include opportunities for meetings between people who might otherwise not come into contact with each other, and Paragraph 7.26 of the Committee report which indicated that, despite the site’s location within the strategic allocation, the site was inherently poorly connected to the Perrybrook development.  Paragraph 7.27 of the Committee report advised that Policy SA1 of the Joint Core Strategy required proposals in strategic allocations to be accompanied by a comprehensive masterplan to demonstrate how the development would integrate with and complement its surroundings in an appropriate manner and went on to state that, whilst the applicant was willing to provide a pedestrian connection, it had not been possible to secure one with the neighbouring landowner.  Paragraph 7.28 of the Committee report concluded that the proposal would do little to integrate itself with the existing Perrybrook development which was a requirement of Policies SA1, A3 and SD4 of the Joint Core Strategy and he questioned why Officers were recommending that the application be permitted if it did not comply with these policies.  He went on to express concern about the serious lack of healthcare in the area and, whilst he noted that a new doctor’s surgery was to be provided as part of the Perrybrook development, so far nothing had been secured which meant there was no medical care for the 1,500 houses which would be part of that development, let alone the 47 proposed in this application.  In his view the application was premature until such time as a doctor’s surgery was in place to accommodation patients from all the new houses.  Turning to the highways issues, the independent consultant had suggested that new dwellings would not add to congestion on the A46 but, to his mind, people tended to travel at peak times so another 1,500 houses could mean up to 3,000 vehicles leaving the Perrybrook site via Mill Lane and having to turn left where they would be met by another junction; on that basis, he failed to see how it could have very little impact.  He was convinced the development was a step too far and, at the very least, it was premature and should come back after the doctor’s surgery had been secured.

7.12           In terms of the points about connectivity, the Planning Officer confirmed this had been discussed during the course of the application and she had contacted the landowner of the adjacent site to ask whether it would be possible to connect the site; however, no formal response had been received.  As the applicant had also made their own enquiries without success, the current position was that the pedestrian connection was not possible and poor connectivity with the adjoining development was set out as an identified harm within the conclusion of the Committee report.  This was one of the harms that had been identified in the Stoke Road appeal and, in that case, the Inspector considered that the benefits of the proposal outweighed that harm; the Officers’ view was that the same was applicable in this instance.  Whilst the harm identified was not underestimated, significant weight should be given to the provision of housing in a location where the principle of residential development was acceptable, particularly given the Council could not currently demonstrate a five year supply of deliverable housing sites.  Taking into account all of the material considerations, and the weight to be attributed to each one, it was her professional view that the identified harm would not significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits in the overall planning balance.  Whilst he sympathised and understood the local view regarding infrastructure and the doctor’s surgery, the Development Manager explained there was no firm evidence from any of the statutory consultees to back up that assertion.  Officers had experience of applications such as this being taken to appeal and this very issue being considered and, although each case must be determined on its own merits, in this case the recommendation for a delegated permission had been made taking on board all of the available evidence including appeal decisions.

7.13           A Member shared the concerns that had been raised and indicated that he would find it very hard to permit the proposal.  Tewkesbury Borough Council had joined forces with Cheltenham Borough and Gloucester City Councils to create its Joint Core Strategy and, as part of that, when considering pieces of land which would be suitable for housing, the Perrybrook site had been identified for 1,500 houses which had subsequently been granted planning permission.  He raised concern that this proposal was speculative development that was nibbling away at the amenity land which had been identified as necessary in the development plan.  Whilst he understood the Council’s position in terms of the five year housing land supply, he did not agree that the amount of amenity land should be reduced, particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted the importance of fresh air, green space and exercise for the health of the nation.  In response, the Development Manager clarified that the Joint Core Strategy did not set out 1,500 houses as a maximum for this site, rather the table accompanying Policy SA1 talked about indicative housing site totals – in this case, approximately 1,500 homes.  Planning permission had been granted for 1,500 homes at Perrybrook on a smaller site which had actually increased the amount of open space so that was not being reduced.  This was a piece of land surrounded by infrastructure and, in his view, there was no specific benefit of retaining this as open space in terms of the contribution to the wider area.  He urged Members to be very careful when looking at the Joint Core Strategy and any housing policies and reminded them of the Coombe Hill appeal where the site was identified for 40 houses in the draft local plan and yet the Inspector had permitted 95 – there was flexibility built into the policy and, in this case, 1,547 houses was proximate to the 1,500 indicative figure.

7.14           In response to a Member query as to whether an air quality survey had been undertaken and submitted as part of the application, given the location of the site on a roundabout at the crossroads of two busy roads, the Planning Officer drew attention to Page No. 54, Paragraph 7.36 of the Committee report, which confirmed that an air quality assessment supported the application and indicated that air quality objectives were met at the most exposed receptor locations, therefore, it could be concluded that air quality over the site was acceptable for residential development.  Another Member questioned when the assessment was carried out as traffic had been significantly reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Development Manager indicated that he did not have the date of the application to hand but he could tell from the reference number that it was likely to have been received in May/June 2020.  Major planning applications were not submitted without considerable work being undertaken in advance so it would be fair to assume that the air quality assessment would have been done well before the COVID-19 pandemic; he confirmed that the transport assessment certainly was.  Another Member recalled that a noise survey had been undertaken in November 2020 and he asked whether that had been updated.  The Planning Officer advised that no updated noise assessment had been received but there was no requirement for one to be submitted. Noise had not been raised as a concern when the application had been discussed by the Planning Committee in February 2021 and the Council’s Environmental Health Officer had no concerns subject to satisfactory mitigation measures.  In response to a query as to whether assessments for noise, air quality etc. were taken as read when they were submitted, the Planning Officer explained that Officers did not take measurements themselves but they consulted the relevant experts – in the case of noise and air quality that was Environmental Health – who carried out checks and provided comments so they were assessed as part of the consultation.

7.15           A Member indicated that she had spent a considerable amount of time looking at the papers in respect of the application and she shared the concerns expressed by the Parish Council and the local Member.  She was particularly worried about the discussion around housing numbers within the development plan which it seemed could be manipulated to fit various scenarios resulting in opportunistic applications on spare pieces of land.  She noted that the Additional Representations Sheet, attached at Appendix 1, made reference to the contribution towards primary education being removed following review by Gloucestershire County Council and she asked for a comment on this.  She also asked whether there was a provision for secondary education as emphasis tended to be put on primary education when in actual fact there was a real lack of secondary school places in certain parts of the borough including her Ward.  She recognised there was a secondary school in Brockworth but it had an extremely wide catchment area and the new secondary school to be built in Leckhampton was unlikely to help in terms of this area.  In response, the Development Manager advised that this matter had been heavily debated at the Coombe Hill Public Inquiry and Gloucestershire County Council was currently taking stock of the way it calculated contributions to education.  Since that decision, the County Council had been reviewing its consultation responses to applications such as this one and had re-evaluated how it looked at pupil yields and the multipliers which gave the final funding figures for education.  In terms of secondary education, it had found there was sufficient capacity at Millbrook Academy to satisfy the requirements of this development.  Primary education had also been revisited and, whereas previously a contribution had been required, because of the Coombe Hill appeal that contribution was no longer being sought as the local education authority was satisfied there was sufficient capacity within schools in the primary planning area to accept the number of pupils arising from this development.  In terms of the Coombe Hill appeal decision and the potential impact on this application, a Member sought assurance that this proposal should be dealt with in isolation.  In response, the Development Manager reiterated that each proposal should be dealt with on its own merits but the merits of any application for housing in the borough would inevitably include previous appeal decisions which had dealt with the issues being raised.

7.16           In expressing his view, a Member had found it interesting to hear the applicant making reference to the Coombe Hill appeal and the Inspector’s statement that the planning balance was entirely one-sided as this was something the Planning Committee was all too aware of when it came to large housing development applications and it had very little control in that regard.  There were very few planning reasons which could be relied upon to effect what the Committee considered to be reasonable development within the plans that had been created and approved by the authority.  As had already been mentioned, there were no Joint Core Strategy policy terms which directly related to the site and he understood it was a case of balance but he asked what significance could be attributed to the specific policies that had been created by the Council in order to shape development within the borough and questioned what the point of the Joint Core Strategy was if those policies could not be used in the way they were intended.  The Development Manager agreed it was very frustrating for everyone that the policies for the supply of housing were out of date by virtue of the Council not having a five year housing land supply; unfortunately, that was the way the National Planning Policy Framework worked.  Whilst those policies were part of the development plan and were not being ‘thrown away’, the government and Planning Inspectorate had made clear that, where there was no five year housing land supply, the presumption in favour of sustainable development applied.  Officers always strived to meet as many policy requirements as they could but it would never be possible to meet every requirement in a plan as they were often competing.  As such, it was about the significance that could be attributed to each one – this application had met some of the policy requirements and Officers had identified connectivity as the only shortcoming which had been made very clear.  The balance in terms of the test within the National Planning Policy Framework was whether there were any harms that would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits of the proposal and, based on their experience and knowledge – partly in terms of previous appeal decisions - it was the Officers’ view that this was not the case and it would not be possible to robustly defend an appeal of refusal of planning permission on that basis.  The site was part of a strategic allocation which meant it was an area where housing was acceptable in principle as set out within the Joint Core Strategy.  The site had sufficient open space to meet the policy requirement, even with an additional 47 houses, and the land was not currently available for public use so there would be no loss of open space in that regard.  From his perspective, the judgement for Members to make was whether the lack of connectivity justified refusal of the application in the context of the tilted balance.

7.17           A Member indicated that his main concern was connectivity and the Committee had previously discussed reliance on cars which would certainly be the case here.  Whilst the site was very close to the local secondary school, there was no direct pedestrian access so the temptation would be for children to walk along the road which would be very dangerous.  As such, he asked whether provision of a pedestrian access could be strongly stipulated in the conditions.  The Planning Officer reiterated that, if planning permission was granted, as the land required for the footway was within land owned by Gloucestershire County Council, a Grampian condition could be applied to request that the footway be in place prior to occupation – this was something the County Council had said would be welcomed therefore there was a reasonable prospect of land ownership not being an issue.

7.18           Upon being put to the vote, the proposal for authority to be delegated to the Development Manager to permit the application in accordance with the Officer recommendation, subject to an additional condition/Section 106 obligation in respect of the footway connecting the site with the Mill Lane junction, was lost.  It was subsequently proposed that the application be refused on the basis of the harm that would arise from the poor degree of connectivity with the adjoining development which limited the scope by which the proposal could integrate with the existing built development, contrary to policy requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework, National Design Guide and Policy SD4, SA1 and A3 of the Joint Core Strategy.  The Development Manager advised that a technical refusal reason should also be included in relation to the absence of a signed Section 106 Agreement for the matters highlighted in the conclusion of the updated Committee report.  The proposer of the motion indicated he would be happy for this to be included.  The proposal was duly seconded and, upon being taken to the vote, it was

RESOLVED          That the application be REFUSED on the basis of the harm that would arise from the poor degree of connectivity with the adjoining development which limited the scope by which the proposal could integrate with the existing built development, contrary to policy requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework, National Design Guidance and Policy SD4, SA1 and A3 of the Joint Core Strategy; and the absence of a signed Section 106 Agreement to secure the following Heads of Terms: £9,212 towards library resources; £18,959 towards a Travel Plan, Bond and Monitoring Fee; £49,217 towards improvements to Henley Bank Sports Centre; £73 per dwelling towards waste and recycling equipment; 17 on-site affordable housing units; and provision of an on-site local area of play.

Supporting documents: