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Agenda item

21/00507/FUL - Cleeve School, Two Hedges Road, Bishop's Cleeve

PROPOSAL: Removal of condition 5 (electric vehicle charging spaces) of planning application 20/00826/FUL.

 

OFFICER RECOMMENDATION: Permit. 

Minutes:

13.60        This application was for removal of condition 5 (electric vehicle charging spaces) of planning application 20/00826/FUL.

13.61        The Planning Officer advised that planning permission had been granted on 4 December 2020 for new classrooms to replace existing non-compliant classrooms at Cleeve School.  Condition 5 of that planning permission required a minimum of four electric vehicle charging spaces to be provided prior to use of the development.  The Parish Council had objected to removal of the condition on the basis that it would be contrary to the climate change objectives of both the Parish Council and Tewkesbury Borough Council.  Whilst there was clearly guidance and development plan policy that encouraged sustainable development, there was currently no adopted policy that required electric vehicle charging points.  Policy TRAC9 of the pre-submission Tewkesbury Borough Plan in relation to parking provision had not yet been adopted and therefore could be attributed little weight and the Gloucestershire Manual for Streets July 2020 did not require electric vehicle charging points for education facilities.  The original proposal for the provision of new classrooms did not actually involve an increase in student or staff numbers, nor did it increase the amount of parking provision on the site, it simply rearranged the parking provision and the extension sought to reduce carbon emissions through design, energy efficient measures and equipment.  The new classrooms were funded through a grant from the Department of Education with no additional funds provided for electric vehicle charging points which would have to be financed from other sources.  Therefore, as the development accorded with the policies of the development plan and the new classrooms reduced carbon emissions through design and would not generate more vehicle trips, not installing electric vehicle charging points would only slightly impact carbon emissions from the site when the development was taken as a whole.  As such, the Officer recommendation was to permit the application.  The Planning Officer drew attention to an error at Pages No. 214-215 of the Committee report as conditions 5 and 6 were duplicates of conditions 3 and 4 so would need to be removed from the decision notice, should Members be minded to permit the application in accordance with the Officer recommendation.

13.62         The Chair indicated that there were no public speakers for this item.  The Officer recommendation was to permit the application and he sought a motion from the floor.  A Member indicated that he could not understand why this application was recommended for permission given the Council’s ambitions to ‘go greener’.  He had chosen not to get an electric vehicle due to the lack of infrastructure which was needed to achieve the zero carbon target by 2030.  In his view the electric vehicle charging points should still be required as per the application which had been permitted, therefore, he proposed that the application be refused.  The Development Manager explained that, whilst the authority was supportive of such measures, there was no policy justification for requiring the electric vehicle charging points to be provided and there was no increased demand for parking as a result of the proposal; the policy test for conditions was that they must be necessary and it was difficult to show that in retrospect.  A Member seconded the proposal to refuse the application and queried what the additional cost was of installing electric vehicle charging points as an alternative could be to defer the condition to require their installation within two years.  The County Highways representative explained that cost depended largely on existing infrastructure and whether the main electricity line needed to be upgraded as that could cost tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds to install.  Another Member questioned how many electric vehicle charging points were available at the school currently and he shared the view that the conditions on the original planning permission should be complied with – that was what the school had agreed to when they wanted the classrooms and if the use of electric cars was to be encouraged it was vital there were places to charge them.  The Planning Officer advised that she had not seen any electric vehicle charging points on site when she had undertaken the site visit and nothing had been put forward to identify any in the original submission.  Cycle storage was provided so the school was accessible by sustainable transport and the staff and children could also walk to the school.

13.63         A Member expressed the view that the Council had recognised there was a climate change emergency and was doing as much as possible to reduce carbon emissions within its own estate so she found it difficult to understand why the County Council did not have to follow that lead; there were many schools across the county and she hoped they would all be installing infrastructure to achieve the deadline for carbon neutrality.  She agreed with the previous speaker in that the school had agreed to install the electric vehicle charging points and should be setting a good example by fulfilling that condition.  Another Member was of the opinion that there was clearly a budget issue, nevertheless, the school had agreed to provide the electric vehicle charging points so she would be happy to suggest they did not have to be installed until the classrooms had been built.  She questioned whether that was something which could be enforced and if it would be a more viable proposition and, if so, whether the application could be deferred until that information could be provided.  The Development Manager indicated that was possible; however, a motion to refuse the application had been proposed and seconded and that would mean the applicant had to come back with an alternative way of dealing with condition 5 which could be a non-material amendment to the planning permission if it was a suitable alternative that met the Committee’s requirements.  A Member questioned whether Gloucestershire County Council would be liable for financing the installation of the electric vehicle charging points or whether the financial liability lay with the school.  Another Member pointed out that there were government grants available for green measures such as electric vehicle charging points which he would imagine the school would be eligible for; however, retrofitting was likely to be more expensive.  The Development Manager indicated that he understood that Cleeve School was an academy rather than County Council controlled.

13.64         Upon being put to the vote, it was

RESOLVED          That the application be REFUSED on the basis that the removal of the condition would fail to encourage sustainable travel and healthy communities.

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