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Agenda item

21/00019/FUL - Part Parcel 0250, Manor Lane, Gotherington

PROPOSAL: Residential development comprising 45 dwellings, creation of new access, public open space and other associated ancillary works.

 

OFFICER RECOMMENDATION: Refuse.

Minutes:

19.2          This application was for residential development comprising 45 dwellings, creation of new access, public open space and other associated ancillary works.

19.3          The Planning Officer advised that the application site comprised two agricultural fields at the eastern end of Gotherington. The site was located within the Special Landscape Area, as designated within the Tewkesbury Borough Plan, and the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was located to the east on the other side of the railway embankment.  The site was outside of, but immediately adjacent to, the residential development boundary of Gotherington.  The proposed dwellings would be in the western part of the site with informal open space and a Sustainable Urban Drainage System (SuDS) pond in the eastern portion which would also contain new native hedgerows and trees and informal mown paths. Two vehicular accesses and two pedestrian accesses would serve the site off Gretton Road to the north.  As the Council could not at this time demonstrate a five year supply of deliverable housing land, in accordance with Paragraph 11 of the National Planning Policy, the presumption in favour of sustainable development, i.e. the tilted balance, applied.  Therefore, the presumption was that planning permission should be granted unless policies for protecting assets of particular importance provided a clear reason for refusing the development, or any adverse impacts of permitting the development would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits.  The Cotswolds National Landscape Conservation Board had provided a consultation response which stated that the adverse impact on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was a clear reason to refuse the application; however, Officers did not agree with the view that was a clear reason in itself, although there was harm to the setting and views of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty from Nottingham Hill.  The delivery of 45 market and affordable houses would provide a significant social benefit, especially in the context of a housing supply shortfall.  Economic and social benefits would also arise from the construction process and increased spend in the local economy during the occupation phase.  Notwithstanding this, as set out in the Committee report, Officers considered that the proposal conflicted with the spatial strategy and the development plan when taken as a whole and harm would arise from cumulative growth in Gotherington in such a relatively short period of time, taking account of the Ashmead Drive application as well.  In addition, the proposal would give rise to a harmful impact on the landscape including detrimental impact on views from the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and its setting as well as harm to the Special Landscape Area and significant views identified by the community as important in the Gotherington Neighbourhood Development Plan, particularly those from Nottingham Hill.  At this stage the applicant had not entered into appropriate planning obligations to secure affordable housing, nor was there a signed Section 106 Agreement for financial contributions towards education, libraries, recreational or recycling facilities; however, those matters were capable of being resolved.  Whilst the tilted balance was applied, it was considered that the adverse impacts significantly and demonstrably outweighed the benefits when assessed against the policies in the National Planning Policy Framework as a whole, as such, the proposal was not considered to represent sustainable development and there were no material considerations which indicated that the proposal should be determined other than in accordance with the development plan.  It was therefore recommended that the application be refused.

19.4          The Chair invited the representative from Gotherington Parish Council to address the Committee.  The Parish Council representative indicated that the Gotherington Neighbourhood Development Plan did not highlight this site for development and it was not included within the Tewkesbury Borough Plan or the Joint Core Strategy.  The proposal did not respect the linear form of the village and was not in harmony with the surrounding area.  The Gotherington Neighbourhood Development Plan had come into legal force on 19 September 2019 and the village had already exceeded the number of allocated properties; the results of the appeal regarding the proposed Ashmead Road development of 50 properties was awaited and that in itself would bring the number of new properties to 143.  The surrounding area was prone to flooding and climate change meant there was a long term risk of increased flooding which the Parish Council was concerned could be accelerated by this proposal.  The Parish Council representative pointed out that the village was already short of playing pitches for both cricket and football and the current community centres were small – the village hall had a maximum capacity of 80 and the Old Chapel a maximum capacity of 40 so many clubs and societies were already full.  This, together with the shortage of playing facilities, had an adverse effect on social cohesion and could lead to residents of the proposed development being socially isolated with access to the hall and playing area a lengthy walk or car journey away.  Road safety was also a concern with the planned site entrance on Gretton Road as that was opposite the entrance to ongoing development across the road; the lack of a planned footpath from the site towards the village was not only a potential risk to pedestrians but would result in many more car journeys.  Gotherington was a rural area in beautiful countryside with only one main road running through it and the position of the site meant the proposed development would result in increased car journeys as the village had a limited bus service.

19.5          The Chair invited a local resident who wished to speak in objection to the proposal to address the Committee.  The local resident explained that she represented the Manor Lane Action Group.  She indicated that, in 2016, Councillors had voted unanimously to refuse development in this Special Landscape Area on the basis that the proposal would encroach into the rural landscape and would have a harmful impact on its character and appearance; the appeal Inspector had subsequently stated the adverse impacts would outweigh the benefits.  The Action Group’s view was that this new proposal did nothing to mitigate the harms that Councillors and the Inspector previously identified.  The Cotswolds National Landscape Conservation Board recommended that the proposal be refused stating it would have a “significant adverse impact on the natural beauty of the Cotswolds” and that the presumption in favour of granting permission by the tilted balance being engaged should not be applied.  The two fields abutted the Nottingham Hill Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and were part of its topography.  The fields were prominent in views from its footpaths and, in recent months, more people than ever had come to enjoy the tranquillity and openness that the area offered.  The Gloucestershire-Warwickshire steam railway was adjacent to the site and thousands of passengers each year enjoyed the views of Nottingham Hill to the south.  The view northwards across the valley to Dixton Hill and west towards the Malvern Hills would be ruined by a modern housing estate just a few metres away from the railway line.  No parked cars or roadways could be seen from Nottingham Hill and the rear gardens of the bungalows on Manor Lane gave a soft and pleasant edge to the village – this development would bring the village closer to Nottingham Hill and provide a dominant view of an additional 45 houses, roadways and over a hundred cars.  Furthermore, the removal of hedgerow to form an entrance would open up views of passing traffic.  The proposal would extend the built form of Gotherington further into open countryside; to the east there would be just one field between Gotherington village and the garden centre.  With 34 two storey houses, the plan did not respect the built form of the surrounding area, which was mainly bungalows and 1.5 storey houses, nor did it respect the linear form of the village.  The local resident indicated that the development offered no benefits to the village – Gotherington had already over-delivered on the number of houses required in the Neighbourhood Development Plan and to permit yet more housing of this scale would be disastrous for social cohesion.  The Manor Lane Action Group wished to protect the village, the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the beautiful countryside around it for all of Gotherington’s residents, visitors and for generations to come.  She asked the Committee to reject the proposal.

19.6          The Chair invited a local Ward Member for the area to address the Committee.  The local Ward Member indicated that the previous speakers had covered all of the main technical planning aspects but he wished to reiterate a few key points.  He pointed out that the site was outside of the settlement boundary and the Committee report accepted the proposal would cause harm to the landscape.  The development plan had allocated Gotherington for residential development of 450 houses; however, if this proposal was permitted, the village would have seen an increase of 43% which was quite clearly overdevelopment.  He supported the view of the Cotswolds National Landscape Conservation Board that the proposal would have a significant harmful impact on the views of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, particularly from Nottingham Hill.  The linear form of development that prevailed in Gotherington would be less harmful than that proposed, which was effectively a housing estate with no great integrity and would have an urbanising effect that was an issue for the landscape in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  He urged the Committee to reject the application.

19.7          The Chair indicated that the Officer recommendation was to refuse the application and he sought a motion from the floor.  A Member noted the objection from the Cotswolds National Landscape Conservation Board in terms of the significant harmful impact on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which was shared to some extent by the Planning Officers, albeit they did not agree the impact would be significant.  She tended to agree with the Cotswolds National Landscape Conservation Board and asked whether the tilted balance would apply if Officers took a different view in relation to that.  In response, the Planning Officer confirmed there was a slight difference of opinion on the level of harm identified by the Council’s Landscape Adviser, who had been commissioned to independently review the application, and the Cotswolds National Landscape Conservation Board; a judgement needed to be made as to whether the perceived level of harm was a clear reason to refuse the application and, if that were the case, the tilted balance did not apply. Officers considered the principal harm would be to the view from the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to Nottingham Hill and the harm to the setting when looking back from the Hill.  Whilst Officers did not consider that in itself a reason to refuse the proposal, when all other factors were taken into account, it was felt that the harms would significant and demonstrably outweigh the benefits.  The Development Manager reiterated that the extent of the harm was a matter of judgement but pointed out that the Council’s Landscape Adviser was a qualified landscape professional; the Cotswolds National Landscape Conservation Board did not have that level of qualified individuals.  The Member queried whether, if she believed the proposal would cause significant harm to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which meant that the tilted balance was not engaged, that would bolster the reason for refusal.  The Development Manager confirmed it would not change the actual reason for refusal as set out in the Committee report. 

19.8           It was proposed and seconded that the application be refused in accordance with the Officer recommendation.  The proposer of the motion indicated that the Cotswolds National Landscape Conservation Board, local residents and the local Ward Member had all raised concern about the significant harm that would be caused to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and she was of the view that the tilted balance should not be engaged in this instance.  Upon being put to the vote, it was

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

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