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Agenda item

20/00956/FUL - 25 Paynes Pitch, Churchdown

PROPOSAL: Demolition of existing dwelling and erection of five dwellings and associated access.

 

OFFICER RECOMMENDATION: Permit. 

Minutes:

19.9          This application was for demolition of existing dwelling and erection of five dwellings and associated access.  The Planning Committee had visited the application site on Friday 13 August 2021.

19.10        The Planning Officer advised that the application site related to a large dwelling at 25 Paynes Pitch in Churchdown along with its garden and parking area.  The site was located within the settlement boundary of Churchdown where the principle of residential development was acceptable, subject to all other material considerations and policies in the development plan.  The existing dwelling was currently in a poor state of repair and, whilst it was considered historic, the Council’s Conservation Officer did not consider it to be a non-designated heritage asset and did not object to its demolition.  The residential garden area was bound by timber board fencing and vegetation and access was currently via a track to the west.  The application site also contained a strip of land to the south of the garden boundary which was not within the applicant’s ownership although they did have right of access over the land – the applicant had undertaken Land Registry and legal checks and had been in direct contact with the former developer but had been unable to establish the ownership.  Members were advised that, ultimately, the lawfulness of the implementation with regard to site ownership was not a matter for the Planning Committee.  The strip of land contained trees of a mixed species consisting of native and non-native trees.  The trees were clearly visible to the public and had high amenity value contributing to the streetscene.  As removal of the trees would have a detrimental impact on the surrounding area and would mean the loss of an important habitat, a group Tree Preservation Order (TPO) had been made on 17 June 2020.  Turning to the proposal itself, it was noted that the scheme had been reduced from six to five dwellings as a result of discussions between Planning Officers and the applicant during the course of the application with amendments to the design approach.  The revised application proposed the demolition of the existing dwelling and the erection of five four-bedroom dwellings with vehicular access via Dunstan Glen through a single entry point across the area subject to the group TPO.  The existing access road to the west from Paynes Pitch would be closed and become an area of landscaping.  The dwellings themselves would be two storey and contemporary in style with a ‘split pitch’ roof and three of the dwellings would have side garages.  The material would comprise Cedral Click Boarding and black and buff grey bricks.  A number of objections had been made in terms of the design approach but, after careful consideration, Officers found the proposals to be acceptable in that regard. With respect to layout, it was felt that the building line would correspond with the dwellings to the east and would respect the existing street pattern in the locality.  The roof lines, separation distance and the recessed garages would also break up the perceived bulk of the dwellings.  Whilst the proposed contemporary materials were not characteristic of the immediate locality, they were considered suitable for modern types of building and the context of the setting.  In order to facilitate the development, some of the trees protected by the TPO would need to be removed; however, those of highest quality – including a Sycamore, Lawson Cypress and Ash – were to be retained and, to compensate for their loss, the applicant proposed planting new trees across the front of the site, to the front of the dwellings and within the gardens including extra heavy standard trees at the front to give immediate visual impact and create habitats.  Furthermore, it was proposed that additional trees be planted to the west of the development to create a community orchard.  The Council’s Tree Officer had raised no objection to the proposal.  Concerns had been raised about the ecological impacts and highway safety but no objections had been received from the Council’s Ecological Advisers or County Highways.  Overall, Officers considered that the proposed development would constitute sustainable development in the context of the National Planning Policy Framework as a whole and it was therefore recommended that the application be permitted.

19.11        The Chair invited a local resident speaking in objection to the application to address the Committee.  The local resident indicated that he was speaking on behalf of the residents of Dunstan Glen and the wider village community and he pointed out there had been 134 letters of objection to the proposal.  The cramped development was neither sympathetic to the local character nor did it create a high standard of amenity.  The local residents felt the adverse impact caused by the density, design and colour palette would significantly outweigh any benefits and the proposal conflicted with planning policies intended to protect the local character and living standards.  Five properties had been shoehorned onto the plot, two of which had no garages because of lack of space, and faced onto four properties in Dunstan Glen.  In terms of construction site access, this was the second choice and should be refused on highway safety grounds.  The local resident pointed out that no pedestrian survey had been undertaken by County Highways and strategies such as site “banksmen” and site notices would not mitigate the risks or meet the duty of care required to protect the public to acceptable levels.  An independent pedestrian survey had concluded that 18,078 persons would pass the entrance over the build period.  There were no footpaths in Dunstan Glen and the roads were narrower than stated, therefore, pedestrians could not be segregated and protected from site traffic raising the risk of personal injury.  Both roads suffered from dense on-street parking and Chosen Hill School, with 1,200 pupils, used the roads.  Furthermore, there was a sharp, blind bend to navigate which was entirely unsuitable for Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs).  There were 144 open plan gardens in the street and children played both in those gardens and on the roads.  The local resident stated that the Fire Service site visit had confirmed there would be a risk that appliances would not be able to access the properties.  Turning to landscaping, the local resident indicated that 1,250 square metres of impermeable ground needed an underground surface water retention tank of 65 cubic metres to stop flooding - an indication of insufficient landscaping and overdevelopment - and a tank malfunction would mean that three properties in Paynes Pitch would flood.  He pointed out that the front gardens were car parking bays and reiterated that TPO 404 – the Dunstan Glen hedgerow – would be reduced by 45%; if the southern boundary fence not owned by the applicant was removed, this would effectively cull the hedgehogs which resided there.  In addition, there was no landscaping proposed in the centre section of plots two and three which looked directly into Dunstan Glen.  In terms of the land ownership, the local resident explained that the Dunstan Glen hedgerow land had been owned by Bovis Homes since 1983 and, in 1986, they had given him permission under licence to cultivate the land in perpetuity.  Bovis Homes had now gifted him the sole ownership of the land and its title deeds for services to the community.

19.12        The Chair invited the applicant’s agent to address the Committee.  The applicant’s agent thanked Officers for their thorough report and the recommendation that permission be granted, subject to conditions.  The applicant’s agent pointed out that the site was not within open countryside, it was within an existing settlement and contained a sizeable building in a significantly poor state of repair.  The proposed development would provide a much needed family-sized home in a very sustainable location at a time when Tewkesbury Borough was unable to meet its housing supply targets.  Whilst the concerns of the Parish Council and local residents were acknowledged, and had been throughout, the applicant had worked hard with Officers over the last 10 months to address concerns raised. This had resulted in a reduction in the scale of development from six to five dwellings, as well as changes to the proposed levels, increases to the intervening distances to neighbouring properties and enhancements to the landscape scheme, tree protection and overall scale and mass of the development.  Following detailed assessment of all factors, no objections had been raised to the scheme by Officers – including the Tree Officer and Urban Design Officer - or County Highways.  In respect of tree loss, those that would be removed were defined as ‘low quality and value (C2)’, with those of higher quality being retained and protected.  The trees previously removed had not been subject to any protection, yet the application provided a real opportunity to compensate for that loss through the planting of new species, including fruit trees and shrubs.  An updated Demolition and Construction Method Statement had been submitted which would reduce the impact of the construction phases by controlling factors such as hours of working, vehicle parking, wheel washing and noise emission and the applicant’s agent confirmed they would be happy for this to be included as a condition.  In summary, the applicant’s agent indicated that the development would not give rise to unacceptable impacts in relation to matters ranging from ecological impact to highway safety.  As confirmed by Page No. 75, Paragraphs 7.9-7.11 of the Committee report, an applicant did not need to own the land to apply for planning permission on it and matters concerning land ownership should have no bearing on planning decisions.  The application had been submitted in October 2020 and had experienced significant delays yet clearly accorded with prevailing policies and would help the authority meet its shortfall of housing in a sustainable location.  The homes would be well-designed and within an existing residential development on a site in desperate need of regeneration.  Therefore, he respectfully asked that permission be granted in line with the Officer recommendation.

19.13        The Chair indicated that the Officer recommendation was to permit the application and he sought a motion from the floor.  It was proposed and seconded that the application be permitted in accordance with the Officer recommendation.  A Member noted there was clearly an issue regarding land ownership in relation to this and she asked for confirmation that, should access over the disputed land not be available, the development could not go ahead as proposed.  The Chair confirmed that would be the case as the other accesses were not at all suitable and he reiterated this was not an issue for the Planning Committee in determining the application.  The Member noted that the applicant’s agent was happy to include a condition to require the development to be carried out in accordance with a considerate construction scheme and she questioned whether that was possible.  In response, the Development Manager indicated it was not something that could be required by condition but it could be encouraged.  Notwithstanding this, if there were any issues during the construction phase, the Environmental Protection team could investigate under its own powers. 

19.14        Another Member went on to express her disappointment that the house itself was being demolished.  She recognised it was in a poor state of repair but it was not beyond redemption and she felt its loss would be detrimental to the village and the habitats that would be lost along with the house and land.  In terms of the five year land supply, she pointed out that the average price of properties in the road was £450-500,000 and she noted there was no affordable housing so the proposal would not help those in greatest need.  She asked whether the new houses would contain any additional eco-features; she presumed there would be electric vehicle charging points but she considered that housing of this price and quality should go further than that.  With regard to the entrance/exit to the site, she felt it was far too small for the actual size of the road and the cul-de-sac would lead to a lot of congestion as the development was likely to generate an additional 10 cars as a minimum.  A Member indicated that he had attended the Planning Committee Site Visit and had initially thought it was a good site; however, he had been very concerned about the access point.  It was a nice family cul-de-sac where children could be seen playing at certain times of the day and he asked County Highways to confirm whether they had actually visited the application site to carry out an assessment as opposed to using Google Maps or similar.  The County Highways representative advised that the consultation response had been put together by a colleague but he had been to the site himself to look at the highways and he agreed with those comments – he did not consider the parking to be narrow and did not think there were any highway safety concerns with five dwellings served off the cul-de-sac.  A Member questioned whether, because of the issues with the access being on land not owned by the applicant, the applicant could actually demolish the house prior to that civil situation being resolved.  The Development Manager confirmed that was a possibility; however, no particular planning reason had been identified to suggest that would be a problem.  In response to a further query regarding suitability of the access, the Development Manager reiterated that County Highways had looked very closely at the proposed vehicular access to see if it was acceptable from a highway safety perspective and had not identified any concerns so that was the expert advice in terms of whether it was suitable. In terms of the question about eco-features, the Planning Officer advised that one of the proposed conditions was that no work would commence on the development until an Ecological Enhancement and Mitigation Statement had been submitted and approved and additional ecological features would be secured via that condition.  There was a separate condition regarding electric vehicle charging points.  A Member queried what happened if the developer stated that additional eco-features that had been required were not viable and the Development Manager advised that would be dealt with based on the various factors at that time.  Another Member indicated that he was disappointed the existing building would be demolished and that nothing more could be done regarding heritage.  He also questioned where the nearest Flood Zone 2 was in relation to the site as he understood that water was to be retained in an underground surface water retention tank which could be a concern depending on its proximity to Flood Zone 2.  The Development Manager clarified that the site was located within Flood Zone 1 and the Lead Local Flood Authority had looked at the proposed scheme and found the drainage to be acceptable.  

19.15         Upon being put to the vote, the proposal to permit the application in accordance with the Officer recommendation was lost.  It was subsequently proposed that the application be refused on the grounds of highway safety due to the dangerous access and as the design of the housing was not in keeping with the surrounding area.  A Member agreed that the proposed access would be dangerous in terms of large vehicles entering and exiting the site. Another Member suggested that the application should also be refused on the grounds of overdevelopment and the adverse impact on the neighbouring amenity; she would also like to refuse due to lack of affordable housing but recognised that was not possible as there was no requirement for affordable housing provision in this case.  A Member expressed the view that the existing property was capable of conversion and pointed out there were a number of other buildings of that type pepper-potted across developments so it would be preferable to adapt, extend or renovate as opposed to demolish.  In response, the Borough Solicitor explained that, whilst it may be preferable, that was not what the applicant was seeking to do and Members had to determine the application based on its own merits.  If Members were minded not to permit the application, they needed to make a proposal with reasons for refusal based on evidence that could be given at an appeal – the fact they might prefer something else to happen at that site was not something that could be relied upon in that instance.  A Member raised concern that there were no sound planning reasons to refuse the application and if the Committee voted in favour of a refusal, the authority would lose control with the Inspector setting the conditions.  Another Member felt that the loss of natural habitats was a reason for refusal as some of the protected trees would have to be removed and he agreed it was overdevelopment of the site; this was a regular route for children attending schools in the area and he was also concerned that refuse vehicles would have difficulties with access.

19.16         The Development Manager indicated that several Members had put forward their reasons as to why they were unhappy with the proposal; however, a clear set of reasons was needed as to why planning permission should be refused.  Whilst he appreciated the concerns regarding highway safety, Members had heard from the specialist consultee that there were no highway safety concerns from their perspective.  In terms of design, Officers considered the proposal to be acceptable but it was a matter of judgement and Members may take a different view.  The Council’s Tree Officer had been asked to assess the proposal and raised no objection and he reminded Members that a number of TPOs had been made to safeguard the area as a ‘green oasis’ in terms of the character that gave to the streetscene.  It was fully accepted that a few trees and shrubs would be removed but the three best trees would be safeguarded to be retained and others would be planted.  On that basis, he could see no robust reason to refuse the application aside from the issue of the detailed design of the dwellings which was a matter of judgement.  A Member indicated that the proposal conflicted with Paragraph 9 of the National Planning Policy Framework in relation to promoting sustainable transport and Policy SD11 of the Joint Core Strategy which required a mix of dwelling sizes as well as the policy regarding integrated development which this was not.  The proposer of the motion to refuse the application indicated that she wished to amend her original proposal and propose that the application be refused on the basis of the inappropriate design which was totally out of keeping with the surrounding area.  This proposal was subsequently seconded.  It was proposed and seconded that the motion be put to a recorded vote and, upon receiving the necessary support, voting was recorded as follows:

For

Against

Abstain

C L J CARTER

K BERLINER

 

D J HARWOOD

R D EAST

 

M L JORDAN

J H EVETTS

 

E J MACTIERNAN

M A GORE

 

P W OCKELTON

J R MASON

 

P E SMITH

A S REECE

 

R J G SMITH

J K SMITH

 

 

M J WILLIAMS

 

19.17         With seven votes in favour and eight votes against, the motion to refuse the application was lost.  It was subsequently proposed and seconded that the application be deferred in order to allow further conversations to take place in relation to access and design and to allow Officers to establish the proximity of Flood Zone 2 to the site.  Upon being put to the vote, it was

RESOLVED          That the application be DEFERRED in order to allow further conversations to take place in relation to access and design and to allow Officers to establish the proximity of Flood Zone 2 to the site.

Supporting documents: