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Agenda item

21/00398/FUL - Land South of Wheatpieces, Walton Cardiff, Tewkesbury

PROPOSAL: Erection of a two storey office development (Class E use).




19.28        This application was for erection of a two storey office development (Class E use).

19.29        The Planning Officer advised that the application site comprised an undeveloped parcel of land adjacent to Rudgeway Lane and to the east of the Bloor Homes development at Tewkesbury Meadows.  To the north of the site was a recreation ground and housing at Nightingale Way with open fields to the south and east.  The application sought permission for a two storey office building to provide a new regional office for Bloor Homes.  The building would be set to the western part of the site and would flank Bluebell Road.  The proposal would include 66 car parking spaces to the southern and eastern part of the site along with additional landscaping within the site and to the boundaries.  Policy SD1 of the Joint Core Strategy set out that employment-related development would be supported within the principal urban areas of Tewkesbury Town and in the wider countryside where it was located within, or adjacent to, a settlement of an appropriate scale and character, as in this instance.  As such, this proposal accorded with the policy and was considered acceptable in principle.  The proposed two storey building would have a simple linear form which had been designed to be reflective of an agricultural barn.  The proposed materials palette of red brick, metal cladding and roof slates would secure a satisfactory appearance which would reflect materials used in the adjoining housing development.  Whilst the building would be of a substantial size, it would be set away from nearby dwellings and would not adversely impact the living conditions of those occupiers or the character and appearance of the wider area.  Although the proposal for a permanent development at the site would result in some landscape harm, that would be limited considering the relationship between the site and adjoining built development.  A considerable number of objections had been received raising concerns regarding highway safety in particular.  The proposal would result in an increase in vehicles using Bluebell Road and the scheme had been accompanied by a transport assessment.  The details had been reviewed by the County Highways Officer who had advised that the proposal would not result in an unacceptable impact on highway safety or a severe impact on congestion on the wider road network.  Confirmation was provided that the Council’s Ecological Adviser was satisfied there would be no adverse impacts, particularly in relation to Great Crested Newts, subject to conditions.  On balance, the proposal was considered to be acceptable and it was recommended that authority be delegated to the Development Manager to permit the application subject to conditions and the completion of a Section 106 legal agreement to secure a travel plan bond and monitoring fee.  It was noted that the recommendation had been incorrectly stated as ‘Permit’ in the Committee report and should have read ‘Delegated Permit’.

19.30         The Chair invited the applicant’s representative to address the Committee.  The applicant’s representative indicated that this was a detailed proposal for the relocation of Bloor Homes Western from its current office premises in Furrowfield Park to new purpose-built premises off Bluebell Road.  This £5m investment would facilitate the continued, managed expansion of the regional headquarters, creating new direct and indirect employment as well as associated workforce skills and training opportunities.  The rationale for the application had been explained more fully in a letter which Members would have received from Bloor Homes last week as summarised in the Committee report.  He did not intend to repeat the commentary on that or other relevant aspects of the proposal that were made in the Committee report which provided a well-balanced summary of the proposal; however, he did wish to address what was clearly the key concern of the vast majority of those members of the local community and the Parish Councils that had commented on the application.  Such comments related to the amount of car parking spaces for the proposed office; potential pedestrian and cycle conflict on Bluebell Road; and the impact of the additional car journeys on the local highway network.  Whilst these concerns were appreciated, the applicant’s representative provided assurance that the nature of Bloor Homes’ operations - with staff and visitors entering and leaving the offices throughout the day - and its flexible working hours meant that a full office car park of 66 spaces, plus the grasscrete overspill spaces, would be very much the exception and not the rule.  Office-based staff could arrive any time between 0730 and 0930 hours and leave between 1600 and 1830 hours so traffic would be spread out.  The transport assessment’s analysis of potential arrival and departure trips was based on a robust worst-case scenario; even then the generation of 41 two-way vehicle movements during the busiest peak hour only equated to a movement every 90 seconds.  This scenario had been carefully considered by County Highways in assessing the implications for highway safety and the impact on the local road network which had concluded that, given the standard of Bluebell Road with its 6.7 metre carriageway width, there would be no safety or capacity implications as a result of the proposal and there were no justifiable grounds on which an objection could be maintained.  Further to that matter, Members may be aware that the current offices at Furrowfield Park were located at the end of a residential cul-de-sac with a five metre carriageway width and sited alongside a popular walking and cycling route to Tewkesbury School – to his knowledge, there had never been any planning enforcement or community safety complaints to, or action by, Tewkesbury Borough Council in respect of Bloor’s business operations, including vehicular movements.  There were internal procedures in place with regard to staff conduct when entering and leaving the premises, including a 20mph speed limit, and the applicant’s representative provided assurance that would be carried across to the new office where there would be a very similar location context.  Bloor had a longstanding relationship with, and commitment to, Tewkesbury.  Many of the staff lived locally and he hoped that would reassure Members that the last thing they wanted to do was compromise highway safety on Bluebell Road for the local residents of homes they were proud to have built.

19.31         The Chair invited a local Ward Member to address the Committee.  The local Ward Member indicated that he was representing the many residents, families, businesses and community groups who were, like him, very concerned by this proposal.  There were a number of sound planning reasons for this application being unsuitable including, but not limited to, the negative impact on nature; the unsuitability of an office building on the site; highway suitability and resident safety; excessive traffic generation through a residential area; and noise and disturbance resulting from the use.  He did not have time to go into the detail about the concerns that had been expressed to him and the extensive reasons why it was an unsuitable development so he urged Members to look at the many, many objections and comments submitted during the consultation process including the MP for Tewkesbury’s detailed comments opposing his application.  He noted that the applicant had attempted to mitigate some of the reasons for objection but that response would do little to reassure the local residents who felt very strongly that they had been treated unfairly by the developer who recently sold them the houses with the promise of peaceful enjoyment of their homes, only to be surprised by this application.  The local Ward Member had been contacted by, and met with, many local residents who felt angry, let down and disappointed by the application and put forward valid concerns about their safety and that of their children – these objections were available on the planning portal and he had personally seen 43 that had been put forward.  The residents were not against development but they were against inappropriate development such as this.  The local Ward Member indicated that he had received a petition signed by 420 local residents and people of Tewkesbury who were objecting to the application and asked for the space to be used instead for the enjoyment of the community and local groups.  They felt strongly that an office building would be much better placed on one of the borough’s business parks; after all, the Joint Core Strategy highlighted there was adequate industrial and commercial unit space in the borough without the need to encroach on residential areas for that purpose.  He stressed this was not about NIMBY-ism but about appropriate development in appropriate locations and he firmly and strongly believed this application was not that – fundamentally it was an application for business development in a newly built residential area which must be wrong.  In the recent County Council elections he had spoken to many local residents on the doorstep and they felt they were not being listened to, that inappropriate development was taking place without consideration and proper planning so he urged Members to show them that they did care, they did listen and they wanted to do what was best for this wonderful town.

19.32         The Chair indicated that the Officer recommendation was that the authority be delegated to the Development Manager to permit the application, subject to conditions and the completion of a Section 106 legal agreement to secure a travel plan bond and monitoring fee, and he sought a motion from the floor.  It was proposed and seconded that the application be deferred for a Planning Committee Site Visit in order to assess the proposal in the context of the objections raised by local residents.  The proposer of the motion suggested that would also give the petition organiser the opportunity to provide the Committee with the reasons behind the 418 signatories’ objections which had not been provided to date.  A Member raised concern that there was a process in place for requesting site visits and he did not feel it was appropriate to defer the application on that basis at this stage.  Upon being put to the vote, it was

RESOLVED          That the application be DEFERRED for a Planning Committee Site Visit in order to assess the proposal in the context of the objections raised by local residents.

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