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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).

 

OFFICER RECOMMENDATION: Permit.

Minutes:

26.2           This application was for the erection of a two-storey office development (Class E use).  The application had been deferred at the Planning Committee meeting on 17 August 2021 for a Planning Committee Site Visit in order to assess the proposal in the context of the objections raised by local residents.  The Committee had visited the application site on Friday 17 September 2021.

26.3           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 with housing at Nightingale Way and open fields to the south and east.  The application sought planning 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 towards Bluebell Road.  The proposal included 66 car parking spaces to the southern and eastern part of the site along with additional landscaping to the site boundaries.  Policy SD1 of the Joint Core Strategy set out that employment-related development would be supported within the principal urban area of Tewkesbury town and in the wider countryside when it was located within, or adjacent to, a settlement - as in this instance – and when the development was of an appropriate scale and character.  This proposal accorded with the policy and therefore was considered acceptable in principle.  Members were advised that the proposed two-storey building would have a simple linear form and a low pitched roof 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 and would reflect materials used in the adjoining housing development.  Whilst the building would be substantial in terms of its width, 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.  It was noted that the proposed development would result in some landscape harm; however, it was considered this would be limited given the relationship of the site with adjoining built development.  A considerable number of objections had been received with the main concern relating to highway safety.  The Planning Officer advised that 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 concluded that the proposal would not result in an unacceptable impact on highway safety or a severe impact on congestion in terms of the wider road network.  The Council’s Ecologist was satisfied that the development would not adversely impact newts and reasonable avoidance measures had been secured.  He clarified that the Additional Representations Sheet, attached at Appendix 1, included amended conditions to replace conditions 4, 6, 7 and 11 as set out in the Committee report – these were not additional conditions.  On balance, the proposal was considered to be acceptable and it was recommended that it be permitted, subject to the completion of a legal agreement to secure a travel plan bond and monitoring fee, and conditions set out in the Committee report, as amended by the Additional Representations Sheet.

26.4          The Chair invited the applicant’s representative to address the Committee.  The applicant’s agent noted that the Committee had visited the application site the previous week and he hoped that had been helpful, although Members would make their own minds up as to whether the car parking arrangements they had experienced on Bluebell Road were ‘normal’.  He did not intend to repeat the commentary in the Committee report except to highlight that the principle of the proposed office development on the application site was accepted by Officers and that there were no objections on matters of planning policy, highways, design and visual amenity, landscape impact, flood risk, heritage or biodiversity – in fact, there were no technical objections at all.  That said, he wished to address comments from within the local community which primarily related to matters of highway safety and the impact of the additional car journeys on the local highway network.  Those concerns were appreciated and the applicant’s representative assured Members that the nature of the operations - with staff and visitors entering and leaving the offices throughout the day, as well as flexible working hours – meant that traffic would be spread out; people did not all arrive and leave at the same time.  Notably, the Transport Assessment’s analysis of potential arrival and departure trips was based on a robust ‘worst case’ scenario and, even then, the generation of 41 two-way vehicle movements during the busiest peak hour only equated to a movement every 90 seconds.  Needless to say, this scenario had been carefully considered by County Highways and its conclusion was clear and unequivocal.  Given the standard of Bluebell Road, with its 6.75 metre carriageway width, there would be no highway safety or capacity implications as a result of the proposal and there were no justifiable grounds on which an objection could be maintained.  Some Councillors may be aware that the current offices on Furrowfield Park were located at the end of a residential cul-de-sac, with a narrower five metre carriageway width, and were 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.  There were internal procedures in place with regard to the conduct of staff when entering and leaving the premises, including a 20mph speed limit, and the applicant’s representative provided assurance those procedures would be carried across to the new office.  He wanted to reassure Members that the last thing they intended to do was compromise highway safety on Bluebell Road for local residents of homes they were proud to have built.  Finally, he could not really comment on a petition that he had heard about, but never seen, except to say that is should carry no weight in the Committee decision and he would be more than happy to talk to Tewkesbury Town Colts about their sports pavilion requirements in the context of Bloor’s wider land interests in the area.  He hoped that Members would be able to support the Officer recommendation and enable the £5m investment in Tewkesbury to proceed.

26.5           The Chair invited a local Ward Member to address the Committee.  The local Ward Member indicated that there were numerous planning reasons for the Committee to refuse the application and he pointed out that the MP for Tewkesbury had submitted a detailed response to the proposal along with many other written objections from members of the public and a petition containing 420 signatories who were against commercial development in a residential area.  It was not about NIMBY-ism but about appropriate development in appropriate locations and he believed the land in question should be used for the benefit of the community, for instance, providing a community hub or changing facilities for local teams.  He asked Members to reject the application and show developers and Officers that they were in charge and were listening to their communities.

26.6           The Chair indicated that the Officer recommendation was to delegate authority to the Development Manager to permit the application, subject to the completion of a legal agreement to secure a travel plan bond and monitoring fee, and conditions set out in the Committee report as amended by the Additional Representations Sheet, and he sought a motion from the floor.  It was proposed and seconded that authority be delegated to the Development Manager to permit the application in accordance with the Officer recommendation.  A Member indicated that he had attended the Planning Committee site visit and had requested clarification on the number of sports pitches in the locality and the designation of the land in the masterplan.  In terms of the petition, he noted that many of the signatories had addresses which were not within the borough, let alone in the immediate area impacted by the proposal.  In response, the Planning Officer advised that there was an acknowledged need for new sports pitches in the Tewkesbury Borough area as there was a lot of demand from up and coming teams.  The applicant had been required to provide Section 106 contributions towards playing pitch provision as part of the Wheatpieces development and he understood there was a parcel of land in the Wheatpieces area which could potentially be used for that purpose but there was resistance from the Parish Council to make that available for sports pitch use.  In terms of the designation, the land fell outside of the original application for the area and was a piece of land which the applicant had since acquired.  A Member sought clarification as to whether his understanding was correct in that there would be a lot of land left over which could potentially be used for sports pitches after this development was built but the land had not been designated as such.  The Planning Officer confirmed that was correct and indicated that the land beyond was open countryside.

26.7           In terms of traffic, a Member noted that the proposal included 66 car parking spaces with overspill provision for 20 more which was a total of 86 spaces; however, Page No. 65, Paragraph 7.8 of the Committee report, stated that the Transport Assessment had predicted that the proposal would generate 40 trips in the morning peak and 41 trips in the evening peak.  Whilst she appreciated there was provision for visitors, she felt that the amount of spaces being provided indicated that further traffic would be created.  In response, the Planning Officer drew attention to Page No. 66, Paragraph 7.12 of the Committee report, which stated that car parking standards were set out within the Manual for Gloucestershire Streets and, for non-residential uses such as this, there was no defined parking standard so it was expected that commercial operators were best placed to understand the needs of the business.  In this case, a total of 86 car parking spaces had been proposed; as working offices there would be a number of staff based in the building and there would occasionally be training events when people from other areas attended, which was the purpose of the overspill area, so a greater number of spaces were being provided than the immediate need.  The Member expressed the view that 40 trips in the morning and 41 trips in the afternoon was far from accurate.  The Development Manager indicated that the applicant had planned for the worst case scenario on the basis that it was better to contain parking within the site than to overspill into the residential areas.  The representative from County Highways clarified that the trips identified in the Transport Assessment and referenced by the Member were single peak trips for the morning and afternoon – there would be traffic both before and after the peak hours.  He explained that 40 car parking spaces did not necessarily equate to 40 vehicles as not everyone arrived at the same time.  County Highways considered the parking arrangements to be adequate and there were no concerns about the projected traffic.  The Development Manager reminded Members that the applicant’s representative had spoken about flexible working and people arriving at different times during the day.

26.8           A Member indicated that he had sympathy with the local Ward Member and residents.  He recognised that some of the signatories on the petition were not from the local area but the majority were from the Wheatpieces estate or Walton Cardiff.  The proposal was a great disappointment for residents who had been told there would be a different use for the land and had bought houses with that in mind.  This did not sit comfortably with him and he felt the applicant could have found a more appropriate location for its commercial offices so he was not able to support the application. 

26.9           Upon being put to the vote, it was

RESOLVED          That authority be DELEGATED to the Development Manager to PERMIT the application, subject to the completion of a legal agreement to secure a travel plan bond and monitoring fee, and conditions set out in the Committee report as amended by the Additional Representations Sheet.

Supporting documents: