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Agenda item

20/00245/FUL - Former Nortenham Allotments, Land West of the A435, Bishop's Cleeve

PROPOSAL: Erection of 113 dwellings, provision of access, drainage, public open space, landscaping and associated works.

 

OFFICER RECOMMENDATION: Delegated Permit.

Minutes:

38.2          This application was for the erection of 113 dwellings, provision of access, drainage, public open space, landscaping and associated works.

38.3          The Planning Officer advised that the application required a Committee determination on the basis that it was a full application for the erection of more than 10 residential units.  She explained that the plans included in the presentation were the latest revisions which incorporated the changes to the fenestration design and layout, as mentioned in the Committee report, and the Additional Representations Sheet attached at Appendix 1, so there were some slight changes from the plans provided in the Committee report.  She went on to draw attention to Page No. 33, Paragraph 1.9 of the report, which stated that two pedestrian access points were proposed along the eastern boundary to the A435 and she clarified that, as stated at Page No. 42, Paragraph 7.32 of the report, the additional four pedestrian links were actually four pedestrian access points proposed to the edge of the land within the ownership of the applicant – three extending off the western boundary and the fourth from the south-west corner through the existing allotments. 

38.4          The Planning Officer advised that the application site was located to the west of the A435 within Bishop’s Cleeve and to the east of the Cleevelands development covering an area of approximately 3.9 hectares and was irregular in shape.  The parcel of land was bound by residential development to the west, allotments to the south-west, the Dean Brook to the north and the A435 to the east.  The site comprised grass areas and scrubland and was enclosed by a dense hedge along the northern and eastern boundaries and by a fence line along the western boundary.  Although the site was not subject to any landscape delegations, the land immediately adjacent to Dean Brook lay within Flood Zones 2 and 3 and a Public Right of Way ran through the site along the eastern boundary.  The application site had been identified in the Main Modifications Tewkesbury Borough Plan as a potential site allocation with an indicative capacity of 85 dwellings.  The application was submitted in full and sought permission for the construction of 113 dwellings which would include a mix of house sizes, from one bedroom to four bedroom properties, predominately two storeys in height.  The dwellings had been designed to reflect the more contemporary approach of the adjacent Cleevelands development.  The proposed development would deliver a mix of open market and affordable dwellings; overall, 39.82% of the dwellings would be affordable which equated to 45 of the 113 dwellings.  A single point of vehicular access to the development would be created off the A435 and four pedestrian links were shown to the boundary of the site to the west.  The submitted plans incorporated areas of green space and additional landscaping across the site, with an attenuation pond and a Locally Equipped Area for Play.  Since the application was first submitted, the proposal had been subject to revisions with the latest changes including a reduction in the number of dwellings proposed and changes to the design approach in an attempt to address concerns raised by Officers.  An assessment of the material considerations was included at Pages No. 38-52 of the report.  As set out within the report, Officers considered that, when taking account of all of the material considerations and the weight to be attributed to each one, the identified harms would not significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits in the overall planning balance.  It was therefore considered that the proposed development would constitute sustainable development in the context of the National Planning Policy Framework as a whole.  In terms of verbal updates, the Additional Representations Sheet explained that an update would be given as to whether the new allotment provision in Bishop’s Cleeve was comparable and whether an off-site contribution towards allotments was required; the Planning Officer confirmed this was still being considered and was listed as a matter to be delegated in the proposed recommendation.  Since the Additional Representations Sheet had been produced, the Council’s Landscape Officer had confirmed the revised fencing and boundary treatments were acceptable.  A further representation had also been received from the Council’s Community and Economic Development Manager requesting several financial contributions towards social and community infrastructure and that was currently being reviewed by Officers to establish whether the contributions would meet the three tests set out in the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) regulations and the National Planning Policy Framework.  Subject to the outcome of the review, this would need to be discussed with the applicant to obtain their agreement to the contributions.  As such, the Officer recommendation had been amended to omit the resolved issue in respect of the fencing and boundary treatment and to include securing the financial contribution for the social and community infrastructure if the contributions would meet the CIL regulations.  Accordingly, it was therefore recommended that authority be delegated to the Development Manager to permit the application, subject to the satisfactory resolution of any outstanding matters referred to in the Committee report which included a Stage 2 Appropriate Assessment being prepared and deemed acceptable, whether the new allotment provision in Bishop’s Cleeve was considered comparable and whether a contribution towards off-site allotment provision was required, the addition to/amendment of planning conditions as appropriate, if necessary, and the completion of an agreement to secure the heads of terms listed at Paragraph 7.70 of the Committee report and a contribution towards off-site social and community infrastructure, if required.

38.5          The Chair invited the applicant’s representative to address the Committee.  The applicant’s representative explained that the application was submitted in March 2020 and negotiations with Planning Officers and consultees had taken place in the most testing of circumstances during the coronavirus pandemic.  He wished to thank Officers for their hard work and cooperation as they sought to navigate the passage of the application over the last 18 months.  At the time of submission, the housing proposal was in support of the draft Tewkesbury Borough Plan and, in the intervening period, the local plan had advanced significantly with the independent Inspector who had assessed it raising no objections to the site’s allocation for housing.  Following extensive negotiations with Officers that resulted in changes to the proposed mix of houses and their external appearance, the proposal now had the support of all consultees and a delegated permit recommendation from the Planning Officer.  Gloucestershire County Council had acknowledged that the site was not required for educational purposes and an education contribution of £650,000 had been agreed.  With regard to access and connectivity, County Highways had raised no objections to highway and footpath designs and the applicants had done all they could to provide footpath links to the boundary of the site.  All homes within the development would have electric vehicle charging points and ecological enhancements such as improvements to Dean Brook, bird boxes and bat boxes would be incorporated into the development.  Pending national legislation would require a minimum of 10% biodiversity net gain and the applicant’s representative confirmed that, following work with Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, a 20% biodiversity net gain could be achieved here through a combination of onsite and offsite mitigation measures.  The application had been submitted in full so that all details could be reviewed and considered by Officers, Members and consultees; this approach would assist in the timely delivery of housing from this site and would help strengthen the Council’s position in defending speculative planning applications on non-allocated sites.  Importantly, the development would deliver 45 affordable homes to help 382 households waiting to be housed in Bishop’s Cleeve.  In summary, he indicated that the proposal was for contemporary housing which met the requirements of the Urban Design Officer, no objections had been raised by any technical consultees and the site could be delivered in its entirety within five years.

38.6          The Chair invited a local Ward Member for the area to address the Committee.  The local Ward Member raised concern that the entrance to the junction was on a 50mph bend on a bypass and there was no other access.  There was poor connectivity to the Cleevelands development with no wheelchair or pram accessibility between the two and the new school would only be accessible by foot as there were no drop-off/pick up points.  He was keen for the access to be as easy as possible and he questioned whether County Highways had considered all of this and if the applicant had explored all of the connectivity issues with Cleevelands. 

38.7          The Chair asked the representative from County Highways to respond to the comments made by the local Ward Member.  The representative from County Highways explained that the proposed access had been fully considered when the application had been reviewed by County Highways and he advised that the proposed point of access was where the speed limit changed from 50mph to 40mph.  The applicant had provided speed surveys which showed that average speeds were 36mph in either direction and County Highways was satisfied with the visibility for the speed of the road.  The proposed access would be subject to a Stage 1 Road Safety Audit and could be satisfied via a Section 278 Agreement so there were no concerns in relation to the proposal.

38.8          The Chair indicated that the Officer recommendation was that authority be delegated to the Development Manager to permit the application, subject to the satisfactory resolution of any outstanding matters referred to in the Committee report which included a Stage 2 Appropriate Assessment being prepared and deemed acceptable, whether the new allotment provision in Bishop’s Cleeve was considered comparable and whether a contribution towards off-site allotment provision was required, the addition to/amendment of planning conditions as appropriate, if necessary, and the completion of an agreement to secure the heads of terms listed at Paragraph 7.70 of the Committee report and a contribution towards off-site social and community infrastructure, if required, 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, subject to the removal of condition 20 in relation to cycle storage provision.  The proposer of the motion expressed the view that this condition was inappropriate bearing in mind the agreed policy status of the planning authority and this matter had been discussed at length at the last Planning Committee meeting.  He felt it was interesting to note there had been no mention of cycle storage in the comments made by County Highways in May 2020; however, the revised representation on 15 October 2021 had included the condition for cycle storage provision.  This was not a policy of Tewkesbury Borough Council and, if it was to become one, it would need to go through the appropriate process rather than being imposed through the back door via County Highways.  The seconder of the motion raised concern that no cycle routes were proposed within the development so cyclists would have to go right out of the junction onto the busy road.  She felt that County Highways would be better placed seeking Section 106 monies for cycle routes off the site rather than imposing a condition to include cycle storage in the gardens of terraced properties which had no access to the garden other than through the house.  She questioned how off-site affordable housing could be provided with the sum of £13,996 and suggested it would have been better used on-site.  In terms of the condition 18 in relation to the provision of electric vehicle charging points, she raised concern that they were required to be retained for the lifetime of the development as this did not take account of how quickly technology could advance and she asked if the wording could be changed to take account of that.  The representative from County Highways clarified that, in terms of cycle access, the footpath shown along the A435 in the eastern part of the site was three metres wide and was a shared cycle and pedestrian footpath so there was access for cyclists.  With regard to cycle parking, the national policy position was provided in a Local Transport Note in July 2020 as the government wished to increase walking and cycling so that 50% of all journeys were completed by those means.  The Department for Transport document required residential units to provide secure cycle parking and changes relating to the national model and design code had come into effect this year requiring cycle storage to be integrated into developments.  The Joint Core Strategy required consistency with the parking standards set out in the Manual for Gloucestershire Streets which contained standards for cycle parking and the emerging Tewkesbury Borough Plan included policy in relation to cycling.  Gloucestershire County Council’s policy was that cycle parking was required in order to encourage trips by bicycle which was why the condition was considered to be necessary for this development.  In terms of affordable housing, the Planning Officer explained that SD12 of the Joint Core Strategy required a minimum of 40% affordable housing development outside the Joint Core Strategy strategic allocations and this proposal would provide 45 dwellings which equated to 39.82%; the outstanding contribution of 0.18% equated to a financial contribution of £13,996.50 which was felt to be a reasonable approach to take as, although it would not pay for a new unit, it would be used as a sum to be included in the pot for affordable housing within the borough.

38.9          During the debate which ensued, a Member wished to reiterate some points he had raised before in relation to cycling as it was his view that, in order to encourage more people to take up cycling, it was necessary to make the roads as safe as possible to give them confidence to cycle and the money that would be spent on providing cycle storage would be better spent on cycle lanes within the site.  He did not feel that people would buy bicycles because they had a storage shed to put it in – the cost of cycling equipment meant that, in his experience, people kept their bicycles in their houses or bolted down in a garage.  It seemed to him that the policy-makers had not consulted with cyclists themselves when coming up with these policies.  The proposer of the motion noted the points raised by the County Highways representative in terms of the national guidance; however, the fact remained that such detailed policies were made by Tewkesbury Borough Council, via the Tewkesbury Borough Plan.  Much thought had been given to cycling and cycle storage by the Tewkesbury Borough Plan Working Group and there was not a policy that required cycle storage sheds to be provided at every single residential unit so he found it unacceptable that County Highways was trying to impose this.  Another Member expressed the view that County Highways was trying to do a good job and encourage cycling where possible.  She accepted what had been said about the need to improve conditions for cycling but she was surprised that the proposer and seconder of the motion had not requested that condition 19 also be removed on the grounds of being unenforceable – an argument that had been put forward for the removal of cycle storage provision conditions at the last Planning Committee meeting.  She had found the Committee report to be very honest and connectivity had been highlighted as one of the biggest weaknesses of the proposal.  Whilst she accepted that 85 dwellings was a recommended level for the site rather than a maximum, she had still been surprised that the proposal was for 113 dwellings in light of the other issues, not least the increased traffic on the bypass.  In terms of the housing mix, she noted that Pages No. 44-45, Paragraphs 7.43-7.44 of the Committee report, stated that the Gloucestershire Local Housing Needs Assessment 2019 – Final Report and Summary set out that 3% of new market dwellings should be one bedroom properties but the housing mix here would be seven two bedroom properties, 38 three bedroom properties and 23 four bedroom properties so she asked whether any one bedroom properties were included in the proposal.  In response, the Planning Officer confirmed that there would be one bedroom properties within the affordable housing but no one bedroom properties were proposed among the market dwellings.  Another Member indicated that his issue with the cycle storage condition was that it was unenforceable.  The proposer of the motion felt that it was up to developers to decide if they wished to provide cycle storage but it was wrong to impose that condition upon them for the reasons he had already explained.  This had been debated in considerable detail when Members had discussed the Tewkesbury Borough Plan and it was not a policy of the Council, therefore, including a condition requiring cycle storage at the request of County Highways was policy-making by the back door which was unacceptable in his view.  If the Planning Officer wished to engage with the developer, and the developer was willing to provide the cycle storage, that was fine but he did not think it should be dictated as a condition of granting planning permission.  The Legal Adviser pointed out that Policy TRAC2 of the Tewkesbury Borough Plan related to cycle network and infrastructure and that Paragraph 10.14 of the reasoned justification stated that “All development can have a role to play in promoting cycling and the cycle network.  However, it is recognised the scale of a proposal will influence to what extent it can contribute.  Small-scale residential developments, for example, may only be able to make a limited contribution and only ensure access to any existing routes is provided as well as providing individual storage facilities.”  The proposer of the motion confirmed that it had been discussed in detail what the policy should say and how it should be considered but it was never intended to impose this standard on every new housing unit in the borough.  The Chair questioned whether there was an issue with the inclusion of condition 19 on the basis of being unenforceable and clarification was provided that this allowed the garage/car parking space(s) to be retained as such and not used for any other purpose than the garaging of private motor vehicles associated with the residential occupation of the property and ancillary domestic storage so this was not considered to be unenforceable.

38.10        A Member reiterated that cycle storage provision conditions had been discussed at length at the last Planning Committee meeting and his personal stance was that their inclusion was generally a positive thing that should be supported.  He indicated that he was completely against the removal of condition 20.  The Development Management Team Leader (North) advised that Officers put forward their professional recommendation based on the guidance available in accordance with the Council’s development plan.  In order to move forward, it was within Members’ gift to decide whether they wished to remove the condition, retain the condition or whether they wished to make minor amendments to the wording.  The proposed condition did not talk specifically about a cycle shed, rather it required “sheltered, secure and accessible bicycle parking” and it was possible to amend the wording to allow the structure to be used for ancillary domestic storage; clearly the occupants may not have a bicycle but it was important that the structure was large enough for those who did have one to be able to store it.  The seconder of the motion was still of the view that it would be unenforceable and suggested that a vote be taken on the motion that was on the table.  Another Member suggested that this particular condition be removed from all planning applications in future in order to prevent having this debate at every meeting.  She remembered a time when County Highways insisted on new residential developments having two parking spaces per property; that had been ‘fashionable’ at the time but was no longer a requirement.  Everyone wanted to be seen to be green but it was important to be realistic.  She felt the condition in relation to cycle storage provision could not be enforced and that it should not be included in any future applications.  The Legal Adviser indicated that Members had received advice from Officers on the policy basis for the recommended condition and their professional view and consistency would come into play going forward depending on the outcome of this application.  In response to a query as to whether the condition could be removed from all applications in totality, the Legal Adviser advised that she had provided the relevant wording within the Tewkesbury Borough Plan and it was not for this Committee to remove that.  The Development Management Team Leader (North) advised that Officers had been discussing this issue outside of the Committee and she undertook to speak to County Highways to decide how this could be addressed going forward.

38.11        Upon being put to the vote, it was

RESOLVED           That authority be DELEGATED to the Development Manager to PERMIT the application, subject to the satisfactory resolution of any outstanding matters referred to in the Committee report which included a Stage 2 Appropriate Assessment being prepared and deemed acceptable, whether the new allotment provision in Bishop’s Cleeve was considered comparable and whether a contribution towards off-site allotment provision was required, the addition to/amendment of planning conditions as appropriate, if necessary, and the completion of an agreement to secure the heads of terms listed at Paragraph 7.70 of the Committee report and a contribution towards off-site social and community infrastructure if required, and the removal of Condition 20 in relation to cycle storage provision.

Supporting documents: