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Agenda item

21/01197/PIP - Gretton Farm, Gretton Road, Gretton

PROPOSAL: Permission in principle for between one and six new dwellings.

 

OFFICER RECOMMENDATION: Permit.

Minutes:

48.7          This was a permission in principle application for between one and six dwellings.

48.8          The Planning Officer advised that the application site was located to the western edge of Gretton, on the southern side of Gretton Road, and measured approximately 0.46 hectares.  The site was enclosed by a hedge to its frontage and the embankment to the heritage railway to the rear and was located within the Special Landscape Area and Flood Zone 1.  Since the publication of the Committee report, four further representations had been received in relation to the application which reiterated the observations set out at Page No. 60, Paragraph 5.2 of the Committee report.  He explained that the application was for permission in principle which had two stages: the first stage established whether a site was suitable in principle and the second ‘technical details consent’ stage was when the detailed development proposals were assessed.  The current application was the first stage of the process and sought solely to establish whether the site was suitable in principle for the erection of six dwellings.  The scope of the first stage was limited to location, land use and amount.  It was considered that the development would conflict with the strategic housing policies of the Joint Core Strategy; however, given the Council’s five year housing land supply position, those policies could not be considered up-to-date, therefore, the presumption in favour of sustainable development applied.  In this case, the limited harm of the development on the landscape character was not considered to significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits in the overall planning balance when considering whether the location of the site was suitable for housing; therefore, it was recommended that permission in principle be granted.

48.9          The Chair invited the representative from the Parish Council to address the Committee.  The Parish Council representative thanked the developers for their willingness to share the plans for the site and to give assurances about taking steps to mitigate the risk of flooding; the housing mix which would include smaller and more affordable housing; and the bespoke, high quality design.  Notwithstanding this, permission in principle was basically a blank cheque and the Parish Council felt bound to express the concerns widely felt by residents in the village.  The Parish Council representative explained that, in terms of location, there were three grounds for objection: the site was outside of the village development boundary; the site was extremely prone to flooding and had flooded during Christmas 2020; and Gretton was not a service village and lacked the infrastructure to sustain development, therefore it was unsustainable.  Paragraph 3.3 of the developers’ proposal acknowledged some of these constraints, as did Paragraphs 7.3 and 7.5 of the Committee report which noted that development in Gretton already exceeded the 5% proposed in the local development plan.  As such, it was with some regret that the Planning Officer’s conclusion was that, although the proposal conflicted with planning policy, because of the lack of a five year housing land supply, a presumption in favour of development should apply.  In terms of land use, the site was a significant area of biodiversity in the village which was trying to develop rewilding as part of its contribution towards combatting climate change and loss of habitats would set those initiatives back.  In addition, the site made a significant visual contribution to the village from the road from Alderton, establishing it as a rural settlement, and any development was likely to detract from that.  The Parish Council would be outraged if the planning system resulted in large urban detached houses on the site which would be visually and socially unacceptable.  With regard to the amount of housing, the permission in principle application proposed between one and six houses which was a wide range but had been reduced from nine initially proposed.  A survey of village residents in 2020 had shown they would be prepared to consider small development in the right place if that included smaller housing for sale, suitable for younger and less affluent entrants to the village who had now been priced out, adversely affecting the village structure.  The developers had given assurances they wished to include smaller housing but believed that would only be achieved by a higher density development which would potentially overdevelop the site.  In summary, the Parish Council felt there were real and valid objections on statutory grounds which were compromised by the housing supply position but would be willing to work with Planning Officers and the developers to get a better solution, should Members be minded to grant permission in principle.

48.10        The Chair invited the applicant’s agent to address the Committee.  The applicant’s agent indicated that the permission in principle application provided a great opportunity to design an infill, edge of settlement scheme in a village that would benefit from small scale organic growth.  It was accepted that residents were concerned there were no detailed plans to consider; however, the applicant’s agent had met with the Parish Council to discuss how best to work with the local community in the future to tackle the areas of concern including susceptibility to flooding, housing mix and visual impact.  It had been demonstrated to the Parish Council on site how all those matters could be addressed through design, sustainable urban drainage systems, ponds etc. and the applicant’s agent wished to reiterate the commitment to the Parish Council that any technical submission would involve full engagement to ensure the development met the aspirations of local residents.  Tackling housing mix was all about design which had been made slightly more difficult since the overall numbers had been reduced by Officers from nine to six.  The applicant’s agent reminded Members of the successful scheme that had been approved in Gotherington where there were concerns over the scheme being increased from the Neighbourhood Development Plan allocation of six houses, to a scheme of nine which included smaller two and three bed houses.  Visually the scheme was the same but a couple of the four bedroom properties had been split in two and he confirmed those houses had now been sold to nurses, teachers and young couples who would not have had the opportunity to buy in the village should only larger houses be built.  The entrance into Gretton when passing the application site was mixed and bespoke design picking up the most suitable architectural detailing found in the wider Cotswold villages would improve that.  The applicant’s agent hoped Members would be able to support the Officer recommendation which would allow them to come back with a technical submission that achieved all the matters he had raised today.

48.11        The Chair indicated that the Officer recommendation was to grant permission in principle and he sought a motion from the floor.  It was proposed that the application be refused on the basis that it was outside the village settlement and in an unsustainable location due to the lack of facilities.  The proposer of the motion indicated that the Parish Council strongly objected to the application and he expressed the view that Gotherington and Alderton, as referenced in the Officer report, were very different to Gretton which had very few facilities – only a school, village hall and a church.  A Member noted that the Parish Council representative had referred to real and valid objections on statutory grounds but she could see no reference to objections from statutory consultees within the Committee report.  In response, the Planning Officer confirmed there were no statutory objections and he reminded Members that only the principle of the development was being considered at this stage.  He assumed the Parish Council representative had been referring to the policies within the plan as opposed to comments received from any consultees and the technical approval stage would be the opportunity to raise any technical objections.  He pointed out that County Highways had responded to this application with no objection to the location or sustainability of the site.  The Member noted that the site was located within a sensitive landscape area; however, as this was a permission in principle application, she questioned whether landscape designations could be taken into consideration – the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was within throwing distance and she asked if that could be taken into account.  In response, the Planning Officer confirmed that the application site was within the Special Landscape Area and that could be taken into consideration at this stage.  The railway line ran along the embankment which acted as a buffer to the south; however, as the detailed design of the development was currently unknown, it was impossible to say for certain what the impact might be, for instance, bungalows were likely to cause limited harm whereas three storey townhouses may cause significant harm – this remained a consideration for the technical approval stage and, should Members feel the design of the houses had a significant harmful impact that would be grounds to refuse the planning permission at that stage.  In response to a query as to whether the concerns raised by the Parish Council could be taken into consideration for the permission in principle application e.g. the site being outside of the village boundary, susceptibility to flooding etc., the Development Management Team Leader (North) clarified that location of the development was taken into consideration and the Committee report outlined that, whilst it would not necessarily meet the locational policies within the development plan, the lack of a five year housing land supply meant that the presumption in favour of sustainable development did apply and that needed to be taken into account.  It was noted that surface water drainage and flooding would come into play at the technical approval stage. 

48.12        A Member indicated that he was happy to second the proposal to refuse the application.  The site was located within the Special Landscape Area and outside of the village boundary with limited or no services.  He was uncomfortable with permission in principle applications, not least because they raised expectations when granted, therefore, he would be happier for the applicant to come back with a full application so that Members could make an informed decision.  The Development Management Team Leader (North) noted that the proposer and seconder of the motion felt the application should be refused on the basis that the application site was outside of the development boundary and in an unsustainable location; however, there was a need to demonstrate that the harm that would be caused would be significant and demonstrable and she asked for more information in order to expand upon the refusal reasons.  The proposer of the motion felt there was a landscape reason for refusal on the basis that the proposal would adversely affect the Special Landscape Area and the setting of the nearby Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, even with the railway line between it and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and it was unsustainable as people would have to travel outside of the village for shopping etc. Furthermore, the development would not accord with the linear nature of the village and therefore could have a negative impact on its growth.  The Chair understood that, if the proposed development was outside of the village boundary, it was by definition in open countryside, but sought clarification as to where the lack of a five year housing land supply came into play as it was effectively then ‘open season’ in the open countryside.  In response, the Development Management Team Leader (North) explained that was only the case in the absence of significant and demonstrable harm; there were reasons that could overcome the fact there was no five year supply and that was what was being established here.  A Member pointed out that, if permission in principle was refused and the developer came back with a full application before the Council could demonstrate a five year housing land supply, she would assume planning permission would be granted; however, if the Committee granted the permission in principle application and the developer came back with a technical approval application when the Council was able to demonstrate a five year housing land supply – which was likely to be next year – she asked whether the application could be refused at that stage with permission in principle already granted.  The Development Management Team Leader (North) explained that, once permission in principle had been granted, there was an expectation that, provided there were no issues at the technical matters stage, it should be approved.  Notwithstanding this, she pointed out that a recent decision to refuse technical details consent due to a number of unacceptable issues had been upheld at appeal so, although it could seem that granting permission in principle meant it was a foregone conclusion that the technical details consent would also be approved, that was not necessarily the case if it could be demonstrated that the development would be unacceptable.  A Member queried what the Officer recommendation would have been for this application if the Council had been able to demonstrate a five year housing land supply and the Development Management Team Leader (North) indicated that, given the locational policies within the plan, it was not a site that had been identified for housing - the locational policies would not be considered out of date if there was a five year housing land supply.  A Member pointed out that the emerging Tewkesbury Borough Plan, which would reinstate the five year housing land supply once adopted, included Policy RES4 which allowed very small scale development at rural settlements and felt that would be applicable to this site.

48.13        Upon being put to the vote, it was

RESOLVED           That permission in principle be REFUSED on the basis that the development was not within the spatial strategy policies and would harm the landscape character and appearance of the area.

Supporting documents: