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Agenda item

21/01436/FUL - Land at Lawn Road, Ashleworth

PROPOSAL: Removal or variation of condition 8 (visibility splay requirements) of planning application reference: 20/00487/FUL.

 

OFFICER RECOMMENDATION: Permit

Minutes:

66.23        This application was for removal or variation of condition 8 (visibility splay requirements) of planning application reference 20/00487/FUL.

66.24        The Planning Officer advised that the application site benefited from planning permission for three dwellings.  The permission contained several conditions including condition 8 which related to the provision of visibility splays; this application sought to remove that condition.  The justification for the condition to be removed related to an established fallback which would allow for an existing building at the site to be used as a gym – this benefited from prior approval for the change of use but had not been implemented.  The applicant had set out that the proposed development of three dwellings would generate less vehicular movements than a gym and, as a result, a specific condition to secure visibility splays would not be required.  The application had been assessed by County Highways and the Development Coordination Officer had raised no objections to the proposal advising that, because of the lesser highway impact, it would be unreasonable to require the condition securing visibility splays on the permission for three dwellings.  In view of that advice, and despite the conflict with Joint Core Strategy Policy INF1, to provide safe and accessible connections to the transport network, the condition was no longer considered necessary or reasonable and would therefore not meet the tests set out in planning guidance.  Since the Committee report was published, a further representation was received from a local Ward Councillor who acknowledged that County Highways had not raised any objections or concerns but asked that careful consideration be made in relation to the safety elements of the application.  The local Ward Member had pointed out that Members who knew the road would be aware there was limited visibility, and no speed restrictions, and the changes risked exacerbating an already difficult stretch of the road.  Notwithstanding these further comments, the Officer recommendation remained to permit the application, subject to the conditions set out in the Committee report.

66.25        The Chair invited the applicant’s agent to address the Committee.  The applicant’s agent indicated that the application related to an already consented development of three dwellings and the proposal before Members was simply to remove a condition that was not required.  The development was permitted by the Planning Committee in October 2020, in accordance with the Officer recommendation, and it was intended that it would soon be carried out.  The applicant’s agent had not noticed at the time, and seemingly neither had Officers, that the recommendation included a condition from County Highways which did not meet the strict tests of government policy for the imposition of conditions.  The condition sought to impose a visibility splay requirement that was not necessary to make the development acceptable in planning terms, which was the relevant test, and this was later acknowledged to have been included in error.  This application was attempting to rectify that error.  As set out in great detail in the Committee report, there were very strict tests for the imposition of planning conditions which could only be applied where they related to land within an applicant’s control.  In this case, County Highways erroneously included a condition to cover an extent of visibility splay that was not within the applicant’s control; this failed to meet the relevant policy tests.  Furthermore, the condition was also unnecessary as the extent of the visibility splay sought exceeded that required in planning terms to make the development acceptable in this case.  Again, County Highways had confirmed this condition should never have been included.  As set out, the development was wholly acceptable in planning terms without the condition therefore it also failed the test of necessity.  Given the support of County Highways, the applicant’s agent believed the variation must be accepted.  There had been suggestions within local representations that the variation would make the access arrangement unsafe but the applicant’s agent wished to reassure Members that was not the case.  The access arrangement was perfectly safe and, although there was no condition, a perfectly acceptable visibility splay was still achieved at the site entrance which was commensurate with the slow vehicle speeds generated along the road.  The lack of a condition was nothing more than a technicality in practical terms but was very important in terms of enabling the development to go ahead - it was for that reason the application had been made but there was no reduction in safety.  The three dwellings already approved on the site were included within the Council’s five year housing land supply trajectory therefore its delivery was critical to keeping the Council’s housing supply ticking over.  The applicant’s agent therefore asked Members to follow the Planning Officers’ advice, and that of County Highways, and permit the application.

66.26        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 subject to the removal of condition 7 in respect of cycle storage provision.  The proposer of the motion indicated that, since this application had originally been permitted in October 2020, Members had agreed that cycle storage provision conditions would not be included as standard, therefore, she felt it was appropriate that it be removed in this instance.  A Member pointed out that it was not the Planning Committee’s remit to change planning policy and he understood there was a specific planning policy regarding cycle storage.  Another Member indicated that it was not Council policy.  The Development Manager advised that Officers were working with County Highways to resolve this issue; whilst he could see the reasoning for imposing a cycle storage condition on the grounds of increasing sustainability, he did not believe there should be a blanket approach to every scheme.  Another Member failed to see the logic in removing the condition and felt it would be a retrograde step.  She sought clarification as to whether the condition regarding visibility splays had been included in error in the first place and why it needed to be removed given that it would only improve safety.  The Development Manager advised that his understanding was that it was an error by County Highways – conditions should not place onerous actions on the applicant on land outside of their control which was the case here.  A Member drew attention to condition 9 in respect of electric vehicle charging points and asked that it be specified that those were DC charging points as they were faster charging which would be cheaper for the household. The Development Manager indicated that could be discussed with the applicant.

66.27        Upon being put to the vote, it was

RESOLVED           That the application be PERMITTED, subject to the removal of condition 7 in respect of cycle storage provision.

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