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Agenda item

21/00496/FUL - Land West of Delevale Road, Winchcombe

PROPOSAL: Proposed residential development comprising 100 dwellings (including 50 affordable dwellings), new vehicular access off Delavale Road (following the demolition of 26 Delavale Road), public open space and associated landscaping and engineering works.

 

OFFICER RECOMMENDATION: Permit

Minutes:

7.33          This application was for proposed residential development comprising 100 dwellings (including 50 affordable dwellings), new vehicular access off Delavale Road (following the demolition of 26 Delavale Road), public open space and associated landscaping and engineering works.

7.34          The Planning Officer advised that the proposal had been amended during the course of the application with the proposed number of dwellings being reduced from 110 to 100.  The application site comprised two parcels of land which extended to 6.9 hectares located to the west of Winchcombe within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  The majority of the site was included as an allocation in the recently adopted Tewkesbury Borough Plan and was covered by Policies WIN1 and RES1 which identified approximate capacity for 80 dwellings; however, the application site itself extended slightly beyond the allocation boundaries to the west in the northern field parcel and to the north-west in southern field parcel.  A 0.29 hectare area of built form was located outside of the allocation boundary and a total of circa 1.4 hectare of built form/informal open space was outside the allocation boundary.  The Committee report identified that the proposed development broadly accorded with the site specific criteria in Policy WIN1; however, in this instance, when taking account of the advice of the Council’s Ecological Adviser and the wider ecological benefits which included hedgerows and streams, overall, the ecological impact of the proposal was considered acceptable.  It was therefore considered that the application was in general accordance with Policy WIN1.  With regard to the part of the application outside of the WIN1 boundary, it was located outside of the defined settlement boundary and comprised unallocated land in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which conflicted with Policy SD10 of the Joint Core Strategy and spatial strategy for the development.  Notwithstanding this, in considering the conflict, it was important to have regard to the overall layout and design of the entire application proposals and whether the inclusion of this parcel of land contributed to the development responding positively to, and respecting the character of the site and its surroundings, and whether the inclusion of this land would fail to conserve, and give rise to additional harm to the landscape and scenic beauty of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  Officers had carefully considered this and, further to the revisions received by the applicant it was not considered that the inclusion of that land caused any additional harm, it would help create a logical form of development and would utilise an allocated site efficiently.  Officers had also raised concerns with the applicant about the clustering of the affordable housing which was very close together and not dispersed across the development so as to be tenure blind; however, the characteristics of the application site and the fact the design approach was for the larger dwellings to be located further up the hill and more spaced out in order to aid the transition between the urban environment and open countryside was an important consideration.  Officers also considered that the provision of 50 affordable housing units, which exceeded the 40% policy requirements, would offer a significant social benefit in the context of a housing supply shortfall.  Officers had initially raised concerns that only five adaptable M4(2) units were provided but, overall, they had come to the view that balance was acceptable.  In terms of the harm to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and landscape, the site was visible from some points, principally Mercia Way to the south where the cycleway was located and Langley Hill, but there were limited viewpoints of the site in the immediate vicinity, for instance, from Delavale Road.  One of the key viewpoints was from the Gloucestershire Way but it was also evidenced at that viewpoint that the scheme would be maintaining the bowl of Winchcombe within the hills surrounding it.  It was reiterated that it was only visible from certain points along the Gloucestershire Way, it was not a long viewpoint.  As such, Officers considered the landscape impact was ‘minor adverse’ and that was the same view as the Local Plan Inspector when the site was allocated.  Taking all of this into account, Officers considered that the application accorded with Policy WIN1 and, in light of the fact the Council could not demonstrate a five year housing land supply at this time, it was recommended that authority be delegated to the Development Manager to permit the application, subject to any additional/amended planning conditions and the completion of a Section 106 Agreement.

7.35           The Chair invited the applicant’s agent to address the Committee.  The applicant’s agent indicated that he had been involved in the proposal for many years and was grateful to see the hard work of Council Officers brought to fruition on a site recently allocated in the Tewkesbury Borough Plan.  The proposal before Members today would see delivery of allocation WIN1, the main residential allocation for Winchcombe.  The Committee would be aware of the site’s allocation status and the reason why it was allocated in the first place – to meet housing need in Winchcombe Town, which had been unaddressed thus far.  The Council’s policy set no cap on the scale of the allocation, it simply gave an indicative figure and, through this scheme, the developer proposed 100 dwellings, 50% of which were affordable.  The quantum of the scheme was considered to be in accordance with the thrust of the policy and would make an important contribution to address the town’s affordable shortfall of 85 dwellings.  This commitment from the developer would ensure a 10% overprovision of affordable housing against policies in the Joint Core Strategy; however, this was not just about housing numbers and, as one of the key housing associations in the area, the developer was committed to the principle of place-making and had worked proactively with Council Officers over the last 15 months to bring forward a scheme which sought to develop the site in the right way; that involved striking a balance between development and sensitivities of the area.  The applicant’s agent explained that was the reason for bringing forward a full planning application as that had allowed a scheme to be developed which was informed by landscape principles to ensure that the character of the area and sensitivities of the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty could be accounted for.  The outcome of this process had seen redesigns of the scheme since the submission in 2021, reducing the number of proposed dwellings from 110 to 100.  That change had been informed by the comments received by the Council and consultees involving a further softening of the development edge and a relocation of elements including the attenuation basin; the area of children’s play; and the internal road alignment.  Those changes had ensured that all development now lay below the identified 115 metre contour and responded to the comments raised in a constructive manner.  Since the original submission in 2021, the policy governing the allocation site had changed and included a requirement for a secondary footpath.  The developer had responded to that and secured the land to ensure the link could be delivered.  In addition, other benefits of the proposal included a mix of family housing, including 50% affordable housing; 41% green infrastructure, including an area of local play and footpaths within the site; a package of planning obligations to be directed to Winchcombe; and betterment to drainage.  The applicant’s agent indicated that the proposals presented a strong package of benefits that would bring much-needed housing to Winchcombe.  It would not result in unacceptable harm to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or local environment and would involve significant benefits which weighed in favour of the scheme.  He therefore encouraged Members to support the application before them today.

7.36          The Chair indicated that the Officer recommendation was to delegate authority to the Development Manager to permit the application, subject to any additional/amended planning conditions and the completion of a Section 106 Agreement, and he sought a motion from the floor.  A Member asked for clarification as to the type of affordable housing that would be provided and, in terms of the housing mix, he noted they started at three bedrooms and increased in size so he asked why there were no one or two-bedroom market houses which would help to get people onto the housing ladder.  The Planning Officer confirmed that all of the affordable housing was social rent which was most needed in Tewkesbury Borough.  The applicant had submitted details of the market housing mix but Officers had done an analysis based on the mix set out in the Council’s local housing needs and public open space background paper and, looking at the scheme as a whole in terms of the amount of the market and affordable housing, it did meet the requirements of the evidence base.  Another Member asked for confirmation of the density per hectare and the Planning Officer indicated that was set out at Page No. 248, Paragraph 8.52 of the Committee report.  In terms of the built-up area, excluding the open space, the overall density was 28 dwellings per hectare and it varied across the site - the lower parts of the site which were visually less prominent had a density of 34 dwellings per hectare and, on the higher slopes that fell to 18 dwellings per hectare which allowed for greater separation of properties.  The Member asked whether the number of dwellings on the site could be increased given there was a significant need in that area and that would allow people in Winchcombe to remain in the village they had grown up in.  He asked whether that could be looked at as part of a delegated permission.  In response, the Planning Officer explained that this was a full planning application which stated the size of the plots and the Planning Authority was required to determine the application as set out.  He explained that the site was allocated in RES1 of the Tewkesbury Local Plan for 80 dwellings and the proposal was for 100 dwellings so there would already be 20 more houses than envisaged.  Furthermore, this site was within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and delivering market housing needed to be balanced against the impact on the landscape.  Officers’ view was that the scheme as presented used the site efficiently and had regard to the landscape sensitivities of the site and the fact it was within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  Officers had requested that the scheme be reduced by 10 dwellings largely for landscape reasons and felt that the application as presented was the most appropriate form of development for the site.

7.37           A Member asked whether this was classed as major development and what implications that had and, in terms of the affordable housing, she noted this would be in clusters yet her understanding was that planning policy was to disperse this throughout the development and she asked what the reasoning was for going against that policy.  The Planning Officer explained that the National Planning Policy Framework stated that whether a scheme was major development or not was a matter for the decision-maker taking account of factors such as the size of the settlement the development was in and the characteristics of the site etc.  The important consideration in this case was that, during the examination process, the Local Plan Inspector had considered whether the site was major development within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and had come to the view that it was not.  As such, the question for Planning Officers was whether the application site was bigger and extended further so as to take this into the threshold for major development; the site extended approximately 0.3 hectares outside of the allocation and, in the context of Winchcombe and the wider settlement, the Planning Officer’s view was that it did not constitute major development in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. If it was considered major development within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, that would bring in different policy considerations and would need to go through the exception tests.  In terms of the question relating to affordable housing, the Planning Officer confirmed that it was in two distinct sections; however, he advised that the majority of the affordable units were smaller dwellings and were in a denser form of development next to Delavale Road which was less visually prominent.  If the smaller units were dispersed throughout the site, this would result in a denser form of development at the top of the hill which would have a greater visual impact.  There was a conflict with Policy SD11 of the Joint Core Strategy in that the affordable housing was not seamlessly integrated but it was a matter of balance and, in this instance, there was justification to have the denser form of development in a less visually prominent site.  A Member noted that the Strategic Housing and Enabling Officer had raised concerns about accessibility standards and she asked whether that had been addressed.  The Planning Officer explained that discussions with the applicant were around the inclusion of M4(2) units which were accessible and adaptable that would allow for people with mobility issues.  The Local Plan evidence base requirement was for 67% of all units to be M4(2) standard.  The scheme as originally submitted had none, consequently substantial negotiations had taken place with the applicant and five M4(2) units had subsequently been secured.  Whilst that was below the requirements of the housing needs assessment and a factor which weighed against the application, it was necessary to look at the overall planning balance and the benefits of the scheme and he would not recommend that the Committee refuse the application on the basis that fewer M4(2) units were provided.

7.38           A Member noted that the Urban Design Officer had objections to the application as originally submitted as set out at Page No. 232, Paragraph 4.15 of the Committee report which stated that some of those concerns had been discussed, but there had been no consultation response on the revised proposals as there was currently no Urban Design Officer at the Council.  The Planning Officer explained that the Urban Design Officer had provided a consultation response on the initial application and one of the main issues was that the proposal as submitted included development above the 115 metre contour line but that had now been relocated so that concern had been addressed.  There had also been concerns about the way the original application fronted onto the open space on higher ground but the scheme had been redesigned so all dwellings were front-facing and the car parking spaces were set to the side of the dwellings which provided a screen to transition between the two.  So, although a revised response had not been received from the Urban Design Officer, Officers were satisfied that the concerns raised had been addressed.

7.39           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 could not support the motion given this was a site within the Local Plan that the Inspector had taken an exceptional interest to due to concerns of the size of development within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  The Inspector had come to the conclusion that it was suitable for up to 80 dwellings as that would not result in any detrimental harm to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – the current proposal did not conform with that.  He was also concerned there was only one vehicular access to a site of this size and he believed the development would encourage more people to use vehicles to go to the shops.  He indicated that, in addition to the points raised by the Urban Design Officer, the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Board had submitted a very comprehensive objection to the application.  Whilst he was not against the site being developed for housing, he felt that needed to fit with the views of the Local Plan Inspector so he could not support 100 houses here.

7.40           Upon being put to the vote, it was

RESOLVED          That authority be DELEGATED to the Development Manager to PERMIT the application, subject to any additional/amended planning conditions and the completion of a Section 106 Agreement, in accordance with the Officer recommendation.

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