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Agenda item

20/00892/OUT - Land off Kyderminster Road, Winchcombe

PROPOSAL: The erection of up to 24 dwellings (Class C3), vehicular access from Clarendon Road and Whitmore Road, public open space and associated landscaping and engineering works (reduced quantum of dwellings from 35 to 24).

 

OFFICER RECOMMENDATION: Delegated Permit.

 

Minutes:

14.9          This was an outline application for the erection of up to 24 dwellings (Class C3), vehicular access from Clarendon Road and Whitmore Road, public open space and associated landscaping and engineering works (reduced quantum of dwellings from 35 to 24).

14.10        The Planning Officer advised that the application site comprised two field parcels located to the north-west edge of Winchcombe.  The site lay outside of, but adjacent to, the settlement boundary and to the north of the Local Plan housing allocation WIN1.  The application sought outline planning permission for the erection of 24 dwellings with access from Kyderminster Road, Clarendon Road and Whitmore Road.  The proposal was within a service centre but outside of a defined settlement boundary and therefore conflicted with Policy SD10 of the Joint Core Strategy and the Winchcombe and Sudeley Neighbourhood Development Plan.  The site was also within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  In accordance with Paragraph 11 of the National Planning Policy Framework, and given the Council’s current housing land supply position, planning permission should be granted unless any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits when assessed against the policies in the framework taken as a whole.  Officers considered that, whilst the proposal would result in some harm to the landscape by reason of encroachment, that harm would be limited and outweighed by the social and economic benefits associated with the delivery of up to 24 dwellings, of which 40% would be affordable, within a service centre location.  On that basis, subject to compliance with conditions and the completion of a Section 106 Agreement, although there would be some harm to the landscape by reason of encroachment into the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it would not result in any other harms which would otherwise outweigh the benefits of delivering the dwellings at the site.  The Planning Officer drew attention to the corrections outlined in the Additional Representations Sheet, attached at Appendix 1, and advised that the Officer recommendation remained delegated permit subject to the completion of a Section 106 Agreement.

14.11        The Chair invited the representative from Winchcombe Town Council to address the Committee.  The Town Council representative indicated that the Town Council felt there were sufficient grounds to refuse the application as it was not included in the Tewkesbury Borough Plan nor the Winchcombe and Sudeley Neighbourhood Development Plan.  National policy was clear that development should be plan-led and need must not outweigh the harm that would be caused to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; however, with 100 dwellings already permitted, if planning permission was granted for this application that would represent a total of 44 dwellings in excess of the Tewkesbury Borough Plan policy all of which would be in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  As there was no demonstrable need, the Town Council considered that the starting point for the Planning Committee should be to refuse the application without exceptionally important reasons.  Paragraph 7.5 of the Committee report set out how the proposal conflicted with policy but this was set aside in Paragraph 7.6 on the basis that it was an urban extension – the Town Council did not consider this to be justification for extending development into the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and that view was upheld by the Planning Inspector when he had dismissed the appeal in 2017 albeit that appeal was not mentioned in the Committee report.  The Cotswold Conservation Board had been unable to respond to this application in full which the Town Council understood was due to a resource issue; notwithstanding this, its representation in 2016 had strongly opposed the development.  The Inspector’s report on the Tewkesbury Borough Local Plan, published in April, calculated that the Council could demonstrate a 7.15 year housing land supply but that was contradicted by the Committee report which stated that it could only demonstrate a 3.83 year supply – this was based on Tewkesbury Borough Council’s Land Supply Statement published January 2021 which was now 18 months out of date.  The Winchcombe Landscape and Visual Sensitivity Study (November 2014), which had not been referenced in the Committee report, concluded that development on the site was of “moderate adverse impact” and the applicant’s own Landscape and Visual Sensitivity Study had also noted the adverse impact; however, Paragraph 4.2 of the Committee report stated that the Landscape Adviser had no objection to the proposal – the Town Council suggested this was not based on any evidence and questioned why the Planning Inspector had not included the site in the Local Plan if there would be no adverse impact on the landscape.  With the benefit of local knowledge, the Town Council representative advised that the watercourses running along the north and south boundaries of the site flooded the highway and properties on Gretton Road at times of heavy, but not excessive, rainfall and development on the site was likely to change the character of pluvial flooding.  The Town Council was not opposed to development that met the needs of the town, or the wider needs of the borough, and had recently supported a proposal for housing and business use on a site more accessible to the town centre; unlike the one before Members, that development would accord with the Winchcombe and Sudeley Neighbourhood Development Plan.  In the Town Council’s view, permitting this application would undermine the whole concept of the development plan determining where development should take place and it hoped the Committee would feel there were adequate grounds for refusal.

14.12        The Chair invited the applicant’s agent to address the Committee.  The applicant’s agent indicated that the five year housing land supply was clearly material to this application; however, rather than thinking about how many years supply the Council could or could not demonstrate, he encouraged Members to focus on the real housing issue faced by local people and the benefits of this scheme.  There remained a pressing need for new market and affordable housing across Tewkesbury Borough, and within Winchcombe, demonstrated by the number of households on the Council’s housing waiting list and the delays faced by those waiting to be re-housed which averaged between three and 10 years.  Housing need was not being met through the supply of new homes in Winchcombe and market signals continued to worsen with house price rises in the town far exceeding growth within the wider Tewkesbury and Gloucestershire area.  Failing to provide enough new homes in Winchcombe would exacerbate affordability issues, did not address the needs of local residents and had wider implications for the vitality of the town.  Those issues would not be resolved by the WIN1 scheme alone – even accounting for the 100 homes recently supported by the Committee, the Borough Plan evidence base was clear that a significant need for new homes in Winchcombe remained.  This scheme would help to meet the need through a very carefully considered and landscape-led development.  The parameters plan defined small discrete development parcels which would protect local views from within the settlement and longer distance views from the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which had been informed by comprehensive support on landscape, design and ecology.  The design approach had the full support of Officers and the Council’s specialist design and landscape advisers.  The benefits of the development would include new housing in a sustainable location; 10 new affordable homes; 1.16 hectares of publicly accessible open space in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; an improved high quality boundary at the settlement edge to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; a comprehensive and well-connected green corridor network along the western edge of Winchcombe; opportunities to experience the retained area of the ridge and furrow in the northern parcel; the opportunity for improved access to the community allotments, as requested directly by the Community Allotments and Orchard Group which had recently come into effect; and a financial contribution to provide a new bus shelter on Gretton Road.  The applicant’s agent indicated that these benefits far outweighed the very limited harm arising from new development in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as its special qualities, principal elements and key characteristics would be maintained.

14.13        The Chair invited a local Ward Member for the area to address the Committee.  The local Ward Member indicated that he was extremely disappointed to learn that the Officer recommendation for this application was delegated permit.  Overdevelopment was turning Winchcombe into a boring dormitory town with an ever increasing number of houses, no locally available jobs, more traffic congestion, stretched availability of primary and secondary school places and very strained medical provision.  The local population was aware of the Winchcombe and Sudeley Neighbourhood Development Plan, as well as the recently adopted Tewkesbury Borough Plan, so would be incredibly disappointed and angry if this speculative development was allowed by the Planning Committee.  He reminded Members that this development had been refused in the past and had also been dismissed on appeal so he questioned why Members would permit a development that had already been found to be unsound.  Winchcombe was a valley settlement but recent developments were being constructed far away from the centre of town and further up into the hillsides which formed part of the recognised Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  Furthermore, the roads in Winchcombe were designed and laid out to accommodate the horse and cart, not the motor car, and definitely not the large vehicles which attempted to navigate Winchcombe town.  There was already a horrendous traffic congestion problem within the town which would be exacerbated by previous and currently planned housing developments.  The local Ward Member recognised that more housing was required to satisfy government targets; however, rather than building up the hills and a long distance from the centre of town, he felt developers should be looking at sites close to, and within, the town centre.  Finally, and importantly, he indicated that this was an application for outline planning permission so, if granted, it would be exceedingly difficult to refuse full planning permission for likely more houses than the 24 proposed within this application.  He urged Members to refuse this repeat of a purely speculative outline planning application that was not supported by local housing need.

14.14        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 raised concern as to why there was no mention of the appeal which had been dismissed following refusal of the original application in 2016 and the Planning Officer apologised for this omission from the Committee report.  He confirmed that a previous scheme for 35 dwellings had been recommended for permission but had been refused by the Planning Committee and subsequently dismissed at appeal.  The Inspector had noted that, in the time between the application being refused and it being taken to appeal, the Council was able to demonstrate a five year housing land supply which was one factor which differed from the current proposal.  Furthermore, the current scheme was for 11 fewer dwellings and the design tried to address the issues that had been raised by the Inspector to provide views through the development to the rising landscape and beyond.  The Member questioned whether the appeal had also been dismissed on account of the harm that would be caused to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  In response, the Planning and Enforcement Team Leader (South) felt it was important to state that, whilst there was no direct reference to the appeal within the Committee report, there were passing references, particularly in the landscape section, and this scheme sought to address the refusal reasons by reducing the number of units and providing a soft landscape buffer which would not intrude too much into the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. 

14.15        A Member drew attention to Page No. 130, Paragraph 4.2 of the Committee report which stated that the Flood Risk Management Authority had made no comment which was concerning in light of the comments made by the Town Council.  The Planning Officer advised that site was located within Flood Zone 1 which had the lowest risk of flooding.  As set out at Page No. 140, Paragraph 7.55 of the Committee report, the Lead Local Flood Authority had assessed the report and concluded that the development would not increase flood risk to existing development downstream and there would not be any risk of internal flooding of property within the proposed site.  It had been recommended that a detailed surface water drainage strategy be submitted as part of any subsequent reserved matters application and that could be secured by condition.  The Member went on to indicate that, in terms of the housing land supply issue, she understood that other authorities did not approach this in the same way as Tewkesbury Borough Council in that, having approved the Tewkesbury Borough Plan, it was now necessary to wait for Officers to physically count the number of developments which had commenced or completed.  Members had been advised at the last Planning Committee meeting that this was due to be completed in August and, on the basis that was now less than a month away, she suggested it would be pertinent to defer this application until the count had been carried out, if that was still considered necessary.  In response, the Head of Development Services advised that the count was underway to determine the Council’s position with regard to its five year housing supply which was part of the adoption of the Tewkesbury Borough Plan in June 2022 – it was not possible to confirm that the Council had a five year housing land supply on the date of adoption but Officers were moving as quickly as possible to meet the target of late August in order to confirm its position.  The Planning and Enforcement Team Leader (South) advised that, in his view, deferring the application on the basis of waiting for the five year housing land supply update was not a valid planning reason and, whilst it was anticipated that the count would be complete by late August, that would not necessarily be the case.  The Legal Adviser explained that an attempt to determine an application on the basis that the five year housing land supply was about to be confirmed had been put forward at appeal but had not been looked upon favourably so her advice would be that Members must look at the application before them and would need a valid planning reason to refuse the proposal.  In terms of the count, a Member expressed the view that, given the resource issues within the Planning team, August was not a realistic target and he asked for clarification on the trajectory of delivery for the site.  The Planning Officer indicated that he was not able to answer that other than to say that, typically, smaller sites were delivered at a faster pace than more strategic ones. 

14.16        It was proposed and seconded that the application be refused on the basis that it would represent an intrusion into the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, would occupy an area of agricultural land which formed part of the setting of Langley Hill and would be highly visible to residents of the adjacent existing development.  The proposer of the motion indicated that some Members would remember the site from the Planning Committee Site Visit that had been carried out in relation to the 2016 application and would recall its location in a very picturesque area within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  He was concerned that this proposal would involve building away from the centre of the town where shops, schools and facilities were located and pointed out that other locations were available which would be more suitable.  Winchcombe was not a hillside settlement but it seemed developers felt it was appropriate to tag additional housing onto the WIN1 allocation.  In terms of the proposal which had been dismissed at appeal, the Inspector’s report had stated that the development would be highly visible to residents of the adjacent existing development and from Clarendon and Whitmore Roads and, whilst the effects would be localised for the most part, this amounted to actual harm to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which would be in conflict with Policy SD8 of the emerging Joint Core Strategy and Policy WIN1 of the Tewkesbury Borough Plan.  The proposer of the motion indicated that the Council had a duty to protect the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the application should therefore be refused. 

14.17        A Member sought clarification as to whether the allotment site to the west of the site had been there when the appeal was heard in 2016 and the proposer of the motion advised that it had not been in use as an allotment site – it had originally been purchased by Winchcombe Town Council for a new cemetery and subsequently earmarked as extra land for an allotment.  When a community allotment group had been established, the Town Council had agreed it could create an allotment on that land along with another site on Broadway Road.  The Planning Officer believed that the allotment had come into use in the early part of 2022 so had not been in use as an allotment at the time of the appeal.  The Member pointed out that, now the allotment was there, he expected there would be greenhouses and sheds on the land which was within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

14.18        With regard to the affordable housing, a Member questioned whether the housing types would be the same composition for the market and affordable housing, i.e. would the 40% affordable housing comprise the same proportion of three and four bedroom houses as the market housing or would the affordable housing be comprised of smaller dwellings.  She noted in respect of the application considered at Agenda Item 6a – 22/00364/APP – Land at Twigworth that all of the one and two bedroom houses would be affordable as well as 25 of the three bedroom houses and seven four bedroom houses whereas the market housing would comprise 97 three bedroom houses and 116 four bedroom houses which to her mind was not an equal measure.  The Planning Officer explained that the split of affordable housing would be determined via the Section 106 Agreement so the Council would have control over the size of the units and that would be informed by the housing need assessment.  The Planning and Enforcement Team Leader (South) confirmed that the mix and type of affordable housing provision would be specific to this location so would not necessarily be the same as Twigworth.  The Council’s Strategic Housing and Enabling Officer would assess the established need in Winchcombe and the mix would be tailored to suit that; this would be set by the Section 106 Agreement.  The Member felt this could be better communicated in the Committee report and the Planning and Enforcement Team Leader (South) recognised that some reports did set this out more clearly than others so there needed to be a more consistent approach going forward.  A Member questioned whether any of the 10 affordable units would be social housing and whether there would be a condition to ensure that the houses could only be allocated to people from Winchcombe, as had been done previously.  The Planning and Enforcement Team Leader (South) indicated that he did not have that information to hand; however, he reiterated that schemes were vetted by the Strategic Housing and Enabling Officer and would reflect local need.

14.19        A Member indicated that he was reluctant to vote against the motion to refuse the application but he was concerned that the Council would lose any subsequent appeal if the application was refused and he would like to ensure the application remained within the Council’s control.  The seconder of the motion to refuse the application was disappointed that Members had not been provided with full information regarding the previous application and appeal in relation to the site.  Ultimately, the appeal had been dismissed by the Inspector on the grounds of harm to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and, as far as he could tell, there had been no fundamental change with regard to that since that time.  Whilst he understood Officers’ comments, he felt the amendments which had been made were minor adjustments and did not change the overall refusal reasons which had been upheld by the Inspector.  He also pointed out that a lot of time and effort had gone into producing the Tewkesbury Borough Plan and various sites and housing need had been considered as part of that process.  There would be times when the Council could demonstrate a five year housing land supply and others when it could not; however, he felt it was important to adhere to the development plans – this site had been considered during the process and had not been identified as being suitable for residential development so he urged Members to support the motion to refuse the application.  In terms of the reasons for refusal, the Legal Adviser suggested that these also include that it was against distribution strategy/location policies and technical reasons in respect of the Section 106 Agreement not being completed.  The Planning Officer clarified that the site was outside the built-up area and therefore was contrary to Policy SD10 of the Joint Core Strategy.  The proposer and seconder of the motion confirmed they were happy for those reasons to be incorporated and, upon being put to the vote, it was

RESOLVED           That the application be REFUSED as it was contrary to Policy SD10 of the Joint Core Strategy and would cause harm to the landscape by reason of encroachment into the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty occupying the agricultural land which formed part of the setting of Langley Hill and would be highly visible to residents of the adjacent existing development, and due to the absence of a completed Section 106 Agreement to secure the financial contributions and affordable housing.

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