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Agenda item

20/00937/FUL - Cotswold Grange Country Park, Downfield Lane, Twyning

PROPOSAL: Extension to existing holiday park to provide 29 leisure caravans including landscaping and access.




14.20        This application was for an extension to the existing holiday park to provide 29 leisure caravans including landscaping and access.  The Planning Committee had visited the application site on Friday 15 July 2022.

14.21        The Planning Officer advised that the application site was located on the south side of Downfield Lane and would result in an expansion of the existing site to the east which currently held 150 caravans.  The current site comprised a mixture of leisure and full-time residential caravans, with internal infrastructure such as roads and drainage.  The site was flat in nature and bounded by mature hedges and trees, it was not located in any designated landscape areas and access would be from the south-east corner via the existing site.  As set out in the Committee report, Officers considered that the proposal would accord with the Council’s tourism policies by providing economic and social benefits.  Some landscape harm had been identified by way of encroachment which had resulted in the applicant submitting a Visual Impact Assessment and amended landscape proposals; those details had been assessed by the Council’s Landscape Adviser who raised no objection, subject to mitigation being provided through the landscape scheme.  Officers concluded that, whilst the proposal would have some impact on the wider landscape, this would be outweighed in the planning balance by the benefits of the scheme and it was therefore recommended that permission be granted, subject to conditions.

14.22        The Chair invited the representative from Twyning Parish Council to address the Committee.  The Parish Council representative indicated that it was becoming increasingly obvious that Planning Officers were complying with the direction given by Inspectors at various appeals where refusal decisions had been overturned. In doing so, they were complicit with undermining policies in the Tewkesbury Borough Plan which had taken some 11 years to come forward and had only very recently been adopted.  Twyning Parish Council considered this application was contrary to Policy INF1 of the Joint Core Strategy and Policy TOR1 of the Tewkesbury Borough Plan in respect of paragraphs 1, 3, 4 and 5 and all those in relation to there being no credible alternative modes of transport other than the private car.  The unequivocal comments from Stagecoach bus company in other applications illustrated the unsustainability of increasing the amount of private vehicles from isolated communities onto the road network.  One only had to look at Policy TOR1 to see in a number of sub-paragraphs why this application was not acceptable – it was also contrary to Policy TOR3 in relation to the damage to the landscape and character of the area.  The Parish Council had previously attempted to bring the Borough Council’s attention to the illogical nature of rampant development in this small, isolated village to no avail.  Policies in the new Tewkesbury Borough Plan indicated this was an inappropriate extension of an already significant country park and the adverse impact of the accumulated effects outweighed the benefit for tourism.  Twyning Parish had an exceptional number of park home and caravan enterprises and certainly did not need more.  The Parish Council took exception to the conclusion of Officers who recommended permission whilst stating at the same time that there would be harm arising from the development; contrary to their conclusion, significant weight should be given to the harmful aspects of the application.  There were plenty of Tewkesbury Borough Plan policies on which to base refusal, not least the application being outside of the Twyning Neighbourhood Development Plan boundary, but the Parish Council felt these were being ignored by Officers and found the recommended to permit the application illogical and non-compliant with current policy.  The Parish Council representative stressed that Twyning had enough caravans for one village and did not need more.

14.23        The Chair invited the applicant’s agent to address the Committee.  The applicant’s agent indicated that, ultimately, his request was to ask Members to support the Officer recommendation to permit the application and he intended to briefly run through the policy position which clearly identified that the proposal accorded with the development plan as could be applied.  The applicant had worked with Officers for a substantial period of time in order to bring forward the required technical studies and environmental assessments, to identify the associated impacts and appropriate mitigation measures, to the satisfaction of all technical consultees.  That had been undertaken in the knowledge that the principle of the proposal, in extending an existing tourist accommodation site for the socio-economic benefit of the region, directly accorded with the expectations of Policies TOR1 and TOR3.  The application site made a valuable contribution towards the local tourist economy in its current form and extensions to tourism sites were, for the most part, the most appropriate way of delivering balanced benefit against growth targets whilst offering minimal disruption to the openness of the countryside.  This proposal had demonstrated, by way of a proportionate extension to an existing site, that additional tourism benefit could be secured for the services and facilities of Twyning and the wider area whilst offering a negligible impact on transport and access and appropriately mitigating for all other environmental aspects.  Whilst the site was no longer located within a Landscape Protection Zone, that did not displace the requirement to bring forward an extension that sought to amalgamate itself appropriately into the natural landscape and the applicant had worked at length with Officers and landscape consultees to provide a detailed planting scheme that secured not only substantial screening mitigation where required, but also substantial biodiversity net gain throughout the site.  The result was an agreement by all parties that the proposal offered a very limited landscape impact within the visual setting of the existing parkland and facilitated ecological and tourism benefit that sufficiently and substantially sat in beneficial planning balance.  Planning Officers concluded that the application accorded with the development plan as could be applied and there were no objections raised by any technical consultees, subject to the conditions proposed.  The application overwhelmingly accorded with the expectations of the development plan and the aspirations of the National Planning Policy Framework, as such, the applicant’s agent respectfully requested that Members support the Officer recommendation and grant permission.

14.24        The Chair indicated that the Officer recommendation was to permit the application and he sought a motion from the floor.  A Member drew attention to Page No. 158, Paragraph 4.2 of the Committee report, which stated that the Environment Agency had objected to the proposal based on insufficient evidence in respect of floor levels and Page No. 164, Paragraph 7.35 of the Committee report, set out that the applicant had updated the floor level to 13.72 metres which complied with the Environment Agency requirement; however, condition 5, set out at Page No. 166 of the Committee report, stated that the finished floor level would be 13.12 metres and he asked for some clarification on that.  The Planning Officer confirmed there was a discrepancy and that condition 5 should accord with the Environment Agency requirement of 13.72 metres so that would need to be amended should Members be minded to permit the application.  A Member asked whether any part of the site area had been affected by flooding in the past and the Planning Officer advised that all but a small corner in the southern part of the site was within Flood Zone 1 and had not flooded.  Another Member noted there was little reference within the Committee report to the disposal of sewage and foul water other than to state that the Drainage Officer was satisfied with the proposal.  He was aware that water authorities up and down the country had been accused of pumping waste straight into rivers and, given the proximity of the River Avon to the site, he asked for more information as to how waste would be disposed.  In response, the Planning Officer advised that the drainage plan submitted with the application showed the existing site would benefit from a waste water pumping system which would be connected to a sewage plant.

14.25        It was proposed and seconded that the application be refused on the basis that it conflicted with Policy TOR1 of the Tewkesbury Borough Plan as the proposal did not involve the appropriate conversion or re-use of existing buildings; did not support the Plan’s wider objectives, particularly in relation to conservation, transport, health, heritage conservation, recreation, economic development, the environment and nature conservation; the siting, design and scale was not in keeping with, nor would it enhance, the built, natural and historic environment setting; there would be an unacceptable impact on the safe and satisfactory operation of the highway network as increased traffic was a constant problem, particularly in the main part of the village; it would not be accessible by all modes of transport as there was no public transport to and from the village; and, the site was outside of the Parish boundary and would result in significant landscape harm.  The seconder of the motion raised concern that it was very hard to tell whether the site was residential or a holiday park and she sought clarification on that.  In response, the Planning Officer advised that it was a mixed use site which had started as a holiday park but, over the passage of time, certain units had gained permanent residential use.  In terms of how it was monitored, the Planning Officer explained that information was requested from site managers by the Enforcement team as to which units were residential and which were holiday lets.  He confirmed that this application was for leisure use only.  A Member asked whether the site could be occupied for 12 months of the year and the Planning Officer confirmed that was correct.  The Planning and Enforcement Team Leader (South) explained that, in terms of conflict with planning policy, as set out at Page No. 159, Paragraph 7.3 of the Committee report, Policy TOR3 was more directly relevant than Policy TOR1 - Officers considered that the proposal was in accordance with Policy TOR3.  Furthermore, as had been pointed out, there were no technical objections from any of the consultees in relation to the application.  He pointed out that condition 4, set out at Page No. 166 of the Committee report, restricted the site to holiday use and stipulated that it should not be occupied by an individual, family or group for more than one month in any 12 month period; that condition was enforceable so safeguards were in place as far as Officers were concerned.  The Legal Adviser explained that TOR3 related specifically to extensions to existing caravan sites and the proposer of the motion had suggested this proposal conflicted with policy on the basis it would not be re-using an existing building under TOR1; however, that was not a requirement of Policy TOR3.  As she understood it, the prime reasons for refusal being put forward were highways, landscape setting and modes of transport and the proposer of the motion confirmed that was correct.  A Member noted that the proposal was for mobile homes as opposed to caravans and he asked if they came under the same definition.  The Legal Adviser confirmed that, subject to some restrictions as to size, they would come with the definition as a caravan. 

14.26        Upon being put to the vote, the motion to refuse the application was lost.  It was subsequently proposed that the application be permitted in accordance with the Officer recommendation, subject to an amendment to condition 5 to change the finished floor level requirement to 13.72 metres in accordance with the Environment Agency requirement.  A Member noted that the County Council had not requested any electricity hook-ups on the site and she asked if there was an opportunity for that to be included as a condition.  The Planning and Enforcement Team Leader (South) confirmed there had been no recommendation from the County Council at the time of consultation but it could be secured by condition.  The Member indicated that she was not sure how many could be provided but she would be happy for this to be in the car park, if there was to be one – her main concern was ensuring that the opportunity was not missed.  On the basis that condition covering this was included, she was happy to second the proposal.  The proposer of the motion confirmed he was happy for this to be included and, upon being put to the vote, it was

RESOLVED           That the application be PERMITTED in accordance with the Officer recommendation, subject to an amendment to condition 5 to change the finished floor level requirement to 13.72 metres in accordance with the Environment Agency requirement and an additional condition for electricity hook-ups to be included on the site.

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