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Agenda item

21/01384/OUT - Land West of Duddage Business Park, Brockeridge Road, Twyning

PROPOSAL: Outline planning application for an extension to Duddage Manor Business Park for commercial development including Class E (office and light industrial), B2 (general industrial) and B8 (storage) and new access and associated infrastructure (all matters reserved for future consideration).

 

OFFICER RECOMMENDATION: Delegated permit.

Minutes:

20.8          This was an outline application for an extension to Duddage Manor Business Park for commercial development including Class E (office and light industrial), B2 (general industrial) and B8 (storage) and new access and associated infrastructure (all matters reserved for future consideration).  The Planning Committee had visited the application site on Friday 12 August 2022.

20.9          The Planning Officer advised that the application site was located to the southern side of Brockeridge Road and directly to the west of Duddage Business Park which was identified as a rural business centre.  The site was also located approximately 380 metres west of the built-up area of Twyning which was a service village.  The proposed site was approximately two hectares in area and the application was accompanied by an illustrative masterplan which showed how it could be laid out to provide 3,000 square metres of commercial floorspace, an access road from Brockeridge Road and associated infrastructure.  Tewkesbury Borough Plan Policy EMP2 set out that extensions to rural business centres, as identified on the policies map, would be supported in principle provided they were of an appropriate scale and design having regard to the existing buildings and rural landscape.  Whilst the principle of development was considered acceptable and it would accord with Policy EMP5, it was noted that the proposal would exceed the indicated 0.42 hectare extension in the plan and would encroach into the field parcel; however, this would be outweighed by the economic benefits of delivering additional employment land in proximity to a Service Village and in the absence of any other identified harms.  Although the development would be served by a separate access to the existing business park, the County Highways Officer had assessed the proposal and raised no objection to the arrangements.  The Council’s Conservation Officer had also assessed the proposal and confirmed it would not impact the setting of nearby listed buildings due to existing intervening development.  The County Archaeologist had been consulted but their observations were awaited.  The Officer recommendation was delegated permit, subject to no adverse observations being received from the County Archaeologist, the completion of a Section 106 Agreement as set out the Committee Report and any other conditions/amendment to conditions as required.

20.10        The Chair invited a representative from Twyning Parish Council to address the Committee.  The Parish Council representative indicated that Policy EMP2 of the Tewkesbury Borough Plan allowed a 0.42 hectare extension to Duddage Business Park but this application would increase the size of the development by 300% to two hectares. The Parish Council questioned whether this was a rural business extension or a strategic employment scheme given that it would involve 3,000 square metres of warehousing with a requirement for the parking of 109 cars.  Central to all such rural extensions and found in most of the acceptable policy documents was that the extension should be appropriate in size and scale and sensitive to its surroundings; the Parish Council felt this application failed in that regard and was contrary to Paragraph 85 of the National Planning Policy Framework, Policies SD1 and SD5 of the Joint Core Strategy, Policy EMP2 of the Tewkesbury Borough Plan and Policy E1 of the Twyning Neighbourhood Development Plan.  In all regards, the requirement for the development was that it should be ‘small scale’ - the Parish Council did not consider two 5.6 metre and four 4.1 metre warehouses to be small scale.  Furthermore, the Parish Council did not feel that a two hectare development with such large warehouses could be described as sensitive to the landscape, as such, it was contrary to Policy LAN2.  In addition, the proposal would fail to deliver a biodiversity net gain and was contrary to Tewkesbury Borough Plan Policy NAT1.  An additional 109 cars and Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) led the Parish Council to conclude that, based on the proper application of local and national policy, the site must be considered unsustainable on transport and social inclusion terms.  The Parish Council representative indicated that the proposal was in breach of specific policies, including Policies SP2 and INF1 of the Joint Core Strategy, as well as the requirements set out in Chapter 9 of the National Planning Policy Framework, and failed to meet sustainability credentials required by Paragraph 83 of the National Planning Policy Framework.  Given its remote location, there were no opportunities to promote walking and cycling, contrary to Paragraph 104 c) of the National Planning Policy Framework and there was no bus service.  In assessing highway safety, the Parish Council was of the view that all of factors presented should be considered with regard to cumulative impact.

20.11         The Chair invited a local resident speaking in objection to the application to address the Committee.  The local resident indicated that, following the Parish Council representation, he intended to limit his comments to two other aspects of the proposal.  With regard to the environment, he felt that increasing the workforce by an estimated 100 people and their cars, together with a significant increase in HGV movements would have an adverse impact on the environment contrary to Paragraph 104 d) of the National Planning Policy Framework.  Those limitations hardly generated a genuine choice of transport required by Paragraph 105 of the National Planning Policy Framework and would simply increase the carbon footprint with a significant rise in the number of vehicles accessing the village.  The local resident indicated that the fact this was a rural location did not absolve responsibility of decision-makers to assess the impact on the environment.  In relation to flooding, the local resident trusted that Members had read the Lead Local Flood Authority’s submission on the application and he expressed the view that it said everything there was to know about the viability of the site in terms of its water management strategy – in his view, it was lacking any sensible plan and could not explain where the surface and foul water could legally go.  The local resident agreed completely with the conclusion of the Lead Local Flood Authority that the application lacked the fundamental basis for a workable solution to water management.  One example was the proposed use of a Klargester BioDisc to process sewage; the proposed solution of dumping the water in the ‘pond’ was contrary to generally binding rules.  He felt the problem with outline applications was that matters of detail were often missing and, in this case, the solutions identified did not conform to the Lead Local Flood Authority requirements.  Members had been provided with pictorial evidence of overland flooding on Brockeridge Road, giving witness to a fast-moving stream running into the village and entering the foul sewer with dramatic effect at the network weak points.  Adding to this overland flow would inevitably make an already bad situation a lot worse.  As a consequence, the applicant had not demonstrated that surface and foul water could be satisfactorily handled and the likelihood was that it would inevitably lead to flooding elsewhere.  As such, it was contrary to Paragraph 167 of the National Planning Policy Framework, Policy INF2 of the Joint Core Strategy, Policy ENV2 of the Tewkesbury Borough Plan and Policy GD7 of the Twyning Neighbourhood Development Plan.  The local resident asked the Committee to support these conclusions and refuse the application.

20.12         The Chair invited the applicant’s agent to address the Committee.  The applicant’s agent advised that the application had been advanced following the allocation of the majority of the site within the Tewkesbury Borough Plan as a rural business centre extension to the Duddage Business Park under Policy EMP2.  The site was located on the edge of the Twyning service village and within close proximity of the M5/M50 interchange where this site, together with the nearby Brockeridge Business Centre, had the potential to provide a strategically important business location that was excellently served by the motorway network.  The extensive Borough Plan evidence base, together the unconstrained nature of the area, had identified this was the right location to help meet the aspirational employment land needs of the Joint Core Strategy and its allocation was fully supported by the Borough Plan Inspector.  The application was submitted in outline form but included detailed illustrative information including a Site Masterplan and a Design and Access Statement; these set out a series of design parameters that would guide future reserved matters applications.  As concluded by Officers, the information showed the development would reflect the character, scale, height and layout of the existing business park, together with high quality new landscaping.  As set out by Officers, the development would not give rise to any material landscape or visual impact and the site was unaffected by any landscape or environmental designations.  In terms of transport matters, County Highways was satisfied that the site access arrangements were acceptable.  The location of the site access complied with highway safety and visibility standards with the detail of the junction to be secured through future reserved matters applications as was always the case.  Generous car parking was also included within the application site but more could be provided in the reserved matters applications if necessary.  County Highways had requested the provision of a footpath along the Brockeridge Road to link the site to wider services and facilities within the village and the applicant had demonstrated there was sufficient space along Brockeridge Road, within public ownership, to secure that.  As such, County Highways had confirmed that matter could be adequately controlled by condition.  The applicant’s agent pointed out that additional information in relation to drainage had been provided since the original Lead Local Flood Authority response.  Some reference had been made by locals to the fact the site was a bit larger than the plan allocation but the applicant’s agent advised that was largely to ensure that the development included substantial areas of landscape planting, SuDS attenuation and biodiversity, all of which could not be secured on the smaller site.  As such, this ensured the best development possible which ought to be the priority and had been recognised by Officers.  The applicant’s agent believed Officers had got the recommendation right and he urged Members to support delegated permission which would go a long way to meeting the expectations of employment land allocations in the Joint Core Strategy and Borough Plan.

20.13         The Chair invited a local Ward Member for the application to address the Committee.  The local Ward Member indicated that the recently adopted Tewkesbury Borough Plan included a 0.42 hectare extension of the site yet this application was almost five times that size at over two hectares which was in conflict with the plan.  Furthermore, this was pitched as an extension of the existing business park but the indicative plan showed it had a separate access, only a few metres away from the existing entrance, and was not connected to the existing site at all.  In his view, this was not joined-up planning or design, it was something that was not envisaged by the Tewkesbury Borough Plan and looked stupid, poorly designed and confusing.  If Tewkesbury Borough Council was a plan-led authority then it should stick to the lower expansion size and a single access that served the whole business park as one joined-up entity.  As such, he urged Members to refuse the application.

20.14         The Chair indicated that the Officer recommendation was to delegate authority to the Development Manager to permit the application, subject to no adverse observations being received from the County Archaeologist, the completion of a Section 106 Agreement as set out the Committee Report and any other conditions/amendment to conditions as required, and he sought a motion from the floor.  It was proposed and seconded that the application be refused on the basis that it did not accord with the recently adopted Tewkesbury Borough Plan which was very specific about what was appropriate for this location.  The proposer of the motion had no issue with reasonable development but he was of the view that Tewkesbury Borough Council needed to be a plan-led authority and should not be pushed around by developers.  He felt it would be very poor planning to create an additional entrance so close the entrance to the existing business park, particularly with HGVs utilising the site.  In his opinion, Twyning had been under attack due to its service village status and needed to be protected.  The seconder of the motion pointed out that the size, scale and access had been agreed by the Inspector when considering the Tewkesbury Borough Plan and he felt Members would be crazy to go against that less than four months after adoption. Having been on the Planning Committee Site Visit, it seemed there was no definite boundary which made no sense to him.  If this proposal was in accordance with the Borough Plan with a single access which extended to the new development, the Committee would have no choice but to permit the application; however, that was not the case and he urged Members to refuse it on that basis.  A Member recognised that the main reason for refusal appeared to be that the proposal did not accord with the Tewkesbury Borough Plan; however, the Officer recommendation was delegated permit so he asked for an explanation as to why Officers felt that was appropriate.  In response, the Development Manager clarified that, when assessing applications, Officers were required to take everything into account and make a recommendation based on the planning balance – the planning balance in this case had led to a recommendation of delegated permit but that did not dilute the policies of the Tewkesbury Borough Plan. 

20.15         During the debate which ensued, a Member expressed the view that the application should be permitted as, in his view, the economic benefits outweighed any concerns.  He considered it was a fantastic location for businesses given the proximity to the M50 motorway, as demonstrated by the existing business park, and he felt that the authority should be supportive of business.  Whilst this was a larger proposal than the allocation in the Tewkesbury Borough Plan, he felt that may have resulted in a more confined site whereas this gave greater scope to create something more workable with additional benefits for the business community.  Another Member indicated that concern had previously been raised as to whether the sewage and infrastructure in Twyning could cope with new development and she felt it was important to be certain the facilities were sufficient prior to planning permission being granted which would put additional strain onto an already creaking system.  A Member indicated he could not support the motion to refuse the application.  He had attended the Planning Committee Site Visit and could see no problem with an additional access – this may even be preferable in his view.  Tewkesbury Borough was growing at an alarming rate and he felt there was a need to provide employment opportunities within the areas where people lived so they could work closer to their homes and not have to travel to Cheltenham or Gloucester.  He felt the site was in a preferred location, given its road linkages to the M5/M50 motorways, and was well-designed.

20.16         A Member pointed out that it had taken a number of years for the Tewkesbury Borough Plan to be developed and adopted and, whilst she understood the Development Manager’s comments about the planning balance, she was keen to know why Officers had come to their decision in terms of the planning balance in this instance.   The Legal Adviser explained that Policy EMP2 of the Tewkesbury Borough Plan needed to be read as a whole.  It stated that “New development proposals at Rural Business Centres, including redevelopment, intensification and extensions, will be supported providing that they are of an appropriate scale and design having regard to the character of existing buildings on the site and the rural landscape of the area.  Proposals for the proportionate, small-scale expansion of Rural Business Centres may be considered where they satisfy the criteria at Policy EMP5” and went on to refer to sites allocated as rural business centres which included 13.7 hectares of new allocation – Duddage Manor Business Park was one of the allocations listed for extension but, taking the policy as a whole, it was not restricted to the figure stated within the plan.  The Member felt that “small-scale” could be interpreted in different ways – in her view, the proposal before the Committee was not small-scale and she did not agree with the Officer recommendation.  The Planning Officer pointed out that Paragraph 81 of the National Planning Policy Framework placed significant weight on the need to support economic growth and productivity, taking into account both local business needs and wider opportunities for development, and Paragraph 85 stated that planning policies and decisions should recognise that sites to meet local business and community needs in rural areas may have to be found adjacent, or beyond, existing settlements and in locations not well-served by public transport - there was a drive within the National Planning Policy Framework to promote economic development and rural areas were considered appropriate locations in the planning balance for employment use.  There was a judgement to be made in relation to the current application which proposed a 3,000 square metre extension which was larger than the indicative area within the Tewkesbury Borough Plan but had additional infrastructure such as green spaces and landscaping.  The plans with the application put forward two types of buildings with large buildings to reflect the business park to the right and smaller start up units on the other part of the site which would aid the transition into the open countryside.  The application was in outline at this point so the detailed design proposals were not available but it was conceivable that an appropriate design would be brought forward which would fit in with the rural landscape.  In the planning balance, the benefits of the scheme were considered to outweigh the harm of the exceeding extension figure included in the Tewkesbury Borough Plan. 

20.17         A Member asked why a separate access was proposed given that it was supposed to be an extension to the existing business park and the Planning Officer advised there was no requirement in the policy which stated that an additional extension should be accessed through the existing access and no harm had been identified in relation to having two accesses in place.  It was noted that the existing access was in separate ownership but that was not a consideration for the Committee.

20.18         The proposer of the motion to refuse the application stressed he was not anti-business or anti-growth and he would be supportive of a small and robust increase to the existing business park; what did not make sense, in his view, was that the site proposed exceeded the size of the extension outlined within the Tewkesbury Borough Plan so he believed the application should be refused.  The Tewkesbury Borough Plan had been drawn up on the basis of what was considered appropriate and he questioned what the point was in having this plan if proposals outside of those parameters were permitted.  The seconder of the motion reiterated the significant amount of time that had been spent by Members, and the Inspector, in bringing the Tewkesbury Borough Plan forward for adoption and he felt its policies needed to be supported.  The proposer of the motion clarified that he was proposing that the application be refused on the grounds of its size and scale and the access.  The Legal Adviser explained that refusal on the basis of the access could not be substantiated based on the advice that had been given and there was no policy requirement to use the existing access.  The seconder of the motion raised concern that the policy map within the Tewkesbury Borough Plan clearly showed a single existing access and the Legal Adviser clarified that plan was simply outlining the location of the rural centre – the plan contained no requirement in respect of access. 

20.19         Upon being put to the vote, the motion to refuse the application fell.  It was subsequently proposed and seconded that authority be delegated to the Development Manager to permit the application in accordance with the Officer recommendation.  A Member expressed the view that permitting the application would open the floodgates to developers and he could not support the motion.  Another Member indicated that a planning application had recently been permitted for 100 houses on a site in Winchcombe which had been allocated in the Tewkesbury Borough Plan for up to 80 houses so, by that logic, the plan had already been thrown away.  He also made reference to the fact that the authority would be opening itself up to costs being awarded against it on appeal if refusal reasons could not be substantiated.  Upon being taken to the vote, it was

RESOLVED          That authority be DELEGATED to the Development Manager to PERMIT the application, subject to no adverse observations being received from the County Archaeologist, the completion of a Section 106 Agreement as set out the Committee Report and any other conditions/amendment to conditions as required, in accordance with the Officer recommendation.

Supporting documents: