Members considered 3 letters of objection.
The committee had regard to its inspection of the site (as agreed in accordance with the Site Inspection: Policy and Procedure (minute P19/04 refers)) during its deliberations.
Officers informed members that:
- Comments have been received from March Town Council as follows:
- "Recommend refusal due to lack of amenity space and over-development of the site"
- Further comments received from local resident in respect of:
- Copy of letter circulated to Members;
- Previous LPA decisions for development along The Chase;
- Previous appeal decisions for over development along The Chase;
- Concerns over comments received from the Local Highways Authority;
- The latest comments have been fully considered in accordance with Local and National planning policy and in consideration of the site history. It is considered that the development is proportionate, provides adequate amenity space for future occupants and will not cause demonstrable harm to neighbouring residents or users of existing highways;
- March Town Council have recommended refusal on the grounds of lack of amenity space and overdevelopment of the site;
- Comments from a local resident have been circulated to members, identifying previous planning decisions and comments from the local highways;
- There are no further comments from Middle Level Commissioners at this time.
Members received a presentation, in accordance with the public participation procedure, from Mr Shaw, an objector to the proposal. Mr Shaw stated that he hoped that members would forgive him as he is unfamiliar with the planning terminology, he is a layman and would be speaking in general terms. He stated that he was speaking on behalf of four local residents as there will be loss of amenity to properties, the ridge line of the proposal runs across properties and this will cause loss of enjoyment to homes and gardens. Mr Shaw stated that it is important that the integrity of The Chase is maintained, as a basic public amenity, is safe for pedestrians, it is a designated footpath, is not intended for the use of motor vehicles and is not wide enough for two vehicles to pass.
Mr Shaw stated that up until now this District Council has upheld the basic principle that pedestrians and cars do not mix, if more development is permitted there will be more danger and an unacceptable risk to pedestrians on the footpath. Mr Shaw pointed out that the Planning Inspector on Appeal has repeatedly turned down development on this site and others on The Chase and asked why this proposal does not fit that criteria. He stated that on a cursory glance this is a sizeable development, is not true to scale and March Town Council have recommended refusal on the grounds of overdevelopment and whatever the view the sheer size does mean more people and this will be unacceptable to pedestrians. Mr Shaw stated that this proposal will set a precedent for other development along The Chase and if the application is granted any further ones will not be able to be refused.
Mr Shaw asked if this proposes a problem to highway safety, Highways says that it doesn't but Mr Shaw finds it difficult to accept and it contradicts anything ever said about this issue in the past. Planning Inspector appeal reasons were detailed and included highway reasons and asked why this was no longer important now. Mr Shaw stated that this is an important choice, to maintain the integrity of The Chase as is or grant the application and show no interest in the residents of March as a basic public amenity. Mr Shaw requested that members refuse this application.
Councillor Miscandlon asked Mr Shaw to point out on the map his address, Bramble Cottage. Mr Shaw clarified his address on the map as being the property nearest to Gaul Road.
Councillor Sutton asked Mr Shaw how many cars presently use The Chase. Mr Shaw responded that there are three houses, two houses are not occupied and confirmed the number of car users if all properties were occupied.
Members made comments, asked questions and received responses as follows:
- Councillor Quince commented that he agreed with Mr Shaw that this would be overdevelopment of the site, this is a footpath and this would be mixed in with vehicles and constitutes overdevelopment of the site and he recommended refusal of the application;
- Councillor Murphy commented that the proposed development is an increase of 75% on the footprint of the building. In the words of the Planning Department this is a significant extension and it is. Councillor Murphy pointed out that there should be a minimum of 1/3 plot curtilage for amenity space, this development would only just achieve this and would utilise land around the perimeter and courtyard and he is trying to find a justification for the proposal. Councillor Murphy commented that this could establish a precedent for visual impact, this is totally wrong as a large extension in both character, appearance and layout. It is like building another house next door to a house, joined with a walkway and is called an extension. Councillor Murphy stated that this is not an extension but a large house which at any time could be used as a house. This is an old house with a new modern look, it is not necessary and he is against the application;
- Councillor Sutton commented that he did not agree with Councillor Murphy, he is of a different opinion, this is not a stand alone dwelling but an increase to a 4-5 bed dwelling and if the plan for the amenity space meets with our Local Plan and cars are already using the footpath and this is established, the development is lovely and is the right thing and he supports the application;
- Officers informed members that this is an existing access, cars already use The Chase, this is not an additional dwelling, the proposal is for one extra bedroom and will not require parking and the access is to remain as is at the present time. More traffic will not be generated, it meets amenity space standards, is similar to surrounding properties. Members were reminded that it conforms to the Local Plan and clarified that if it were a separate dwelling it would need planning permission in its own right;
- Councillor Keane commented that he is familiar with The Chase and people use the area all day and raised concerns that it would be dangerous with lorries using the access during building work;
- Councillor Mrs Mayor commented that if the proposal was a separate dwelling she would be against, but looking at the application as is she would agree with Councillor Sutton and Officers. Councillor Mrs Mayor would support the application providing it adheres to Condition 6 and the dwelling is used in perpetuity only in association with and not as a separate dwelling;
- Councillor Connor commented that the development does fit in with Policy, not many cars use the footpath, members may not like it but the policy has been adopted and he agrees with the application. Councillor Connor agreed with Councillor Mrs Mayor regarding use of the dwelling as one dwelling in perpetuity;
- Councillor Mrs Newell commented that she uses Gaul Road frequently and didn't realise that cars could use The Chase, she had never seen a car down it but thought it would be dangerous for school children and bike users;
- Councillor Owen commented that there has always been vehicular traffic in The Chase since the 1950's;
- Councillor Miscandlon commented that if members were mindful to approve the application that a further condition be added: A construction management plan be agreed prior to commencement to development, in view of the dynamics of The Chase functioning both as a footpath and a vehicular access;
- Councillor Stebbing commented that The Chase is already used for vehicles for 3 properties, no additional parking is proposed and amenity space requirements are met.
Proposed by Councillor Sutton, seconded by Councillor Bucknor and decided that the application be:
Granted, subject to the conditions reported and a further condition:
- A construction management plan/method statement to be agreed prior to commencement of development, in view of the dynamics of The Chase functioning both as a footpath and a vehicular access.
(Councillors Keane, Owen and Quince stated that they are Members of March Town Council, but take no part in planning matters)
(All Members registered, in accordance with Paragraph 2 of the Code of Conduct on Planning Matters, that they had been lobbied on this application)