To determine the application
David Rowen presented the report to members.
Members received a presentation, in accordance with the Public Participation Procedure, from Jonathan Wilson, an objector.
Mr Wilson stated his main concern is the severe flooding he experienced two days before Christmas, with the fire brigade attending within an hour pumping water from his home for about four hours, but the water was not abating, and eventually the new housing estate behind him began to fill up with water and it was not until they started pumping from that area that the water began to abate from his house. He expressed concern regarding this new development in that the water from his house and the estate behind went straight into that field where these properties are proposed to be built and consequently, if flooding occurs again it will present a problem for this new development.
Mr Wilson stated that he has heard talk of putting in necessary infrastructure to help with this problem, but he feels it should have been put in when the other development was built in the first place. He made the point that he has lived in his property for ten years and this has never happened before on this scale, but it is getting worse.
Mr Wilson expressed the view that he has been told the pumping station is not up to coping with any more than what is already in place and if this development goes forward what assurance can be given that this will not happen again? He stated that residents need answers and clarification because the flooding was horrendous.
Members received a presentation, in accordance with the Public Participation Procedure, from Chris Walford, the Agent.
Mr Walford stated since 8 September 2020 he was led to believe this application would be a delegated approval, with the case officer e-mailing him that the Local Flood Authority had removed their objection to the application, there were five resident objections on file and no outstanding objections from any of the consultees, which meant the application could be delegated by officers and, therefore, Planning Committee would not be required. He advised members that the applicant subsequently instructed solicitors to prepare the Section 106 and the unilateral undertaking at great expense believing permission was granted subject to paperwork being in place, with that paperwork being completed on 19 May 2021 and sent to the case officer.
Mr Walford stated that he was then told a sixth objection had been received and, despite it being received after the consultation period, policy was that it needed to be counted and, therefore, a committee decision was required. He made the point that this is an application with full officers’ support, deemed approved in principle since September 2020, with all the legal paperwork signed and ready to go and, therefore, he is asking members to approve the application.
Mr Walford stated, in response to the comments made regarding flooding, that the site is in Flood Zone 1, with no issues from the Local Flood Authority or Environment Agency and attenuation will be installed on the site to deal with an increase in surface water. He expressed the opinion that floor levels and dwellings levels can be agreed at Reserved Matter stage to ensure the new dwellings are not affected and whilst he is not sure what can be done about the impact on the surrounding area, they can ensure any water collected is attenuated and dealt with efficiently and if necessary a condition can be placed on the outline permission.
Members asked Mr Walford the following questions:
· Councillor Connor referred to 5.1 of the agenda where it states that members of Doddington Parish Councilwere pleased to note there was an email recorded on their website acknowledging that the landowner was prepared to provide land for allotments in the village. He asked for an undertaking that that is still the case? Mr Walford confirmed that this is correct, when speaking to the case officer at the time, it was unable to be secured via a condition because there is no active allotment strategy for the village and he was told it was an agreement that would be required between the applicant and parish outside of the planning system. He stated that agreement has been made, but it has not yet been decided where the allotments will be, with the applicant having several parcels of land in the village that could be suitable and whilst the Parish Council has been asking for updates, this is pending until the outcome of this planning application is known.
· Councillor Sutton referred to the problems experienced by Mr Wilson in December, for which he and other members sympathised, and made the point that there is a rule in the NPPF where not only must you ensure that the extra rainfall is dealt with, you must ensure you do not affect anyone else’s site. He asked Mr Walford how he could assure members that this development is not going to make things worse for neighbouring sites? Mr Walford replied that they would need to find where the water is coming from and then work out how they can accommodate that into their sustainable design so that it not only attenuates the new water. He stated that they need to quantify the volumes in addition to the amount seen from roofs and then design this into the scheme, with the assumption being that there would a surface water strategy condition on this application so this issue could be addressed at the Reserved Matters stage. Mr Walford stated that one of the solutions could be to provide a ditch at the rear of the site to reduce the level on site, which would be a small price to pay in the grand scheme of the development.
· Councillor Sutton stated that this is reassuring, but the one other thing he foresees happening is if these plots are sold off as individual plots and the strategy and infrastructure is not put in by the owner prior to the sale of those plots that would create enormous problems, so the strategy and infrastructure needs to be there before the sale of plots. Mr Walford expressed the view that because of the single access point there is already a lot of infrastructure that needs to happen, with the condition worded as prior to commencement the design needs to be agreed and prior to a certain occupation level all of work in relation to the footway, roads and drainage would all be undertaken. He feels that a big developer is needed for the site to tackle the big infrastructure issues and it is only the big developers who have the cash to do this.
· Councillor Mrs Davis made the point that Doddington had serious flooding issues in December along with a lot of other places and it is understood that the weather at the time was unprecedented, but there have been situations as seen on the design, where an attenuation pond has been proposed, and the scheme has gone forward and the attenuation pond has disappeared and drainage has been put in that has proved to be inadequate and properties have flooded. She recognises the application is outline, so does not know if you can, but asked for reassurances that the attenuation pond will happen before the first occupation? Mr Walford stated that as the application is a major one it will need a sustainable drainage solution so there will have to be something on site that will hold, slow and deal with the water and crates under the ground have been investigated, but the ground is not suitable which is why the pond has been proposed. He feels the Reserved Matters design will be forced by the outline condition on the drainage scheme as a pond has been found to be the only thing to work on the site due to the ground conditions, the size of it will become designed once the volumes are known, whether it is a dry bed or actual pond and whether it will feed to a drain or where it will run to. He stated the only way he can reassure members is from the tests and work they have undertaken to date nothing would seem to work but a pond so it would be on the approved scheme and if it was not carried out it would not comply with the approved scheme.
· Councillor Miscandlon asked who would be responsible for the costs of maintenance of the attenuation pond and the roadside ditches, will this be put onto the owners of the properties or the developer? Mr Walford stated that it is unlikely that the private drive would be adopted, which means typically that a management company would be set up that would include all of the plot owners and every one of those owners would make a payment of a service charge to maintain the roads, the grass areas and the pond.
Members asked officers questions as follows:
· Councillor Sutton referred to the questions and answers regarding the flooding and on reading condition 6, whilst it encompasses all the drainage issues, he feels that a timeline ought to be added to this condition either prior to first occupation or prior to any building taking place, with his preference being the latter. He expressed the view that a position cannot be made whereby the site is sold off and nothing has been undertaken creating potential problems. David Rowen informed members that there is already an implementation element to that condition in the first part of the condition referring to occupation of the first dwelling.
· Councillor Cornwell referred to bad experiences of failures with management companies in cases such as this and if the failure in the past has affected only the members of the consortium of the management company they have their own problems to solve, but in this particular case the surface water in the surrounding area may also be dealt with by this attenuation pond or whatever the development proposals are so, therefore, there may be people outside the immediate development that are affected by the continued standard of maintenance of this particular development. He asked if there is any way those that fall outside this development can be protected by any failure of the management company? David Rowen advised members that a development is only required to mitigate its own impact and as part of the surface water drainage strategy put in place and condition 6 there would be the consideration of impact of the development on flood flows and the need for the development to adequately address that in terms of the surface water strategy. He stated that in terms of whether a management company were put in place, the residents of the development would effectively be the management company, and you would hope they would want to keep the management company going so they are in effect protecting their own interests going forward and again as part of condition 6 details of the maintenance and adoption of the surface water drainage system are required. David Rowen stated that the only alternative to a management company is for the attenuation pond or whatever other measures are taken to be adopted, but this would involve one of the statutory bodies, and the other option is a requirement for a bond to be paid, which could held by the Council in the event that a management company cease to exist, but the danger with this is that if there is an opportunity to pass this liability onto someone else that disincentivises the management company from operating properly, so the only realistic option is for a management company to be set up to maintain and manage whatever measures are put in place going forward.
· Councillor Cornwell expressed the view that there may a third alternative in that presumably the standard and requirement of an attenuation pond will have to meet the requirement of the local IDB, who he assumes will be taking the discharge from this development, so is there any way that they could be encouraged to deal with the issue? He noticed that there were no comments from the Middle Level Commissioners, which he assumes means there is also no comment from the local drainage board and he is sure there is a representative of the Council on this drainage board and this should be discussed at this level and wondered whether this option could be taken up also? David Rowen responded that one of the options is that the drainage board do adopt whatever system is put in place, but ultimately this is a decision for the drainage board and if they are happy that someone else is going to take it on and the flows are going to be acceptable into their system whether they would be prepared to do this or not he does not know. He expressed the opinion that it is an option that could be explored by the developer and it could come forward as part of the surface water drainage strategy. Councillor Cornwell stated that he raises it at this meeting on the basis that the attenuation pond is likely to serve more than just the development and using the IDB’s powers it can give a greater control and continuing maintenance of what is in effect becoming a middle area drainage system.
Members asked questions, made comments and received responses as follows:
· Councillor Mrs French referred to the comments of Councillor Cornwell and doubts if the drainage board would take this on as they have only just agreed last week to take on surface water from the Berryfield’s site, which has been on-going for around 3 to 5 years, so if going down that route the applicant needs to be prepared to wait 5 years for a resolution.
· Councillor Connor agreed with the comments of Councillor Sutton in that the attenuation pond should be in place before the buildings get above slab level as members do not want the situation where most of the buildings have got residents in them and there is no idea when the attenuation pond will be built and this should be put in the conditions.
Proposed by Councillor Mrs French, seconded by Councillor Sutton and agreed that the application be APPROVED as per officer’s recommendation subject to the condition that the attenuation pond to be in place before the dwellings are above slab level.
(Councillors Connor and Mrs Davis registered, that as ward members for Doddington and Wimblington they attend Doddington Parish Council meetings, but take no part in the discussions on planning applications)
(Councillor Sutton declared that he knows the applicant for this application, but this will make no difference to any decision made on the application)