Agenda item

Site Of Former 24, High Street, Wisbech
Erect a 4-storey building (comprising of 7 x 1-bed flats with retail floorspace at ground level) involving the demolition of a wall within a Conservation Area

To determine the application.


Alison Hoffman presented the report to members.


Members asked questions, made comments and received responses as follows:

·         Councillor Sutton made the point that the site is restricted and it is limited in what can be developed on the site.  He questioned the size of the retail unit and what business would occupy this space, which he acknowledges is not a planning issue, as well as the proposal being for four stories without any lift provision.  Councillor Sutton referred to a two-storey office that he knows of that was forced to provide a lift.  He queried how disabled people were going to get up four floors, although he recognises the stairs are ambient which helps the disabled?  Alison Hoffman stated that this building was an office property, but the commercial element of this proposal is at ground floor level so it would be residential properties that would not have a lift available to them.  She is not aware of any schemes she has dealt with in the past requiring a lift and made the point that this proposal is for housing within a town centre location, with a lift not being a planning requirement.  David Rowen added that this issue would be a building regulations matter and as the Council has appointed experienced architects to design the scheme he would have thought that they would have factored building regulations into the design and would be building regulations compliant as a result.

·         Councillor Sutton expressed the view that as this is a Council property the Council should be showing some leadership, although he acknowledges that the stairs are built to ambient specification and is not a reason to refuse the application.

·         Councillor Miscandlon agreed with Councillor Sutton’s comments.  He made the point that this proposal is being built from scratch and a lift could have been factored in.  Councillor Miscandlon recognises that lifts and their maintenance are expensive, but by not putting one in is denying the disabled the opportunity to live in one of these properties or access to them, which is wrong.  He made the point that it should be part of the remit to allow access for the disabled who are part of our society.

·         Councillor Purser referred to the first-floor plan and the fact there is no disabled access, but a wheelchair store.  Nick Harding reiterated that there is no requirement for a lift to be provided based on the Council’s policies or legislative requirement and these matters if required under building regulations would be dealt with at that stage.  He believes there are stipulations for managed residential accommodation over two floors, but he does not know whether this proposal is going to be managed.

·         Councillor Mrs Bligh stated that she was born in Wisbech and would love to see this gap site developed.  She feels the proposal is a good use of the space, but there is a need to ensure that everyone has access to these homes whatever their disability.

·         Councillor Purser referred to the second-floor plan which refers to wheelchair refuge and service risers and asked what this means?  Nick Harding stated that both these items are building regulations requirements so that there is a refuge space that people can go to for a limited time in case of a fire.  He added that service risers are just a method to get fire fighting equipment, spray or foam, to the required location.

·         Councillor Purser stated that he is a landlord of some retail units and some businesses do require only small units.  He feels that the site has been an eyesore for some time and this proposal tidies the area nicely.  He stated that he fully supports the application.

·         Councillor Topgood made the point that members are discussing issues which fall under building regulations, which are outside the planning process.  He feels that the site is very confined, disabled access has been accounted for in the commercial element of the building as per the regulations, but has not been designed for access to the general residential element as there is no parking on site.  Councillor Topgood expressed the view that the proposal needs to be approved as the site is an eyesore and has been for decades.


Proposed by Councillor Sutton, seconded by Councillor Topgood and agreed that the application be APPROVED as per the officer’s recommendation.


(Councillors Benney, Mrs French and Murphy declared an interest, by virtue of being members of Cabinet where this proposal had been discussed, and left the meeting for the duration of the discussion and voting thereon)

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