Agenda item

TP24, West Park Street, Chatteris
Conversion of existing buildings to form 7 x dwellings, comprising of: 1 x 3-bed 2-storey house and 6 x flats (4 x 1-bed & 2 x 2-bed) and erect an approx 2.1m high brick wall and 1.2m high front boundary wall and railings

To determine the application


Gavin Taylor presented the report to members.


Members received a written representation from Jamie Eames, an objector, read out by Member Services.


Mr Eames stated that this representation comes in addition to his earlier comments posted on the public record regarding the application and whilst he would have wished to address the committee in person he could not get the time off work.  He informed members that he is a GIS professional, with over 13 years experience, he has a master’s degree in GIS with the focus being on Transport and Planning, his current professional role is in transport planning in the environmental services industry and he is a registered Chartered Geographer.


Mr Eames expressed concern around the parking and the safety of the highway with this application, with parking being a significant local issue.  He expressed the opinion that there is evidence of cars parked on both sides of South Park Street, such that it is difficult for large emergency vehicles to access the road and a situation so desperate that during his survey he was able to gather evidence of multiple instances of illegal parking.  He added that emerging from South Park Street onto West Park Street is already often an extremely risky undertaking and you can never be sure if there is a vehicle coming from the right owing to the level of parking routine to the area.


Mr Eames expressed the opinion that the original parking survey is flawed in three main areas:

1.    18:30 is not sufficiently late that most people will be home from work, with a large number of residents working in Cambridge or Peterborough, having at least an hour’s drive home assuming they do not have to go shopping, collect children or attend a sports club and many people would not arrive home until at least 18:30 and in many cases later assuming a 17:30 finish time.  A 17:30 survey time is more representative and given more time he would have liked to conduct sampling on multiple nights at different times.

2.    The survey notes three public car parks between 5-10 minutes walk from the proposed development, but 10 minutes is not a reasonable walk to get to or from your own car.  Imagine the scenario of a person completing their weeks shopping and unable to park near their home, parks in the car park 10 minutes from home, they cannot empty the car in a single load and it takes 3 trips to unload the car; two round trips and one one-way, which would mean a total of 50 minutes just to unload shopping.  Imagine another scenario of a pregnant person being at home when her waters break and has to walk with her partner for 10 minutes while in labour just to get to the car to go to hospital.

3.    These car parks only allow for 24 hours of parking, a time limited car park is not necessarily useful to someone who does not use their car every day.


Mr Eames expressed the view that the application does not comply with the Parking Allocation Policy set out in Appendix A of the Fenland Local Plan, with this application having nil provision when the policy sets out at least 10 are required.  He notes that special exemptions for being close to the town centre can be applied, but feels this exemption might make sense in a major city or large town with exceptionally good provision of public transport and a vibrant jobs market, but neither is true of Chatteris, with the town having no train station, an inadequate bus service and the majority of residents not working there so, in his view, the exemption does not stand up to public scrutiny.


Mr Eames drew members attention to the continued resistance of Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service as this development would endanger the lives of local residents in the eventuality of a fire should sufficient access not be possible.  He urged members to reject the application, but if the application is approved, he urged that the approval notice be suspended until further avenues for reconsideration are considered.


Members asked questions of officers as follows:

·         Councillor Miscandlon referred to the front view of the property making the point that the front area looks wide enough to park vehicles and asked if this was to be used for residents to park?  Gavin Taylor responded that whilst the area can accommodate vehicles, it is quite narrow so it would involve several manoeuvres to leave in forward gear, which is why it has been negotiated to be a pedestrian access only to be installed prior to first occupation.

·         Councillor Booth stated he has read the comments of the Fire and Rescue Service and asked for clarification that these will get picked up as part of the Building Regulations application?  Gavin Taylor responded that there has been extensive consultation with the Fire and Rescue Service and as the proposal is for flats their issues will be addressed through the Building Regulations procedure.

·         Councillor Mrs French asked if the access is in the ownership of the applicant?  Gavin Taylor advised that he understands the applicant has agreement with the adjoining landowner to align and improve the access.  Councillor Mrs French stated that she visited this site on Monday and was approached by a person who said he owned the access and would not be allowing the applicant use of it.

·         Councillor Cornwell asked if the only access to the house is through a small footpath to the side?  Gavin Taylor confirmed that it was, with the footpath being just under a metre wide and leads to the entrance door to the house.

·         Councillor Mrs French stated that the adjoining neighbour parks his car over this access.  Gavin Taylor stated that during visits to the site by officers the accessway was available for them to utilise.

·         Councillor Benney advised that he visited the site on Monday and the accessway is completely fenced off across the footpath, which the neighbouring resident states that they own and, in his view, there is no access to the side.  Nick Harding made the point that grant of planning permission does not give the right of access over land not in the applicant’s ownership and this would have to be obtained by the applicant.  Councillor Benney expressed concern that members are being told one thing, but on the ground it is something different.  Gavin Taylor advised that he was on site about two weeks ago and he was led from the front down the side accessway, with the application form also naming the neighbouring landowner.

·         Councillor Booth asked if a condition could be put on the proposal regarding construction vehicles not parking in the road, although he is not sure how this could be undertaken as they may be problems getting materials to the back of the site and it could cause issues in the area.  Gavin Taylor responded that depositing items on the highways is a contravention of the Highways Act, with the front of the site being able to be used until it needs to be closed off prior to first occupation.  He made the point that it is the responsibility of the owner to abide by any rules and regulations.


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

·         Councillor Cornwell expressed the view that this proposal is over-development of the site.  He feels that the flats bring the opportunity to protect the chapel building and the street scene, but he cannot understand the rationale for the house to the rear or the strange access arrangements.

·         Councillor Benney expressed serious concerns about fire risk, especially due to the issues with the access.  He feels it is over-development, not in a Town Centre or commercial area of the Town.  Councillor Benney made the point that if the proposal does not lie in a Town Centre location, it should provide parking, with the parking in this area being horrendous.

·         Councillor Mrs Bligh made the point that there are some beautiful buildings in Chatteris and whilst she would like to see this building redeveloped it cannot be done in a way that would cause parking issues or multiple movements of vehicles as it would cause chaos.  She feels the proposal should be refused.

·         Councillor Mrs French expressed her concern about parking issues and referred to the Highways response regarding parking displacement, with civil parking enforcement needing to be looked at seriously as public car parks should not be relied on to provide parking for private developments.  She expressed the view that refuse collection is going to be right at the front of this building and the use of obscure windows in rooms that are not bathrooms is nonsense.  Councillor Mrs French stated that it is a beautiful building that needs to be retained and developed, but not in this manner.

·         Councillor Miscandlon made the point that if the proposal is approved with the front entrance to be bricked up for pedestrian access, it could still be opened up for residents parking destroying the view of a very nice building.

·         Councillor Benney asked what kind of development is being created by the use of opaque glass, the proposal is for proper flats which have no visual impact and, in his view, the proposal is not providing good quality designed housing for people.

·         Councillor Murphy agreed with the comments of other members and the comments he made in relation to application F/YR21/1257/F he could have reiterated on this application.  He made the point that he has lived in Chatteris all his life and there is no car park in this location.

·         Councillor Booth agreed with the comments of Councillor Cornwell and whilst it is reuse of a building there are still parking issues as residents will not park in a public car park 10 minutes away but as near as they can, which just displaces the problem.  He feels more thought needs to be given to the rear of the land and whether this is over intensification and the applicant should go away and bring back a more suitable plan.  Councillor Booth asked for officer’s comments on the fire risk and parking issues.

·         Councillor Mrs Bligh agreed with the comments of Councillor Murphy and what he said on the previous application.  She cannot see any difference between the two applications and members should be consistent, with this application, in her view, not complying with Policy LP12.

·         Gavin Taylor stated that the Fire Service have looked at the plans and identified that access is an issue, but that the application proposes a sprinkler system.  He made the point that because the proposal is for flats, the Fire Service would automatically feed into the consultation and finer details would be picked up as part of the Building Regulations process.  Gavin Taylor acknowledged that this application does not comply with the parking policy, with the policy worded as central area to the town and this location is just outside, but officers felt the benefits of the scheme outweigh the parking issues and any amenity harm.

·         Councillor Miscandlon asked if the Fire Service request for a fire sprinkler had been brought forward?  Gavin Taylor stated that this is a matter for the Fire Service and Building Regulations.


Proposed by Councillor Benney, seconded by Councillor Skoulding and agreed that the application be REFUSED against officer’s recommendation.


Members do not support officer’s recommendation of approval of planning permission as they feel the proposal does not brings high quality health and well-being benefits to residents with obscure glazed windows which do not provide a view and provide a poor standard of homes, and it is over intensification of the site with provision of the housing to the rear.


It was suggested that parking also be used as a reason for refusal, but on the advice of the Head of Shared Planning this reason was withdrawn.

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