Agenda item

7 Station Road, Manea
Change of use from restaurant and 2-bed dwelling to mixed use of 7-bed unit for accommodation of up to 18 residents with shared communal facilities and 2-bed dwelling involving retention of existing outbuilding for storage and demolition of existing shed (part retrospective)

To determine the application.


Nikki Carter presented the report to members.


Members received a presentation, in accordance with the public participation procedure, from Lee Bevens, the agent.


Mr Bevens stated that the project began in July 2020 when they entered into pre-application discussions with officers for a 7-bedroomed HMO whilst retaining the existing 2-bedroomed dwelling and during these pre-application discussions, the size of rooms were outlined as well as bathroom provision.  He expressed the view that it was noted that the bedroom spaces exceeded the requirements of the licensing regime and a large communal kitchen and lounge area were provided, which would reduce the need for outside space to be utilised and the likelihood of noise and disturbance to neighbouring properties.


Mr Bevens expressed the opinion that giving weight to appeal decisions it is recognised that occupiers of HMOs have a low level of car ownership and the existing use of the building as a restaurant and B&B would generate a high level of vehicles visiting the site which would be required to park on the street. He made the point that officers pointed out that Station Road is relatively wide at this point and there are no restrictions to roadside parking in the immediate vicinity, with the site being in a sustainable location in close proximity to facilities, which can be accessed by walking, cycling and public transport to other settlements.


Mr Bevens stated that the application was submitted in December 2020 and he was advised to refer to it as a large HMO, which has a sui-generis class in the same way as a hostel, and after submission it was suggested it was a hostel, but it is more likely to be used under the description of an HMO and the applicant is happy to apply for the relevant licences.  He expressed the view that the occupants are likely to be seasonal workers, not employees of the applicant, who are likely to stay for lengths of time to suit harvest and general agricultural work requirements and, therefore, likely to reside at the address while employed in the local economy and also supporting local shops.


Mr Bevens expressed the opinion that the scheme has been substantially reduced in both the built form and overall numbers in the last 8 months, with numbers reduced but still ensuring the scheme remains viable to implement with the amount of repair and refurbishment required within the existing building.  He stated that he has actively engaged with the planning officer and statutory consultees to address concerns, some of which have been raised by neighbours, and recent conversations have taken place with Highways to ensure sufficient on-site parking and turning is provided to allow vehicles to enter and exit the site in forward gear offering a much improved situation to the existing and previous use where vehicles often reversed out, which will mitigate concerns raised about the access. 


Mr Bevens stated that bin storage will be provided in line with guidance received in February, with the number of occupants having reduced since then, but there is sufficient space on site for additional bins and the applicant will consider private collection if this is considered preferable.  He expressed the view that, contrary to some objections, the Police have only visited the site once, which was in October 2020, which is before this application was submitted and the Police have provided them with written confirmation that this part of Manea does receive calls on a regular basis, but they are not linked to this property.  He added that the applicant has upgraded security to the property with the installation of CCTV.


Mr Bevens made the point that they have confirmation from the previous owners that they had B&B accommodation at the address for up to 9 adults in the main building, which was without the additional rooms that the applicant is seeking to refurbish or renovate as part of the proposal and they also used their 2-bedroomed annexe as B&B accommodation for a further 4 adults, which meant at peak times there were 13 adults at the address.  He referred to LP2, which can also be read in a positive way with this application as it states that sufficient and the right mix of houses to meet people’s needs in the right locations should be created, and, in his view, this proposal supports the local economy and is in a central location with access to local amenities so it is the right location. 


Mr Bevens feels it should not be assumed that there will be crime or anti-social behaviour caused by the proposal being approved in the same way as a scheme for flats in a town or village centre would be. He made the point in relation to LP15, Highways confirm they are happy and raise no objections, with the pre-application discussions mentioning the relatively wide area of Station Road, the site is served by public transport and the train station is within 1 mile of the site, so, in his view, this is a sustainable location. He expressed the view that LP16 can be interpreted to support the proposal, it will reuse and retain an existing building largely unaffected by the proposals externally meaning minimal disruption to the street view and improvements made to noise and insulation standards to required building control requirements. 


Mr Bevens stated that the officer noted in pre-application discussions that the amenity space was not a direct issue by virtue of the large kitchen and lounge and this would reduce the need for outside space.  He made the point that the application proposes 7-bedrooms and 7 bathrooms, with an additional 3 WCs and, in his view, the positives outweigh the negatives and he hoped members would support the application.


Member asked questions of Mr Bevens as follows:

·         Councillor Benney asked if the building was occupied or empty at present?  Mr Bevens responded that there are people in the property.

·         Councillor Benney asked if there have been any disturbances that he is aware of or been made aware of since the previous instance?  Mr Bevens advised that he has asked the applicant and he has referred back to the only instance being in October 2020, subsequently CCTV has been installed which is monitored and there have not been any other instances that he is aware of.


Members asked questions of officers as follows:

·         Councillor Mrs French expressed concern that the Housing Options Team are not involved with this and asked if there have been any updates from the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority?  Nikki Carter confirmed that no comments had been received.

·         Councillor Mrs Bligh stated that when she went on the site visit the area outside this property was coned off and it has been said there were no parking restrictions and asked if this is something that is regular?  Councillor Mrs French responded that Anglian Water were putting cones out to undertake some repairs.


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

·         Councillor Miscandlon referred to the CAD drawing, which makes the proposal look so clinically clean and straightforward, but, in his view, the reality is different as it is a hotchpot, cramped and over intensification.  He feels the officers have got the recommendation right.

·         Councillor Murphy expressed the view that it might not fall within the HMO legislation, but for all intents and purposes it is.  He feels, with this number of residents, there is going to be a significant detrimental impact to the centre of a very quiet and peaceful village, it should be located in a more rural setting than in the centre of a village.  Councillor Murphy expressed the opinion that the site is incapable of presenting sufficient space to accommodate the number of bins required and there will be overflow to be stored and who will pay for that, which will create an unacceptable sight of overflow into the street scene causing a health and wellbeing problem.  He made the point that the Parish Council object to the proposal and there are an outstanding number of 84 local residents objecting, which he feels tells the true story.  Councillor Murphy referred to Fenland’s Local Plan Vision Statement which says to make our market towns and villages more attractive places to live, in his view not this development, Policy LP2 sets out points on health and wellbeing on right locations and avoiding adverse impacts, in his view not this development, Policy LP15 sets out designing schemes to provide car and cycle parking for the amount of development proposed also with sufficient turning space, in his view not this development, and Policy LP16 sets out to deliver and protect environments that do not impact on the amenities of neighbours such as noise, light pollution, loss of privacy and loss of light, in his view not this development.  He feels that this application is inappropriate, ill thought out, badly conceived and does not do anything for Manea whatsoever and the officer’s recommendation is completely right

·         Councillor Cornwell agreed with the all-embracing comments of Councillor Murphy and given the number of objections to this application shows how inappropriate it really is.


Proposed by Councillor Murphy, seconded by Councillor Miscandlon and agreed that the application be REFUSED as per officer’s recommendation.

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