To determine the application.
Nick Thrower presented the report to members.
Members received a presentation, in accordance with the public participation procedure, from Gareth Edwards, the agent.
Mr Edwards stated, under LP3 of the Local Plan, Eastrea is a small village which means development will normally be considered on its merits and normally be of a very limited nature and limited in scale to residential infilling or to a small business opportunity. He emphasised the word “normally”, as, in his view, similar plots were approved in Wype Road by the committee and several others in the same classification of village, which has extended the village boundaries.
Mr Edwards expressed the opinion that, if this application is approved, there will be a gap of 300 metres before the development of Minuet Paddocks in Coates and made the point that there is a current application extending Coates towards their application site, which has not been determined, which would be approximately 85 metres whereas their site is only 78 metres, with this application having been in the system since last year and has been extended only recently. He would argue the to be determined development would close the gap more than this application as it is still being considered with no approval in place and he feels that their current proposal has come forward now, and the land at Coates should be defined as agricultural and increase the gap.
Mr Edwards expressed the view that the line of development of this proposal is to the extent of the road frontage owned by the applicant, with the land to the rear remaining in agricultural use serviced through the adjacent field not in their ownership, but both fields have been farmed together for a number of years. He expressed the opinion that the Council would be in control of this gap and can resist any further applications should they feel necessary.
Mr Edwards made the point that if both applications were approved the gap between Coates and Eastrea would be at least 2 fields and approximately 220 metres, which is vastly more than exists on the opposite side of the road and will maintain the separation of the two villages. He expressed the view that, it has mentioned on many occasions at this committee, road frontage plots are massively valuable to housing supply in the District and are at a prime, with plots like these being developed by self-builders and small developers that are being priced out of the larger sections of land due to the costs of infrastructure, and small builders and developers employ local tradesmen and agents and buy local from local merchants, which in turn contributes to other businesses in the District.
Mr Edwards stated that the site is within Flood Zone 1 and the Highway Authority have no objection to the proposal, with any points they have raised being dealt with as part of the Reserved Matters application. He expressed the view that landscaping can also be dealt with at the Reserved Matters stage, but should members feel that the installation of a native hedge to the eastern boundary would create a natural break they would more than happy to install this.
Mr Edwards asked members to support this application with the conditions felt appropriate.
Members asked questions of officers as follows:
· Councillor Booth asked if there has been any further formal recommendation from Whittlesey Town Council? It was confirmed that no further correspondence had been received. Councillor Booth requested clarification on the comments from Whittlesey Town Council, querying whether it was effectively from two individual councillors? Councillor Miscandlon responded that the reason it names Councillor Whitwell and himself is that Councillor Whitwell is the ward councillor who makes the decision on the proposal, then it comes to him as Chairman of the Planning Committee for approval and it is forwarded through from the Chairman of Whittlesey Town Council as the response from Whittlesey Town Council.
· Councillor Cornwell expressed the view that the issue seems to be how much of a gap does one accept between two settlements for them to remain two settlements and asked if there was any advice available on how to interpret this? Nick Harding responded that the two key issues in relation to this application are is it or is it not an infill site and there is a definition within the Local Plan which defines what an infill site is and this proposal clearly does not meet this test because it is not a parcel of land sandwiched between two sets of buildings, there is massive gap on one side. He stated that the agent made reference to an application which is pending a decision further down the road, but committee resolved to approve that application contrary to officer’s recommendation and this application is in the process of having the Section 106 signed so this application will come forward for a planning consent. Nick Harding advised that there is no hard and fast rule as to how big the gap has to be, it is a subjective decision for officers and committee to make, and in officers view given the very open nature of that geographic location it is quite obvious where the existing extent of built development ends and starts again.
· Councillor Cornwell asked if there was any difference in the classification of the villages of Coates and Eastrea within the Local Plan? Nick Harding stated that Coates is a limited growth village and Eastrea is small village.
· Councillor Booth stated that in relation to the villages having two classifications, Policy LP12 states that coalescence between two villages still applies even though they have different classifications so asked if that is the main policy that needs to be considered. Nick Thrower responded in the affirmative and Policy LP12 applies to all of the villages as opposed to the market towns and would apply to small villages and limited growth villages.
Members made comments, asked questions and responded as follows:
· Councillor Mrs French expressed the view that if this application is approved it would likely join the villages up and there would be nothing to stop another applicant putting an application in on the remaining land to join the villages.
· Councillor Booth stated that living in a village where there are two settlements with a defined gap he knows the importance of this. He recognises that Whittlesey is developing its own Neighbourhood Plan and is seeking to protect this as well.
Proposed by Councillor Mrs French, seconded by Councillor Booth and agreed that the application be REFUSED as per the officer’s recommendation.
(Councillor Miscandlon registered, in accordance with Paragraph 14 of the Code of Conduct on Planning Matters, that he is Chairman of Whittlesey Town Council’s Planning Committee, and took no part in the discussion or voting thereon)