To determine the application.
David Rowen presented the report to members.
Members received a presentation in accordance with the Public Participation Procedure, from Mr Ian Lockhart, in objection to the application.
Mr Lockhart stated that he is currently building dwellings to the north of the applicants’ business premises. He expressed the view that he has no objections to the running of the current business and respects that it has been in the village for a long time but stated that if approved any new planning application needs to take into consideration the health and safety regulations and respect the neighbouring properties and surrounding area.
Mr Lockhart stated that the applicant has objected to every planning application for the houses to the north and the bungalows to the south and that the future homeowners will complain to the Council about the noise created from his business. He stated that as the application is for a new engineering workshop much closer to the houses to the north of the original buildings, if the application is approved, in his opinion, it is the perfect opportunity for the Council and the applicant to install sound reducing cladding to the new building to negate noise complaints in the future.
Mr Lockhart added that he is also concerned about the chemicals which he believes could be stored on the site due to the type of business in operation and expressed the view as to whether a concrete floor should be stipulated, rather than an earth floor, to mitigate any spillages or leaks omitting from the spraying machinery stored to ensure that any issues can be cleaned and cleared appropriately and there needs to be consideration given to the local children and grandchildren that reside locally in this instance. He expressed the view that according to the current application and the previous application that was approved in 2020, both are more than 60% bigger than the replacement buildings and questioned that if this increase is required for business expansion, will it also mean an increase in agricultural traffic and employees working on site?
Mr Lockhart stated that Wype Road has a weight limit and road width concerns have been raised previously by the Highway Authority with regard to other planning applications. He expressed the opinion that misinformation has been presented to Whittlesey Town Council, the Planning Department at the Council, and the Planning Committee with regard to information provided concerning the electricity power lines and the electricity transformer, which is situated between his site and the applicant’s business premises.
Mr Lockhart explained that the transformer pole is on the southern side of an existing boundary fence and within a laurel hedge which he assumes belong to the applicant. He referred to the presentation screen which showed the hedge and electricity pole and added that it has been suggested as part of the planning process that the laurel hedge is part of his land but on the planning application it details the hedge as being on the applicant’s land forming the north west boundary of the site.
Members asked Mr Lockhart the following questions:
· Councillor Marks advised Mr Lockhart that chemicals stored on site can be kept in a bunded facility that can be in a metal frame and still leak regardless of the type of surface that they are stood on. Mr Lockhart stated that he has seen the open tanks and between the sprayers and the open tanks there can be spillages and that the Environmental Protection Team at the Council have also seen them. Councillor Marks asked Mr Lockhart whether he believes that the chemicals are being stored illegally and he responded that he did not know. Councillor Marks advised Mr Lockhart that it is a matter for the Environmental Health Team to consider and it is not a material planning consideration.
· Councillor Lynn stated that under 10.5 of the report it explains that a local farmer also uses the premises for maintenance to his equipment and it states that the business owner requires all chemicals to be emptied from the equipment before it is allowed on the premises. Mr Lockhart expressed the view that he does not know if that is the case and added that he has spoken to the farmers who have advised that they have taken sprayers there which still contain chemicals and if there are any mitigation measures which can be put in place to alleviate any issues.
· Councillor Connor stated that there is a great deal of supposition and advised Mr Lockhart that any concerns that he may have need to be raised with the Environmental Health Team for investigation.
Members received a presentation in accordance with the Public Participation Procedure, from Martin Williams, the Agent.
Mr Williams stated that the proposal is to replace the existing workshop with one which is 4% smaller than the existing building. He explained that there are six letters of objection to the proposal and 17 letters of support, with the objections centred on environmental, traffic and noise issues and a transformer on the application site.
Mr Williams added that there have never been any complaints in the 22 years that the owner has occupied the site and the only liquid used in the agricultural business to calibrate the sprayers is water. He stated that Highways have no objection and Whitttlesey Town Council have withdrawn their objection regarding the transformer as they have concluded that it is not on the applicant’s land.
Mr Williams explained that the design and appearance of the proposal are accepted by the Planning Officer and the design is no higher than a single storey ground floor domestic extension. He explained that the letters of support have included comments such as the site will be of benefit to the local community, it is essential service to farmers and stated the importance of continuation of a family business.
Mr Williams explained that all sprayers are purged of all hazardous chemicals prior to arrival on site and all maintenance and repairs are conducted with clean water. He added that the business is a main certified agent for a number of international companies, with the business undergoing rigorous yearly audits to ensure it remains compliant and concluded by stating that no hazardous chemicals are stored on site.
Members asked Mr Williams the following questions:
· Councillor Sutton referred to page 46 of the officer’s report where it refers to composite cladding to the exterior walls and asked for clarity that it is double skinned which is a sound deadening material. Mr Williams confirmed that is correct and they have also undertaken a test to ensure everything is in order.
· Councillor Sutton asked for clarification that on the extant planning permission size and stated that the length is 21336 metres by 7925 metres and the current application is 15.250 by 7925, which is over 6.86 metres shorter. David Rowen stated that if the applications are reviewed accumulatively, the application which was granted in 2020 which is now built on site did propose an increase in floor space over and above the buildings that it replaced of approximately 35%, whereas the current application proposes a slight reduction of 4% and, therefore, overall taking the two developments together there would be a 30% increase in floor space, with the buildings also being higher.
· Councillor Cornwell asked for an explanation as to why an earth floor is used as opposed to a different surface. Mr Williams stated that in his opinion a concrete floor is not needed as it is only water that is sprayed in the building. Councillor Marks stated that if a soil floor is used then the spray pattern can be seen more easily.
Members asked officers the following questions:
· Councillor Mrs Davis asked David Rowen to confirm whether the Environment Agency have been consulted regarding the concerns over the soil surface being used as flooring. David Rowen stated that the Council’s Environmental Health Team have commented on the application and they do not have any concerns. He added that they were also consulted on the 2020 application and no representations were made from any technical bodies concerning that application.
Members asked questions, made comments, and received responses as follows:
· Councillor Benney stated that, in his opinion, officers have made the correct recommendation on the application. He added that there are no technical reasons in objection to the application and. in his view, there are no planning reasons for this application to be refused. Councillor Benney stated it will be nice to see the business grow and thrive and he wishes the applicant well.
· Councillor Sutton stated that he understands the concerns of the residents and there has also been a lot of misconception surrounding chemicals and agriculture, however, chemicals have changed farming over the years beyond recognition. He expressed the opinion that earth flooring is the better option, when testing the spray facility, as the water will be absorbed far better than a concrete floor. Councillor Sutton expressed the view that he agrees with the officer’s recommendation and he will support the application.
· Councillor Cornwell expressed the view that officers have made the correct recommendation and it is a well-established business which has been on site for a considerable amount of time. He added that everybody who resides in the locality is aware that the facility is in operation 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
Proposed by Councillor Mrs Davis, seconded by Councillor Benney and agreed that the application be APPROVED, as per the officer’s recommendation.
(Councillor Mrs Mayor registered, in accordance with Paragraph 14 of the Code of Conduct on Planning Matters, that she is a member of Whittlesey Town Council’s Planning Committee, and was present when this application was discussed, and took no part in the discussion and voting thereon)
(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 discussions or voting thereon)