To determine the application
David Rowen presented the report to members.
Members asked officers’ the following questions:
· Councillor Miscandlon expressed concerns in relation to the term manager’s flat as this is very often not the case, with the dwelling ending up being rented out and asked officers to advise what safeguards can be put in place to make sure that this is solely associated with the business. David Rowen stated that if members are minded to grant the application there is the potential to add a condition to limit the occupancy and tie the flat to the existing restaurant use.
· Councillor Cornwell stated he agrees it is an important issue to consider and from the presentation it shows the outside area, which is a service area and could have an adverse impact on the residential amenity space of the conversion. He feels if it is a conversion with the possibility of doing more with it then the lack of residential amenity needs to be considered and he would support a condition as suggested by officers.
· Councillor Marks stated that if a condition was added could it stipulate numbers of persons permitted to reside in the flat to negate any possible issues with overcrowding. David Rowen stated that it would be difficult to add a condition which limits numbers and whist he accepts the point raised by Councillor Marks in relation the type of housing being occupied intensely, these issues would fall under Housing and Environmental legislation.
· Councillor Connor reminded members that the application being determined is for a manager’s flat.
· Councillor Murphy stated that if the Council cannot dictate the numbers that the dwelling can accommodate then, in his opinion, it should be refused. David Rowen stated that to impose a planning condition on a manager’s flat to stipulate that it can only house a specified number of people would be unreasonable and any potential breach would have to be addressed by planning enforcement, environmental health, or the private sector housing team.
· The Legal Officer reiterated to members that they must consider the application on the information before them and they cannot work on suppositions or assumptions.
· Councillor Cornwell stated that if there are any associated risks with regards to the occupation of the dwelling then weight should be given to the officer’s recommendation with regard to amenity space.
· Councillor Sutton referred to the drawing at page 43 of the agenda pack where it shows 2 vehicles parked on the driveway and stated that, in his opinion, the drawing is either wrong or the vehicles are very small as the amount of space there is limited. David Rowen stated that the issue of car parking and vehicles manoeuvring has not formed the main consideration of the application and he expressed the view that the survey drawings for the living accommodation would be accurate.
· Councillor Murphy stated that when the flat at this premises was previously occupied cars were also parked on the hardstanding area and wheelie bins were then left in Station Road on the road itself. He expressed the view that if cars remain parked there this situation will reoccur. David Rowen stated that there is commercial operation taking place currently on the site and the application is for accommodation associated with that business and the access and level of car parking associated with the business has not formed part of the consideration of the scheme.
Members asked questions, made comments, and received responses as follows:
· Councillor Cornwell expressed the view that if members have concerns about an application then there is the tendency to review the officer’s recommendation in finer detail and the actual issue of the environmental aspect with regard to residential amenities has been highlighted by officers and they have recommended refusal on that basis and, in his view, that needs to be considered.
· Councillor Mrs Bligh reiterated the point made by Councillor Cornwell and added that if members have any concerns then the officer’s reasons for refusal should be considered as they have considered the application to be detrimental to health and wellbeing.
· Councillor Benney stated that he is familiar with the premises and has eaten in the restaurant a few times and, in his opinion, the owner of the business is operating it in an exceptional way and it is an asset to Chatteris. He added that the owner of the business does not live in the locality and has invested a significant amount of money into the business. Councillor Benney expressed the view they need somebody to live on site to receive early morning deliveries and they will have staff who work late into the evening. He expressed the opinion that he does agree with Councillor Murphy’s comment concerning the previous issues with wheelie bins left on the road, but that issue to the best of his knowledge has been resolved. Councillor Benney stated that as the owners live away they want somebody to live on site for security reasons and that as the business is also a licensed premises, it is a good deterrent against crime to have somebody living on site. He stated that the application is for a manager’s flat and it needs to be taken at face value and, in his opinion, it is a good thing for the town and for the business and everything should be done to support the owner. Councillor Benney stated that the premise will be subject to regular inspections from Environmental Health due to the nature of the business and if the owner breaches any legislation then the Council has the powers to take any necessary action. He expressed the view that the address of the premises is in Market Hill, which is a town centre location and, therefore, the application site does not need any car parking and the comments surrounding parking facilities is irrelevant. Councillor Benney stated that the 6 wheelie bins are for the business and the waste arising from the manager’s flat can be disposed of in the commercial bins. He feels there will be no issues of overlooking as the premises next door is a solicitors and he cannot see any issues at all with the application and will be voting to go against the officer’s recommendation and support the application.
· The Legal Officer drew members attention to the officer’s reasons for refusal, which are that it is contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework and Local Planning policies.
· Councillor Purser expressed the view that local businesses should be supported, and he agrees with the views of Councillor Benney.
· Councillor Miscandlon stated that he agrees with some of the comments made by Councillor Benney, but, in his opinion, the application does not address the good amenities that the occupation of the premises would require and the amenities in place are substandard and would affect the health and wellbeing of any occupant living there.
· Councillor Mrs Bligh referred to a recent application in Wisbech St Mary, which was also a site where the applicant wished to reside on the site of his business and was also approved against the officer’s recommendation due to the fear of opportunistic crime in Fenland. She added that businesses should be encouraged and if the owner does not live locally and it leaves the premises insecure, she does not see any reason as to why the proposal should not be supported.
· Councillor Cornwell made the point that much of what has been debated already are not planning matters and, in his view, the application must be looked at as it stands, and consideration should be given to the comments made by the Planning Officer.
· Councillor Sutton expressed the view that every attempt should be made to support and assist local businesses. He questioned the fact that if the application site was a flat a few years ago and is considered to be detrimental to health and wellbeing now that must also have been the case previously. Councillor Sutton stated that he has reservations in several areas of the application and consideration should be given to what can be done to improve those areas to make the application acceptable in planning terms. He stated that lots of flats do not have amenity space and questioned whether conditions could be added to the application if it was approved against the officer’s recommendation.
· Councillor Lynn referred to 1.4 of the executive summary of the officer’s report where it states that owing to the limited natural light ingress to the proposed flat, the scheme will result in poor residential amenity for the occupant and, in his opinion, adding an additional window may help provide a solution, if not cure the problem totally. He added that it also makes reference to the refuse bins and the delivery point for the restaurant outside the proposed access to the flat where it states that it would cause rise to the potential of noise, odour, and pests, resulting in substandard living conditions for the occupants of the flat but, in his opinion, these issues would be down to the operating practices of the manager of the restaurant as to how it effects the living standards of the occupants of the flat.
· Councillor Connor stated that the application has to be considered as a manager’s flat and if there are any issues pertaining to the running of the business these can be dealt with by the appropriate departments at the Council.
· David Rowen highlighted to members the officer’s recommendation for refusal which are based on the standard of accommodation and amenity which would be afforded to the resident of the flat. He added that members have highlighted other issues concerning what the flat may or may not be used for, but that does not form part of the officer’s reasons for recommending refusal, which include the poor quality of light, outlook, adjacent commercial activities and nature of those and the poor quality of living accommodation.
· David Rowen referred to the point raised by Councillor Sutton as to why the application was deemed acceptable in 2012 and he added that at that time policies were slightly different and greater weight was given to facilitating bringing back of the building into wider use. He added that over the last few years the advice from Central Government has significantly increased with regard to quality of living environment, including good levels of accommodation and natural light and the permitted development regime has changed and natural light calculations now have to be provided to ensure schemes have a higher quality of living accommodation provided .David Rowen explained that it is for those reasons that the officer’s recommendation has been made, assessing all of the amenity issues which are apparent to officers, notwithstanding the benefits that there may be to the business and there may be other units in the town centre that have accommodation associated with them. He added that the application has been looked at in isolation and in making an assessment whether the proposal affords a good quality living accommodation for future residents.
Proposed by Councillor Benney, seconded by Councillor Mrs Davis and agreed that the application be APPROVED, against the officer’s recommendation.
Members did not support the officer’s recommendation of refusal as they feel that the proposal provides a purpose for the business and will improve the health and wellbeing of the occupants of the flat, with the benefits of the scheme to the business outweighing the poor quality of residential environment for the occupier.
(Councillor Benney declared, under Paragraph 14 of the Code of Conduct on Planning Matters, that he is a member of Chatteris Town Council Planning Committee, but was not present when the item was discussed.)
(Councillor Murphy declared, under Paragraph 14 of the Code of Conduct on Planning Matters, that he is a member of Chatteris Town Council Committee, but takes no part in Planning matters)