To determine the application.
David Rowen presented the report to members.
Members received a presentation, in accordance with the public participation procedure, from Mr Tim Slater, the Agent.
Mr Slater stated that in terms of the principle of development, Policy LP1 of the Local Plan confirms that there is an overriding presumption in favour of sustainable development, and it is contended that the proposal is both in a sustainable location and is a sustainable form of development. He highlighted that LP3 of the Local Plan identifies the settlement hierarchy, which confirms that Chatteris is an ‘other’ market town and consequently the majority of the district’s new housing should be directed to this and other market towns.
Mr Slater added that LP3 states that the focus for the majority of the growth is in, and around the four market towns and stated that the market towns do not have development boundaries and development on the edge of the market towns is still consistent with LP3 and LP4. He said that officers have taken a different approach to the proposal than to the site immediately opposite which was granted permission for 50 dwellings in August 2020 and, in his opinion, the site is very similar to the application site in terms of its spatial relationship to the town.
Mr Slater expressed the view that the committee report for the 50 dwellings confirms the fact the site is on the edge of the market town of Chatteris and is considered to be a sustainable location where new growth can be accommodated. He expressed the opinion that in spatial terms the application site is not materially different to the application for the 50 dwellings and, therefore, should be considered as a sustainable location.
Mr Slater added that with regard to loss of agricultural land it is understood that the application site has not been in active agricultural use for in excess of ten years. He stated that in terms of character and appearance as the application is only in outline form, matters of scale and appearance, design and landscaping, do not form part of the current submission, but feels that an appropriate design with landscaping could provide a visually appropriate form of development in this location that would mitigate impacts when viewing from the south.
Mr Slater stated that in terms of access, the application is supported by a transport assessment which concludes that the site can be adequately accessed from the existing road and byway without causing unacceptable harm to local highway safety or amenity and the applicants disagree with the comments made by the Highway Authority which are detailed in the officer’s report. He requested that planning permission be granted as the applicants feel that the application is sustainable and in a sustainable location.
Members asked Mr Slater the following questions:
· Councillor Benney asked Mr Slater to clarify whether his client would be prepared to undertake any improvement works on the access to the site which is 7 metres at its narrowest width? Mr Slater stated that there is some uncertainty about the dimensions and ownership of the area and highways have been unable to assist with details of the ownership. He added that his client would be prepared to undertake works on the highway, which could be conditioned, but had intended to wait until the planning permission had been sought.
· Councillor Mrs French made the point that there are two dykes on site, and asked whether there are plans to pipe either one? Mr Slater stated that he did not know the answer and it would be something that would be looked into at the reserved matters stage.
Members asked officers the following questions:
· Councillor Benney asked officers to clarify the issue concerning the highway and that if planning permission was agreed could a condition be added to resolve the issue of the public byway? David Rowen stated the application is for an outline application with matters committed in respect of access and as part of the application you would expect to see any improvements in access to serve the development committed as part of the application. He added that Mr Slater has already acknowledged that there are no improvements proposed and Councillor Mrs French has highlighted that there are dykes on both sides and no details have been submitted either as part of the application. David Rowen stated that with regard to resolving the rights of way situation, the officer’s report sets out the legal complexity around the widths of the byways and the land ownership issues which requires a great deal of work to resolve and there are a number of issues that need to be resolved before the Council would have the confidence to approve what could be delivered on site. He expressed the view that the issues should be resolved before a planning application is submitted so that there is an element of certainty in terms of what is submitted to the Planning Authority.
· Councillor Mrs French stated that she likes the application, but she is not content with the access issues and she would like to see the application deferred.
· Councillor Cornwell stated that the access element of the application seems to be unresolved and, in his opinion, the committee have no option other than to take a certain course of action.
· Councillor Sutton asked officers to highlight on the presentation screen where the fifty dwellings are located? David Rowen referred members to the site location plan and stated that the urban extension that is referred to is an extension of Fairbairn Way and the access road would come off the bend in Fairbairn Way and run into the site. He added that the application site further south site comes across the back of Millfield Close albeit not coming any further south than the east west drain. David Rowen advised members that the outline application for the 50 dwellings was granted permission 18 months ago and to date there has been no reserved matters and no pre application approaches for a detailed layout submitted. He added that members need to consider that if a detailed layout is submitted there is the possibility that the western end of the scheme could be the open space or the attenuation features and there is no guarantee that the dwellings will be sited up to the western boundary adjacent to the boundary of the current proposal site members are considering.
Members asked questions, made comments and received responses as follows:
· Councillor Miscandlon expressed the view that the officer’s recommendation is correct, and that this application has been submitted incomplete and for that reason it should be refused and possibly resubmitted when all of the relevant and required information is in place.
· Councillor Mrs Davis stated that she agrees with Councillor Miscandlon and she added that it is a byway which is open to all traffic. She added that the byway is used by walkers and horse riders and also used by vehicles to access the properties on Millfield Close and Fairview Gardens. She stated that the application is going to increase the number of vehicular movements already taking place.
· Councillor Cornwell expressed the view that the byway is used and needs protecting. He added that the application is incomplete and the description of the proposal states that it is for matters committed in respect of access which it is clearly not.
· Councillor Benney stated that the application site for the 50 houses does join the land for this proposed application. He agrees that the access needs to be solved, but he would also like to see the application deferred.
· Nick Harding advised members that he would not recommend that the application should be deferred as the application needs to be determined in its current form and whilst members can defer for clarification, not for an amended plan. He added that there are no proposals to improve the access apart from the minor works that David Rowen had referred to in his presentation.
· Councillor Mrs Davis stated that the agent and applicant have had plenty of opportunity to discuss the access prior to submission of the application and, in her view, it does not warrant a deferral.
· David Rowen stated that Mr Slater had asked members during his presentation to determine the application on the basis of what had been submitted and he added that the County Council Definitive Mapping Team have advised that there is very little certainty that an acceptable scheme can be achieved from a legal perspective and for that reason he would agree that a deferment should not be an option.
· Councillor Mrs French stated that she is concerned with regard to the access issues which needs to be addressed.
Proposed by Councillor Miscandlon seconded by Councillor Cornwell that the application be REFUSED as per the officer’s recommendation. This proposal was not supported by a majority vote by members.
As the proposal to refuse the application as per the officer’s recommendation had failed clarification was sought on what options were now available to members and the Legal Officer advised members that the application is in outline form with highways matters to be determined, the proposal made has fallen and therefore a further proposal was required.
Councillor Miscandlon made the point that it is his understanding that the application is for the access only, not for the buildings. Nick Harding confirmed that the Legal Officer has outlined the position clearly that the proposal to refuse the application as per officer’s recommendation has not been supported and another proposal is required from members, which could be to approve the development granting to officers the ability to apply appropriate conditions or alternatively the proposal could be refused on access reasons only.
Councillor Mrs French asked for clarification that if members recommended the application for approval could a condition be added in respect of the access. Nick Harding responded that if the application was approved and members wanted to place a condition on the permission to say how the access is going to be improved then his concern is that you should only be putting this condition on if there is a good degree of certainty that the access can be improved and there is doubt that the access can be improved in the degree envisaged by the Highways Officers and due to the element of uncertainty a condition should not be applied.
Councillor Benney asked that if the application was refused solely on the access issue and then the applicant resubmitted the proposal with details of access, then the only aspect requiring determination would be that of access to that site. Nick Harding stated that could be an option.
Proposed by Councillor Sutton, seconded by Councillor Benney and agreed that the application be refused on access grounds only.
Members do not support officers’ recommendation of refusal reason 2 as they feel the site is acceptable for development and it is only the access that is of concern.
(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 takes no part in planning matters)
(Councillor Benney stated that the applicant for this item is known to him in a professional capacity but it would not make any difference to his decision making and voting on the application)
(Councillor Murphy stated that due to personal reasons he it would not be appropriate for him to take part in this application and he left the Council Chamber for the duration of the discussion and voting thereon)