Agenda item

Agenda item

Planning Application No. CB/17/01158/OUT (Arlesey)


Address:       Land at Chase Farm, east of High Street, Arlesey (nearest post code SG15 6YA)


Outline Application: Development of up to 950 No. dwellings and 80 bedroom extra care unit, a two form entry lower school, up to 7,000 sq. metres of employment floor space, up to 6,500 sq. metres of retail (A1-A5), a hotel. Healthcare inc. provision of new doctors surgery and dentists and leisure/community use of which up to 500 sq. metres to comprise of community use floor space, provision of new cycling & walking routes, open space including sports pitches, associated changing parking and other ancillary facilities and formal play areas together with associated works and operations including engineering operations & earthworks.


Applicant:     Telereal Ventures Ltd



The Committee had before it a report regarding Planning Application No. CB/17/01158/OUT, an outline application for the development of up to 950 No. dwellings and an 80 bedroom extra care unit, a three form entry lower school, up to 7,000 sq. metres of employment floor space, up to 6,500 sq. metres of retail (A1-A5), a hotel, healthcare including the provision of a new doctors surgery and dentists and leisure/community use of which up to 500 sq. metres to comprise of community use floor space, provision of new cycling and walking routes, open space including sports pitches, associated changing parking and other ancillary facilities and formal play areas together with associated works and operations including engineering operations & earthworks on land at Chase Farm, east of High Street, Arlsey.


In advance of consideration of the application the Committee’s attention was drawn to an error on the site location plan attached to the agenda, additional comments and additional representations as set out in the Late Sheet.


In advance of consideration of the application the Chairman advised the Committee that the Arlesey Town Council representative who had registered to speak was unable to attend.  The Committee then received representations from an objector to the application and the agent for the applicant under the public participation scheme.


A ward Member expressed his thanks to the planning officer for her efforts in attempting to make the application comply with the Masterplan for Arlesey Cross.  He reminded the meeting that the Masterplan had been drawn up some years ago following much effort and extensive consultation with stakeholders, the wider community, the Town Council and residents and had been submitted to the Executive before being adopted.  The ward Member commented, however, that the application did not comply with the Masterplan and he referred to some of what he claimed were the key issues including a significant reduction in the amount of employment land and that the jobs to be created would be mainly service and quite low grade jobs.  He felt that this would only contribute towards Arlesey becoming a dormitory town; something which had been resisted by the ward Members, local residents and the Town Council during the discussions on the Masterplan.  The ward Member next commented that if the application before Members was approved currently only half the relief road was in place and there was no indication that the western side would be completed in line with the eastern side.  He stated that this would place unacceptable traffic pressure on Arlesey High Street, something the western relief road was supposed to reduce.  The ward Member referred to a recent major news story regarding congestion outside the lower school in Arlesey involving heavy lorries and other vehicles mounting the pavement and threatening parents and children.  He felt it unacceptable that the road and development should proceed with the western side of the relief road not yet available.  The ward Member next stated that there was a huge reduction, against policy, in the level of social housing to be provided, dropping from 35% to 20% in the application to which the Council’s housing officer had lodged a formal objection.  With the passing of the Homelessness Act it could be seen that more not less social housing was required.  He regarded the proposed reduction, based on a claimed ‘viability’, as extremely disappointing.


The ward Member next referred to the comments made earlier in the meeting by the objector and stated that he (the Member) had studied the papers supplied by the latter regarding the software (ARCADY and PICADY) used for the traffic assessment.  The ward Member stated that it was clear that there were major flaws in the transport assessment particularly with regard to the right hand turn issue on the roundabouts on the A507.  He commented that he did not understand why those undertaking the transport modelling did not use ‘proper’ software in place of the simple version employed.  Last, the officer report referred to traffic issues on the A507 and the need for works on the A1(M) and three other roundabouts on the A507 although no detail was provided on what might be required or how the works would be delivered other than a recommended condition.  He queried how the works would be funded although he noted that the works needed to be completed before occupation of some of the properties affected.


In conclusion, the ward Member referred to the Committee’s decision to refuse an application for the pedestrian bridge at a previous meeting because it was felt that the bridge was non-compliant both in terms of the specification and in relation to the recently adopted Arlesey Neighbourhood Plan.  He asked that Members support residents and reject what he felt was a flawed application and demand something in keeping with the adopted Masterplan.


A second ward Member commented that the application before the meeting for approximately 950 homes represented one of the largest to come before the Committee for many years.  Coupled with the applications for the west side there would be a total of approximately new 1500 homes within the community.  He advised the Committee that the Masterplan had been developed approximately 12 years earlier but, since its adoption, matters had changed and reminded the meeting of the discovery of a National Grid gas main and its subsequent impact.  The ward Member stated that many things had been promised to the community when the Masterplan had started but many had still not been delivered, such as the removal of pressure on the High Street.  He felt there was no joined up working between the Masterplan and other applications.  The ward Member stated that the land to the west was in multiple ownership and there had been no agreement reached amongst the owners to deliver a unified development.  Further, the application before the Committee was not for a relief road but merely an access road into an estate and would not provide any relief unless joined up working enabled the delivery of the west side as well.  The ward Member stated that whilst there were claims that in the future there would many benefits for Arlesey all that could be seen was what was actually submitted which was a huge development of 950 dwellings and associated infrastructure.


The ward Member agreed with the concerns expressed by the objector and by the first ward Member regarding the A507.  He claimed the work on the assessments was flawed and this had also been raised by parish councils.  He referred to his own experience of having to queue because of traffic levels between the Fairfield roundabout and the Arlesey roundabout.  The ward Member claimed the current application would not resolve the issue but make it worse and it was apparent that the traffic modelling was poor.  With regard to claims that the application would assist the High Street by providing a relief road the ward Member stated that unless there was joined up working there would be no relief road.  The application would merely lead to an increase of 30% in traffic in the High Street.  He referred to the previous reference to how the existing weight of traffic had led to vehicles, including HGVs, driving on to the pavement and the danger that created for pedestrians.


The ward Member stated that some positive points were apparent in the application.  It supported the local green infrastructure financially and would have a positive impact on not just Arlesey but Stotfold, Fairfield and Astwick.  He referred to additional cycle routes and welcomed the new leisure and local facilities, including health care.  However, he had major concerns regarding employment.  Employment was proposed elsewhere in the area, and in the Local Development Framework, for Henlow Camp.  That would result in further pressure on the A507 and local roads as the number of drivers leaving Arlesey increased.  As a result Arlesey would become a dormitory which everyone had stated they did not wish to happen.  He referred to Fairfield Park as an example of what would happen. 


In conclusion the Member stated that whilst there were some infrastructure improvements the application did not match local aspirations and did not address the road issues.  If the additional road was not provided in the west then there would be no relief for the High Street and nothing had been forthcoming in the officer’s introductory presentation as to what was going to happen on the High Street to resolve the issues.  He stated that the number of cars parked on the High Street south of the war memorial made progress difficult and this had not been addressed.


The planning officer responded to the points raised as follows:


·         With regard to why the National Grid gas pipeline had not been diverted  she explained the application was severely constrained with other infrastructure costs.  These in themselves had an impact on the viability of the scheme and the amount of contributions that could be realised for parts of the development.  Diverting the gas pipeline would put additional pressure on the amount of contributions available towards facilities and services such as education or health care and so had been rejected.

·         On the matter of employment she commented that the Masterplan had been adopted in approximately 2014 and consideration should be given to the updated evidence that formed part of the application.  The updated evidence suggested that Use Classes B2/B8 were not necessarily viable partly as vacant sites already existed in the area.  Putting that type of employment use on the site would not, therefore, lead to employment.  Extensive work had been undertaken to ensure that the proposed employment uses were viable and would bring forward jobs to facilitate the growth of the site.

·         The level of affordable housing was related to the viability issue of the site which had arisen as a result of high infrastructure costs.  The application provided 20% affordable housing (which was lower than usual) but also retained the other elements of the Masterplan that had been promised i.e. the high levels of green infrastructure and services, connectivity, improvements to the High Street, parking at the railway station and various other contributions.  In addition the 20% would provide the appropriate tenure mix.  A higher proportion of affordable housing would have an adverse impact on the contributions available.  She stressed that a huge amount of negotiation had been required to achieve the figure set out in the report and she did not think it was possible to achieve more.

·         The presentation had not shown the High Street improvements but some work had been undertaken on it with the applicant to establish a possible scheme which recognised the issue of parked vehicles and the significant impact on queuing in the High Street.  Based on the information available to date the officers were confident that a scheme could be realised along the High Street which provided such facilities as additional parking spaces within the highway in order to remove the haphazard parking from the High Street.   Further, there were recommended conditions to ensure that a relatively robust scheme was introduced and that the development did not contribute to the existing problem.

·         The Chairman referred to the loss of some social housing and queried whether the viability assessment which justified the reduction had been independently assessed.  The planning officer confirmed that it had been independently assessed a number of times.


The highways officer responded to the points raised as follows:


·         On the use of the ARCADY software for assessing junctions on the A507 the officer stated that the applicant’s consultant had used ‘Junctions 9’ which was the latest version of ARCADY.  The officers were therefore satisfied that the most up-to-date software had been used.  The results of the assessment showed that a number of junctions on the A507 were currently operating close to capacity.  However, when a junction was close to capacity, the queue lengths produced by the software were not a reliable way of assessing whether the programme was correct or not.   As a result the ratio of flow to capacity (RFC), which set out at what percentage the junction was operating, was considered.  He therefore believed that the results presented in the transport assessment were an accurate reflection of the existing conditions and also the future conditions when the development came forward.

·         The officer advised that the applicant had been asked to consider the impact on the High Street if the western section of the relief road was not completed.  The result was an increase in traffic of up to 30% should the full development come forward prior to the western section being completed.  The officer added that the issues on the High Street were caused by on-street parking.  The traffic flows were not particularly high but the parking caused congestion and slow journey times.  As a result options were being considered by the officers which would move some of the parking off the main carriageway but within the existing highway in order to address this issue where possible.

·         On the implementation of changes to the A507 the officer advised that the applicant had examined what was required to mitigate the impact of the development and the improvements necessary to return to the position prior to the development coming forward.  That involved fairly minor changes to the geometry.  The intention was that it would then be used to calculate a cost or a contribution towards other mitigation that might come forward as part of the review of the A507 currently being undertaken.

·         The proposed road formed half of the relief road but would not fully function until the western section was complete.  The  officer stated, however, that the completion of the eastern section would relieve traffic through the northern part of Arlesey.


The Committee considered the application and in summary discussed the following:


·         A Member stated that at the beginning of the recent site inspection he had made clear that Members should be prepared to spend more time than usual on-site given that, as far as he could recall, the application was the largest single application that was to be considered by the Committee. However, on asking a few questions at the site inspection he had not gained the impression that the traffic assessment was inadequate.  He added that when the ARCADY software had been discussed there had been no comment by anyone, including the ward Member who was also the Executive Member for Community Services with responsibility for highways matters, that it was ineffectual and the officer had fully endorsed its use.   The Member stated that he had been looking for hints, evidence or suggestions that there was a flaw in the proposal but none had emerged.  His concerns were therefore based on relatively minor issues such as cycling links across the site and not on the key elements.  He felt that if Members had substantial concerns then they should raise them at the site inspection so that the Committee Members present could consider the site with those points in mind.  The Member stated that no-one at the site inspection who had considered the site would have expected any the problems which had arisen at today’s meeting and would have left the site with the clear understanding that there were no major issues with the proposal.  In conclusion he stated that, given the time available, it was difficult to give proper consideration to the issues which had been raised that morning at the Committee, that Members with concerns should attend the site inspection and make them known and that, as far as he was aware, the officers had answered all the concerns and questions.  He then expressed disquiet at what he perceived was a failure by the two ward Members who had spoken earlier, and who were also the Executive Members for Resources and Community Services, to have raised their concerns at the site inspection.

·         However, in response the ward Member (Executive Member for Community Services) stated that he had raised the issue of ARCADY with the highways officer at the site inspection and a detailed conversation on the software and the right hand turns off the junctions had taken place.

·         Another Member stated that the highways officer had answered the questions regarding ARCADY.  He commented that he understood that it was important that the latest version of the software was used and, if that had been the case, then it potentially answered the issues.  The Member then pointed out that whilst Arlesey Town Council, which had objected to the application, represented local residents there had only been 12 objections from the residents themselves.  He commented that this was a common phenomenon and referred to an application for a large development at Houghton Regis which had seen an objection from the Town Council but relatively few from local residents.  Figures did, however, provide a form of context and the Member suggested that 500-600 objections to the application would have given a clearer indication of the unpopularity of the development, although he also felt that 12 was acceptable and there had been some very sensible comments from local residents.

·         Turning next to the representation in the officer report from Phillips Planning Services (representing Samuel Beadie) the Member referred to the original conversations which had taken place on the Masterplan.  He pointed out that Woods Hardwick Ltd had worked on the traffic implications for the High Street and, whilst acknowledging that there would be an impact,  the company had stated that the High Street had significant capacity and could cope.  The Member then referred to local perceptions and the concerns expressed at lorries mounting the pavement on the High Street.  He pointed out that the reason lorries were travelling through Arlesey was because there was a depot nearby.  The solution to that issue was the western element of the relief road.  The Member next referred to parking and the comment passed on how it played a factor in causing the congestion on the High Street.  Whilst acknowledging the inconvenience that arose for drivers he emphasised that the parking slowed traffic speeds and was therefore of benefit.  If parking controls were strengthened then some drivers would use the opportunity drive faster through Arlesey.  The only impediment to speeding drivers, apart from some of the existing and effective traffic calming measures in the town, was provided by parking.

·         The Member next referred to the content of the representation by Phillips Planning Services.  In response to it he stated that the applicant was building a relief road from the High Street to the A507 and that was why the impact on the High Street and the roundabouts off the High Street was only 30%.   He acknowledged that the figure was still substantial but was only at that level because of a new roundabout on the A507.  A significant element of the traffic would therefore go the other way.  The Member then referred again to the representation and was of the opinion that an issue raised within it related to land uplift where a ransom strip was held, or one or more of the developers were in a position to prevent the construction of a road.  He stated that, at the current time, the western element of the relief road had not yet come forward.  He believed the Committee had considered and refused one application.  The Member added that the Council could not, however, refuse applications at the northern edge of the western section or the southern edge of the western section because they had their own access points from the High Street and from Five Ways.  The Council could not also, at this stage, deal with the landowners who owned pieces of land who, when he met them approximately four years ago, collectively could not agree on an equalisation agreement.  In relation to this, and in his portfolio holder role,  he was discussing with officers the possibility of taking forward a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) for the land which would enable the relief road to be completed.  He stressed, however, that the conversations were at an early stage and, as a sensible Council, the Council would prefer to discuss the matter with any affected landowners who might feel that they were being held to ransom.  The Member reminded the meeting that a CPO had been used before in Biggleswade to facilitate a retail park.  He stressed that he was very conscious of what was delaying the western element of the site and he was working with officers to deal with it.

·         The Member then turned to the level of affordable housing accompanying the application.  He first explained that he had, as part of his portfolio responsibilities, been involved in the discussions on this matter and how the officers had succeeded in increasing it from the original offer of 10% to 20%.  He also advised that he was involved, though not on this site, in establishing what the affordable housing position was and how much affordable housing was coming forward.  The Member then raised the question as to why the Council had only delivered a certain level of affordable housing in the previous municipal year and explained that it was because the Council failed to inform the developer at what point the homes were required by.  As a result the full number of permitted homes for market sale could be constructed before any affordable homes were built and available.  The Member stated that he was, therefore, very enthusiastic in attempting to introduce a phasing clause into major applications to ensure, as an example, 20 affordable homes made available at the same time as 100 market sale dwellings.

·         The Member stated that he would like to see something about improving the environment allowing new residents to have their homes cabled for the charging of electric vehicles and the provision of electric charging points in public places and, particularly, work places.  He also stated that he wished to see a condition introduced so that when Reserved Matters came forward a wearing course was required for all estate roads as soon as possible after the development was completed.

·         A Member stated that the proposed departure from the Masterplan was not necessarily bad, as it was based on experience and negotiation, but it did mean that there were many more questions.  He then referred to the phasing of the provision of affordable housing and stated that it was necessary to be aware that with a site of the size before the Committee there would be plenty of social housing for a housing association to acquire.  The phasing therefore became more important (as well as the location) in order to ensure that the social housing was acquired sensibly by the housing association or whoever was going to manage the housing.

·         The Member then referred to two recommended conditions for off-site mitigation of highway measures and stated that he assumed that this was for the provision of parking spaces (which had been mentioned earlier) rather than an expansion of the roads.  He then commented that the schemes for the off-site mitigation highway measures were to be submitted and approved by the Council prior to relatively low levels of occupation of the new dwellings.  He queried how the Council was going to enforce the trigger points and who was paying for it.  He felt that the trigger points of 50 dwellings and 100 dwellings for the two recommended conditions were quite low in terms of traffic generation given the scheme was for up to 950 dwellings in total.

·         The Member next drew Members’ attention to a recommended condition on the provision of external lighting and asked that the method of lighting be such that it could be easily maintained by the Council following adoption of the roads.  In explanation he referred to an estate in Ampthill where the developers had used a non-standard street lighting fittings.  Following eventual adoption, the Council found it was unable to ensure that the lights worked because of delays in acquiring the replacement non-standard fittings.  He therefore requested some form of standardisation be incorporated.  In response the planning officer stated that this issue could be dealt with through either the design code submitted with each of the residential or open space stages when certain standards would be agreed that ensured that the lighting would be acceptable for adoption by any party whether it was Central Bedfordshire or Arlesey Town Council.  Secondly, the officers were aware which body would be adopting particular areas of the development and, based on experience, would work with that adopting party to ensure that the lighting was serviceable for the future.  Another Member, speaking as the Executive Member with responsibility for highways matters, stated that he had had discussions with Ringway Jacobs, the Council’s highways provider, regarding the standardisation of lighting in all applications that come forward.  That would provide a long term improvement in the Council’s costs for maintenance.  He added that there would be a proposal forthcoming to that effect.

·         A Member referred to the second bullet point in paragraph 6.3 of the officer report and the financial contributions to schools.  He commented that was no mention in the officer report of which schools would receive the funding and whether they had the space to expand.  The Chairman indicated that this had been done deliberately to allow flexibility. 

·         The Member then referred to paragraph 6.3 of the officer report and last bullet point which referred to a delivery clause committing the site to an appropriate number of dwellings within a five year and ten year period.  He asked if there was any idea as to what the appropriate number could be given the detrimental impact of a long lived building site.

·         Last, the Member stated that in the larger applications there was a balance between construction and the open space left on the site.  Because it appeared that the amount of open space was going to be more because some of the commercial building had been deemed inappropriate he queried whether, if it was not possible to use that land for another purpose, it was possible to insist that it was used to reduce the density of the development.  He referred to the national impact of high density development  and how it prevented the provision of basic facilities such as driveways or wider roads.  The Member queried whether it would be possible to use the land to improve the density and thereby help create a pleasant community.  The Chairman responded that the use of land was always a balancing exercise and if the density were to be reduced so would the amount of open space.  The Member stressed that he did not expect the number of houses to reduce but he was interested in the density they would be built at to create a good community.  In response the planning officer explained that this issue would be discussed at the Reserved Matters stage.  She added that the premise of most of the applications was that density would be at its greatest around the hub or core and then open space with a slightly lower density along the fringe to take account of the impact on the character of the area.  The planning officer stated that even looking at the indicative layout provided with the application the officers were content that the densities found in certain areas reflected this approach.  

·         A Member raised the issue of public art at paragraph 7.7 of the report and the request by the Council’s Public Art Officer to impose a condition to secure an art strategy.  The Member queried the planning officer’s response in the report which was that a public art strategy was not necessary to make a scheme of that scale acceptable.  The Chairman advised that there was no policy that required the Council to provide public art.  He added that someone would have to pay for it and asked where would the money be better spent.  The Chairman reiterated that it was a balancing exercise and the officers had felt that the money was better spent elsewhere rather than on public art.

·         A Member commented that the discussion and concern expressed had been mainly about highway matters.  He referred the meeting to recommended conditions 29 and 30 which required the submission and delivery of highway mitigation measures very early in the development.  Whilst he appreciated the concerns expressed regarding enforcement he felt that an onus had been placed on the developers to find solutions to prevent the serious disruption to the delivery of the wider scheme.  Given the presence of those conditions the Member therefore felt it was inappropriate for the Committee to halt the scheme by refusing it.  He also felt that it would not be practical to delay or suspend the individual applications until all the related issues had been fully resolved.  If they were, it would not subsequently be possible to build all of them out at the same time.  In conclusion he acknowledged the amendments that had been suggested but he was happy to support the application.


On being put to the vote 10 Members voted for approval, 1 voted against and 1 abstained.




that Planning Application No. CB/17/01158/OUT relating to land at Chase Farm, east of the High Street, Arlesey be approved as set out in the Schedule attached to these minutes.




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