Agenda item

Agenda item

Planning Application No. CB/17/04583/OUT (Ampthill)


Address:       Land adj 129A and 131 Clophill Road, Maulden, Bedford,

MK45 2AE


Erection of 25 dwellings with roads and sewers.


Applicant:     Messrs D,M,S & Miss L Humphries





The Committee had before it a report regarding Planning Application No. CB/17/04583/OUT, an outline application for the erection of 25 dwellings with roads and sewers at land adjacent to 129A and 131 Clophill Road, Maulden, MK45 2AE.


In advance of consideration of the application the Committee’s attention was drawn to additional comments and additional/amended conditions as set out in the Late Sheet.


In advance of consideration of the application the Committee received representations from Maulden Parish Council, an objector and the agent for the applicant under the public participation scheme.


In response to the objector’s concerns about the location of social housing blocks and parking, the Chairman explained that the application was for outline purposes and that approval was only being sought for the principle of the development and its access. If Members did approve the application, the applicant would have to return with a Reserve Matters application which would deal with the proposed layout of the dwellings and the objector would have opportunity to make any objections at that time.  In response to the objector’s comment the Chairman explained that the site layout before the Committee was indicative only and the Committee could not, therefore, take it into account as part of the current application.  Following comment by the objector with regard to future consultation the Chairman stated that if the current application was approved, and when the Reserved Matters application was submitted, the objector would be notified. The objector added that he was not notified about the Committee meeting and had been omitted from the circulation.  The Chairman assured the objector that the officers would have noted that point and would make sure that he was notified. 


A Member drew the objector’s attention to the Late Sheet and read out a new recommended decision which set out the requirement for a scheme to be submitted for the provision of affordable housing and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority. The scheme would include the type, size, tenure mix and location on the site of the affordable housing provision. The Member stated that it gave the officers the opportunity to indicate certain requirements such as type, location and height.  He added that the issues raised by the objector could be taken care of through the scheme.  The objector stated that the recommended conditions coincided broadly with his own but he emphasised the need to take into account the detrimental impact of placing a two or three storey building next to a bungalow.  The result of doing so could already be seen on Clophill Road.


A ward Member reminded the meeting that the application site abutted Maulden Wood, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), the highest land designation found in Central Bedfordshire aside from a small piece of land found towards Caddington that fell within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).  He stated that any adjacent development to the SSSI would damage its biodiversity.  Further, the Wood was within the Greensand Ridge Nature Improvement Area, of which the Council was a partner and supported it financially.  The ward Member stated that site was also included within the emerging Local Plan and recognised by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).  He felt that the proposed reduction of the buffer zone between the application site and the Wood from 50m to 20m was unacceptable and referred to the Planners’ Manual for Ancient Woodland and Veteran Trees which identified the need for a 50m buffer between woodland and a development.  In addition the Committee had previously approved a 50m buffer on a development on the site adjacent to the application and he felt that this distance should also apply to the current application.


The ward member referred to a Planning Inspector’s earlier report which had found that that no development should take place closer to the Wood than that of the existing bungalows to the west of the site.  He referred to the Council’s previous unwillingness for a considerable period to contradict a Planning Inspector’s decision on another site and compared it to the approach taken on the current application to ignore what the Inspector had found.  The ward Member also expressed concern regarding the validity of the views expressed by the Home Builders Federation in favour of the application.  He asked that the Committee adopt a degree of consistency in its approach and thinking.


The ward Member welcomed the applicant’s willingness to contribute towards Maulden village.  However, the proposed development, along with that previously approved on the adjacent site to the east, offered no access to local schooling as Maulden Lower School was some distance away and full, Clophill Lower School was also full and access lay across the A6 and there was no crossing facility.  He stated that the buyers of the new homes would therefore find their children having to travel elsewhere to attend school.  Similarly there were no shops or amenities in the area.


The ward Member stated that Maulden Parish Council fully recognised that there was an extreme housing need.  He referred to the Committee having previously included conditions that building works had to start within five years in order to meet the five year rolling land supply. However, he suggested that the building start time for the application should change to three years to ensure that it was completed within the five year period and to allow the Committee a period of two years to make arrangements to replace the proposed dwellings if they were not built and the land was merely being banked as a piece of land with outline planning permission.  The ward Member voiced frustration that the application was in Outline form only, given the possible development of the land had been considered for some years, and he referred to the concern suffered by local residents as a result.  He queried why a Full application could not be submitted.  He acknowledged that the applicant was willing to make a contribution but stressed the need to consider the broader picture which was that the emerging Local Plan included the SSSI and boundaries that were desired and needed.  In addition there was a Planning Inspector’s finding against development taking place closer to the Wood and only half of the application site would, therefore, be within the bounds set by the Inspector. The ward Member commented, however, that to comply with this would result in an ill match with the site to the east which had previously been approved.  The Council therefore found itself in conflict as a result of its own previous decision.  He also commented that Maulden Wood would suffer and there would be a detrimental impact on existing dwellings to the west of the application site because no real site boundary existed and the proposed development had no consideration for local residents.  If the application was to be approved he stated that he would wish to see the Reserve Matters to be actioned within one year, given the need to build homes, a condition requiring the start of building work within three years in order to achieve the 5 year land supply and Ward Members to be formally involved in reviewing the Reserved Matters application to ensure that there was no further detrimental impact on local residents and given that consultation had not been fully undertaken.


In conclusion the ward Member asked that the Committee either consider deferring the application given the failure to fully consult or reject it.


A second ward Member drew the Committee’s attention to the landscape officer and ecology reports.  He stated his belief that Maulden Wood needed to be protected and that he did not believe the development was sustainable given that the nearest school was a mile away, there were no shops and residents would need to commute to work thus increasing the number of car journeys on a relatively busy road.  Whilst he understood the Local Plan and what the Council’s housing needs were he did not feel that the application was right.


The Planning Officer responded to the points raised as follows:


·         The former allocation in the Local Plan carried limited weight.  It was only included to allow for a discussion on why the plan before the Committee differed which was predicated on the guidance with regard to the buffers.

·         The ecological concerns were primarily based upon access to the buffer area. Whilst the plan showed a route through to the buffer, this was only illustrative, and all access would be removed at the Reserved Matters stage through conditions and the buffer appropriately managed.

·         Natural England had raised no objections subject to the appropriate management of the buffer area which would be achieved by condition.  Whilst not a designated gap he acknowledged that there would be a local impact on the landscape through urbanisation.  This had been factored in through the balancing exercise contained in the report.

·         With regard to SUDS there were conditions for drainage schemes and maintenance plans and no objections had been received in that regard.

·         The application before the Committee was an Outline application so living conditions would be addressed at Reserved Matters.

·         On the issue of build rate it was the intention of the developer to develop the site quickly.  In the current circumstances the planning officer did not think it reasonable to include a condition or an element of the s106 Agreement to ensure building took place within a certain timescale.  Further, based on recent case law, the development would still be taken into account when calculating the five year land supply whether it was constructed or not.

·         Clophill and Maulden were identified as large villages with lower schools, shops and pubs and when sustainability was assessed in the round, as it was in the officer’s report, then the development was considered sustainable.

·         The Chairman referred to comment regarding the outcome of a previous appeal decision in 2011.  In response the planning officer stated that the decision had been made possibly within a different policy context and invited Members to consider the application on its own merits.  He stressed that the appeal decisions were not determinative in any way in relation to what was currently before the Committee.

·         The Chairman advised that no true comparison could be made between applications.  He stated that it was always necessary to be aware that precedents hardly ever succeeded as the circumstances around each application were entirely different.  He added that since 2011 policy and guidance matters had evolved, specifically the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).  The further from the time of a decision the less likely it was to have a bearing on a current application.  The Chairman then reassured objectors that their comments had not been overlooked and would be taken into account by the officers.  The Committee’s task was to consider, on balance, whether the benefits of an application outweighed the harm that was caused.

·         The Chairman referred to the objections raised by the Greensand Trust and the Wildlife Trust and specifically to the former’s claim that the application would cause harm to biodiversity and to the latter’s claim that the application, allied to others, would give rise to cumulative harm.  In response the planning officer stated that, viewed in conjunction with the site immediately adjacent, and having regard to Natural England’s comments, the officers felt that the application was acceptable. He acknowledged the concerns with regard to access to the buffer and stated that such access would not be acceptable as it would result in harm to biodiversity.  However, access could be controlled.  Even if viewed in conjunction with the adjacent site the proposed buffer exceeded the requirement set out in the current guidance across the strip that abutted the SSSI and would be acceptable.  He added that the current guidance was 15m whilst that proposed was approximately 22m in line with the adjacent site.

·         The Chairman referred to comments from the ward Members regarding local schools in both Maulden and Clophill being full.  In response the planning officer stated that the contributions requested from the Council’s education officers satisfied the developer’s requirement to contribute to infrastructure as a result of the development.  The contributions alone were considered acceptable and it was the Council’s statuary duty to provide education.

·         Finally, the Chairman referred to what he felt to be an unusual request for ward Members to be involved in decisions regarding the layout of the dwellings.  In response the planning officer explained the procedure following which the Chairman summarised by stating that the applicant would submit a Reserved Matters application (which would contain the proposed layout), the officers would consider it and, if the officers felt the application to be acceptable, the Members could, if dissatisfied, call it in before the Committee for consideration.   A Member queried why Members could not be consulted and indicated that he would raise this issue further.

·         The third ward Member expressed disappointment that a 20m buffer zone appeared to be the maximum achievable though he was pleased that there was no suggestion to allow direct access to the buffer given the concerns expressed by the Greensand Trust and the Wildlife Trust.  However, he had concerns regarding the inconsistent status awarded to the emerging Local Plan.  He commented that Members were sometimes advised to give the Plan very little weight because it had yet to be submitted.  However, in the case of the current application, Members were being advised that because of the site’s potential for allocation in the Local Plant then sufficient weight should be given to allow the application to be approved.  The ward Member sought clarification on the scale of the site in the Plan as he felt that, if it was a significantly smaller area than that sought under the current application, there was justification to seek a smaller development

·         The ward Member expressed sympathy for the objector’s position and the issue of overlooking before drawing the Committee’s attention to an apparent difference in density when comparing the application site to that of its neighbour.  Whilst a recommended condition allowed for a maximum of 25 dwellings he was of the opinion that there could be a case for reducing that number.  He felt that an attempt had been made to maximise the number dwellings on the site which was relatively narrow plot compared to its neighbour with a smaller frontage on to the road.  In order to achieve an acceptable layout it might be necessary to reduce the number of dwellings and he suggested that this be done at this stage.  In response the Chairman advised the ward Member that the application could not, as far as he was aware, be changed by Committee and if Members thought the proposed number of dwellings was too many they would refuse it.

·         With regard to the query regarding the weight to be allocated to the emerging Local Plan the planning officer advised that it was still fairly limited. However, and notwithstanding the Plan’s status, the officers felt the application to be acceptable.  Whilst there was a 50m buffer on the neighbouring site it had been based on guidance which had been superseded.  The proposed buffer for the application before Members still exceeded that required under the revised guidance for the buffer distance between a development and an SSSI.

·         The ward Member welcomed the contribution to the Maulden Village Hall.  He then referred to a request made over several years for an additional admission year at Maulden Lower School but the required figure of 30 had not been reached.  He suggested that, should the application be approved, this figure could be achieved and it could be ensured that the contribution towards education went to the right place.

·         The ward Member who had first spoken expressed concern regarding the officers’ restricted use of s106 funding and drew the Committee’s attention to the large number of members of the scouting movement, and those on the waiting list, in his ward and the associated need for a new scout hut.  The Chairman reminded the ward Member of the need to comply with the requirements of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).  The ward Member suggested that officers be steered, not just to the Village Hall, but to a new scout hut when discussing s106 contributions as the latter would be of huge benefit to young people. The Chairman pointed out that that there would be a limit to the amount of funding that could be raised through s106 and if the ward Member’s preference was adopted another body would not receive anything.

·         A Member suggested that the ward Member consider how s106 monies were sought from applicants.  He also suggested the ward Member determine whether he (the ward Member) had registered the need for a new scout hut with the leisure officers so that the latter could seek contributions toward a new scout hut.

·         The Member then concurred with the objector’s representation regarding the inappropriate use of an existing wire fence to separate the new development from the existing development to the east.  He commented that this should be replaced, if appropriate, by a 2m high fence through a condition.  He then referred to the issues raised by the objector of siting of social housing on the boundary and overlooking before expressing his disappointment that a Full application had not been submitted and his dislike for outline applications in general and with regard to the current application given the relatively small number of dwellings concerned.  The Member then turned to a comment by the first ward Member speaker regarding the construction timetable.  Although the Council had a five year land supply he was also mindful that the government was seeking to impose a total of 3k new homes a year on Central Bedfordshire.  He added the government would require a review of all plans in 5 years and at that point, if not before, the Council would be under pressure to meet the 3k figure.  He therefore asked the officers if there was a method for accelerating construction, something the government was also seeking from local authorities.  He doubted there would be a delay with the current development in view of its relatively small size.

·         Turning next to a previous Planning Inspector’s finding on the distance a development could be to the Wood the Member drew the Committee’s attention to the development to the east of the application site being considerably closer to the Wood than the Inspector had felt suitable.  On this basis the Member stated that, at some point, a precedent had been set. In contrast, a different Inspector had decided that the development to the west of the application site should be further away.  The Member felt that if the Committee was minded to approve the application it should look closely at the layout and the height of the buildings to minimise the impact on the Wood.  He also felt the ward Members should be consulted on the layout.  Following a query by the Member it was clarified that there was a recommended condition that the development would be ‘up to’ 25 dwellings in size. The Member then referred to the report and queried why the education spending officer had not sought any monies if the local school was full and the funding could be used towards a new classroom.  He felt that a proposal for this should be in place so action could be taken.

·         Last, the Member queried which part of the application site was not allocated in the Local Plan.  In response the planning officer advised the Committee of the boundary which lay approximately 50m from the Wood.  The Member commented that this complied with the Planning Inspector’s finding from 2011.  However, the Chairman stated that the decision had been made in 2011 and new planning guidance had since superseded it.  Further, over time, conflicting views from different Planning Inspectors had been made which had given rise to legal interpretation as to which decision should currently apply.  The Chairman then asked if the Member had a planning reason why that area of land which formed part of the application site but which did not appear in the Local Plan should be excluded from the application.  In reply the Member stated that it was not possible to give significant weight to the Local Plan until it had been submitted and the process of adoption had reached a certain point.  However, he stated that it was possible to give weight to the technical evidence and there was nothing in the officer report setting out why the technical evidence underpinning the Local Plan chose to limit the depth of the site to a boundary running at approximately the same point as the extent of the existing development to the west of the application site.  When planning permission was granted for the development to the east of the application site the technical evidence clearly supported that allocation.  He asked that, if the technical evidence did not support the allocation, an explanation be given for the reason.  In response the planning officer referred to the report and the discussion set out within it regarding the emerging allocation and the proposed application.   It was acknowledged in the report that the two schemes would differ as a result of the changes to the guidance on the buffer depth to SSSIs.  The Member acknowledged and accepted this explanation.

·                    The Member then sought an explanation as to the failure to contribute towards biodiversity, an issue in which the government was taking an increasing interest.   In reply the Planning Officer stated that there was a requirement in national policy to offset severe harm to biodiversity.  However, the application site in itself was of limited ecological value and it was the SSSI which was of importance in this regard.  The buffer was considered sufficient to ensure that flora and bio diversity was preserved. There was also a recommended condition for ecological enhancements at the site.

·         A ward Member referred to the officer report and the description of buffer distance of approximately 22m between the ‘built form’ and the Wood.  He commented on the presence of back gardens to the dwellings, their distance from the dwellings and commented that this should be taken into account of.  Based on this he suggested that no built form should be allowed beyond a point in line with the existing dwellings to the west.   The Chairman pointed out that it was not possible to change application and Members could vote for refusal if they objected to it.  Following further comment by the Member regarding the layout within the application the Chairman reminded the meeting that the layout was illustrative only.

·         A Member commented that it was difficult for the Committee to consider the application properly in outline form only.  He acknowledged that the layout was indicative but the impact on neighbouring homes and the proximity of the built form to the Wood were critical to the consideration of the application.  Although the layout was only indicative he felt it raised the question as to whether it was possible to fit 25 dwellings within the site without either overdevelopment or building too close to the Wood.  He did not feel certain that it was possible to make a safe decision based on indicative drawings that did not explain how it possible to fit 25 dwellings on the site.  In response the Chairman stated that the Committee could not insist that a Full application be submitted and the Committee would find it difficult to justify refusing an application because it was in Outline form only.  With regard to whether 25 dwellings could be fitted into the application site this would be considered at Reserved Matters stage.  The planning officer explained that Members could consider whether the 25 dwellings would be overdevelopment but the officer opinion was that this number was acceptable.  The gardens met the Council’s minimum guidelines as did the distance between properties.  He stated that officers believed that it was possible to fit 25 dwellings on the site when submitted through Reserved Matters whilst not appearing cramped or overdeveloped and preserving the buffer distance to the SSSI.

·         To assist Members the legal officer made reminded the meeting that the applicants could choose whether to submit either an Outine or Full application followed by a Reserved Matters application if necessary.  The plan before the Committee was illustrative with the aim of providing an idea of what could be developed on the site.  At the Reserved Matters stage it would need to come back to officers and at that point they would determine acceptability.  She also drew Members’ attention to the recommended condition which stated that up to 25 dwellings were permitted.


On being put to the vote 8 Members voted for approval, 3 voted against and 2 abstained.




that Planning Application No. CB/17/04583/OUT relating to land adjacent to 129A and 131 Clophill Road, Maulden, MK45 2AE be approved as set out in the Schedule attached to these minutes.




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