Planning Application No. CB/18/04165/OUT (Silsoe & Shillington)
Address: Oakridge, 13 Orchard Close, Upper Gravenhurst, Bedford,
Outline Application: Redevelopment of site to provide 46 dwelling houses and 1 building with six self contained flats, retail unit and associated parking and roads. Resubmission of Application CB/17/01360/OUT dated13/07/17.
Applicant: 2MC Homes
The Committee had before it a report regarding Planning Application No. CB/18/04165/OUT, an outline application for the redevelopment of a site to provide 46 dwelling houses and one building with six self-contained flats, retail unit and associated parking and roads at Oakridge, 13 Orchard Close, Upper Gravenhurst, Bedford, MK45 4JF (resubmission of Application No. CB/17/01360/OUT dated 13 July 2017).
In advance of consideration of the application the Committee’s attention was drawn to additional comments and an additional/amended condition as set out in the Late Sheet.
In advance of consideration of the application the Committee received representations from Councillor Richard Brewer (representing Gravenhurst Parish Council), Elizabeth Lush, an objector, and Jeff Gillett, who spoke on behalf of the applicant. Members sought clarification from all three speakers.
The ward Member commented that, given that time had passed since the dismissal of the planning appeal for the site, circumstances could and did change. She referred to the NPPF, the Council’s design guide and the Local Plan and how they had identified the importance of a community’s sense of place, its local environment and its history, especially the continuity of this history. She explained that Gravenhurst was one of the very few hill villages in Central Bedfordshire.
The ward Member stated that the planning inspector had conceded that there would be harm to the character of the village because of the urbanising effect into the open countryside of a proposed estate whose scale and density was out of character with the existing village. The inspector had also queried the impact on, and restoration of, the affected green infrastructure. However, he saw minor economic benefits as outweighing the harm. The ward Member felt that the inspector had drawn the conclusion that a previous planning decision to allow 10 dwellings on a smaller site meant a larger development was also acceptable. She argued that allowing a smaller development actually emphasised the need to preserve the remainder of the hillside from development. The ward Member added that the village’s skyline, as it was approached from Lower Gravenhurst, was a key element of its history and geographical appearance. The Committee had previously rejected a three storey house on the site because its height would impact on the church tower. The Committee had also refused high roof lines because they impacted on the skyline yet the current application threatened to do exactly the same. The ward Member stressed that the village’s sense of place and its individuality was under threat and once the open rural view had gone it would be permanently lost.
The ward Member turned to the of issue of traffic and access to the site through Orchard Close and how consideration in detail of this had been delayed until the submission of a reserved matters application. She commented that the access had been described by an officer as one of ongoing concern and detrimental to highway safety. She felt that the problem would remain because the existing buildings in Orchard Close gave rise to an insoluble problem.
The ward Member referred to various planning inspectors disagreeing as to whether the Council had achieved its five year deliverable housing supply. Some had argued for a 20% buffer and others 10%, as had the Council. Central Bedfordshire had now submitted its Local Plan so it carried some planning weight. The Plan had identified the village’s housing need and allocated a site to supply the need.
The latest appeal for the site had been dismissed by the planning inspector mainly because of the inadequate delivery of social housing. The ward Member stated, however, that if the submitted Local Plan and further developments with regard to numbers indicated that Central Bedfordshire’s total number of homes and social housing needs had been fulfilled, then the main reason given for rejecting the appeal fell and the reasons originally given for refusal by the Council stood. She concluded by asking Members to decide on this question and emphasising that what was not in question was the detrimental impact on the village if the current application was approved.
The planning officer responded to the points raised as follows:
• The planning inspector had considered many of the issues raised by the Parish Council as set out in the planning inspector’s decision notice, a copy of which had been attached to the officer report for Members’ guidance.
• The planning inspector’s decision on the original application was a material planning consideration for the Committee when determining the application before it.
• The inspector was of the opinion that whilst the original application would create a level of harm there were also economic benefits.
• The main reason why the inspector had refused the original application was because of the lack of affordable housing and this had been overcome in the current application.
• The streets in the village were quite narrow and busy, making expansion difficult. However, the inspector had felt that they could accommodate the extra traffic generated. It was, however, acknowledged that the inspector had visited during the school holidays in August and so had not seen the related traffic movements.
• Letters of objection had referred to infrastructure pressures in the village but the inspector had not recognised these as an issue and there had been no objections raised to the current application by the relevant consultees.
• The planning officer acknowledged that the proposed three storey properties were out of scale and the buildings should be of a maximum of two stories in height with some bungalows given the elevation of the site.
• The number of units proposed represented a significant increase in the size of the village but the inspector had not felt that to be of significant detriment to its character and setting.
• Although the Neighbourhood Plan had been mentioned it had not been submitted and he presumed it was still in draft form.
• The settlement boundary encroached on to the application site. This had partially contributed to the decision to grant planning permission for the 10 units in 2017. The planning inspector had considered that approval and was of the opinion that DM4 had been partially complied with though he had no significant objection to the additional units proposed as they were within the existing boundary of the site.
• The scale of the development was significant. However, at appeal, the inspector had stated that he had no issues at that point. The inspector had accepted the size of the site in relation to the existing settlement nor sought any changes.
• There were high evergreen trees around the boundary of the site though most of the internal landscaping had been removed with the exception of one tree left in the centre. The site was slightly elevated in places and difficult to see view clearly.
The highways officer responded to the points raised as follows:
· Access to the site through Orchard Close was constrained, as it had been in 2017 when the previous application had been submitted. A highway objection had been raised at that point because it was regarded as unsuitable to serve the proposed development. However, the planning inspector had rejected this and found the access acceptable, having taken account of the increase in traffic levels on the highway network, which he felt would have no detrimental impact on highway safety.
· Given that there was no real difference between the application submitted in 2017 and the one currently before Members so the application was considered acceptable in that respect.
· There was no recent traffic impact assessment but, based on previous applications for a development of the application’s size, then it was envisaged there would be 19 movements in the mornings with one every three minutes. The number of possible traffic movements was considered acceptable.
The planning officer responded to outstanding points raised by the Chairman as follows:
· Changes in circumstances which could allow a different recommendation to come forward - The circumstances relating to the appeal lodged in 2017 and the proposed development before Members had not changed to that extent. The application was in outline form so the scheme of development could be reviewed. There had been no changes with regard to the access. The planning inspector had reviewed all the issues raised and he had considered the application acceptable apart from the lack of affordable housing.
· The 40% increase in housing within the village and the cumulative impact – The 52 units represented a significant change to a small hill village but the inspector had not viewed this as being so significant as to warrant refusal.
The Committee considered the application and in summary discussed the following:
· The strong objection to the application raised by the ecology officer which referred to the loss of a Habitat of Principal Importance and the detrimental impact on biodiversity, which could not be mitigated against, and the reference to retaining the orchard and pond.
· The detailed objection to the application submitted by the landscape officer.
· The subsequent removal of the pond and orchard and the associated reduction in the site’s contribution to natural capital as defined in the NPPF.
· The need for the Council to comply with a planning inspector’s decision and the strong likelihood that a court of law or second inspector was likely to agree with that decision.
· The possibility of challenging a planning inspector’s decision on the grounds that he or she had erred in law immediately following the release of the decision.
· The inspector’s comment in his appeal decision, in which he agreed with the view of the Council, that Policy DM4 did not explicitly prevent development outside the defined village envelope.
· The inspector’s reference to Policies CS14, CS16 and DM3 relating to new developments being of a high quality respecting the local context and distinctiveness and the conservation and enhancement of the landscape quality.
· The inspector’s reference to the provision of a suitable transition between the open and developed land to the southeast and the existing (and proposed) built form of the village and the absence of any such related indicative layout and design within the current application.
· The planning inspector’s reference to the concerns of the ecologist and the former’s opinion that it would be possible to develop the site to include a suitable provision for green infrastructure and biodiversity improvements.
· The planning inspector’s claim that the development would outweigh any minor conflict with the development plan policies in respect of the location of the village envelope. It was not felt that this was a minor conflict as the emerging Local Plan and the Development Plan were clear on the appropriate level of housing for the village.
· The planning inspector’s reference to the provision of a retail unit.
· The planning inspector’s comment that he felt it was unclear whether the Council could demonstrate a deliverable five year supply of housing and his subsequent conclusions.
· Whether a planning inspector was a qualified highways officer and able to comment as authoritively on highways matters.
· The impact on traffic levels on the local highways network and in particular Orchard Close as a result of the presence of a retail unit.
· That it was too late to raise an objection to the planning inspector’s decision given it had been released in November 2018.
· Whilst highways access and environmental impact were issues of concern the inspector’s report had dealt with these and his report was definitive. The key item why the original application had been refused at appeal was the unsubstantiated quantum of social housing provision but that had now been overcome in the current application.
· A challenge to the inspector’s viewpoint would likely go to appeal and it was also likely that the new inspector would find in favour of the appellant. Refusal to take notice of the inspector’s decision would be seen as obduracy by the Committee.
· The claimed over density of the site though the planning officer stated the density of approximately 12.5 dwellings per hectare was not particularly high.
· There had been a pre-application for 32 dwellings in 2018 but the application submitted for determination was for 52 dwellings. The addition of 19 affordable homes in the application before Members represented the reason for the increase and that application had to be viewed on its own merits.
· That the application before Members had always been an outline application but the indicative plan had been removed as it had been felt unhelpful by the officers in resolving issues and that reserving all matters would enable a full examination of the site and how it should be developed.
· The possible restriction of the height of any building on the site. A second planning officer explained that a condition to this effect was not required at outline stage but it could be included at this stage if Members wished.
· That the Neighbourhood Plan currently carried no weight as a planning document due to the stage it had reached. Even on submission they carried only limited weight and only carried significant weight once it had been examined.
On being put to the vote 7 Members voted for approval, 3 voted against and 2 abstained.
that Planning Application CB/18/04165/OUT relating to Oakridge, 13 Orchard Close, Upper Gravenhurst, Bedford, MK45 4JF be approved as set out in the Schedule attached to these minutes.
- 8 18.04165 Map, item 142. PDF 643 KB
- 8 18.04165 Report, item 142. PDF 450 KB
- 8 Appendix A - Planning Inspector Statement 2, item 142. PDF 254 KB
- 8 Appendix B Barton Road Site, item 142. PDF 258 KB
- 8 Appendix C - Planning Obligations Education, item 142. PDF 189 KB
- 8 18.04165 Schedule, item 142. PDF 68 KB