Planning Control Committee Minutes

Thursday, 16th March, 2017
Spirella Ballroom, Icknield Way, Letchworth Garden City

Attendance Details

Councillor D.J. Barnard (Chairman), Councillor Fiona Hill (Vice-Chairman), Councillor John Bishop, Councillor Jean Green, Councillor M.R.M. Muir, Councillor Mike Rice, Councillor Harry Spencer - Smith, Councillor Martin Stears - Handscomb (substitute), Councillor Terry Tyler (substitute) and Councillor M.E. Weeks.
In attendance:
Simon Ellis (Development and Conservation Manager), James Gran (Senior Planning Officer), Joanne Cousins (Senior Planning Officer), Nurainatta Katevu (Property and Planning Lawyer) and Ian Gourlay (Committee and Member Services Manager).
Also Present:
At the commencement of the meeting Councillor Tony Hunter and approximately 100 members of the public, including 12 registered speakers and 2 Member Advocates (Councillors Claire Strong and Julian Cunningham).
Item Description/Decision
Apologies for absence had been received from Councillors Paul Clark, Bill Davidson, Lorna Kercher, Ian Mantle, Paul Marment, Alan Millard and Adrian Smith.

Councillor Terry Tyler was substituting for Councillor Clark and Councillor Martins Stears-Handscomb was substituting for Councillor Mantle.
RESOLVED: That the Minutes of the meeting of the Planning Control Committee held on 16 February 2017 be approved as a true record of the proceedings and signed by the Chairman.
There was no other business.
(1) The Chairman welcomed the Committee, officers, general public and speakers to this Planning Control Committee Meeting;

(2) The Chairman announced that Members of the public and the press may use their devices to film/photograph, or make a sound recording of the meeting, but he asked them to not use flash and to disable any beeps or other sound notifications that emitted from their devices;

(3) The Chairman reminded Members and speakers that in line with Council policy, this meeting would be audio recorded.

(4) The Chairman advised that Members would be using hand held microphones and asked they wait until they had been handed a microphone before starting to speak;

(5) The Chairman requested that all Members, officers and speakers announce their names before speaking;

(6) The Chairman advised that he had agreed to an increase in the time allocated to 10 Minutes for each group of speakers for items 6 and 7;

(7) The Chairman clarified that, for items 6 and 7, each group of speakers would have a maximum of 10 minutes. The bell would sound after 9 1/2 minutes as a warning, and then again at 10 minutes to signal that the presentation must cease. In respect of the other applications on the agenda, each group of speakers would have a maximum of 5 minutes. The bell would sound after 4 1/2 minutes as a warning, and then again at 5 minutes to signal that the presentation must cease;

(8) Members were reminded that any declarations of interest in respect of any business set out in the agenda should be declared as either a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest or Declarable Interest and were required to notify the Chairman of the nature of any interest declared at the commencement of the relevant item on the agenda. Members declaring a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest must withdraw from the meeting for the duration of the item. Members declaring a Declarable Interest which required they leave the room under Paragraph 7.4 of the Code of Conduct, could speak on the item, but must leave the room before the debate and vote.
The Chairman confirmed that the 12 registered speakers and 2 Member Advocates were present.
Reserved matters application for approval of access, appearance, landscaping, layout and scale to serve a residential development of 78 dwellings (31 affordable and 47 private), pursuant to outline planning application 15/01618/1 granted 27.5.16.

[Note: Prior to the consideration of this application, Councillor Fiona Hill made a Declarable Interest in the matter, as she knew the Highways Consultant for the scheme in a personal capacity. She would listen to the Senior Planning Officer’s presentation and the public speakers on this matter, and would then withdraw from the meeting before the Committee debated and voted on the application.]

The Senior Planning Officer (JG) reminded Members that planning permission was resolved to be granted for outline permission for up to 82 dwellings on this site in December 2015. Planning permission was granted in May 2016, following completion of the Section 106 Agreement. The current application (16/02256/1) was for the reserved matters of access, layout, scale, appearance and landscaping, providing 78 dwellings.

The Senior Planning Officer introduced the report of the Development and Conservation Manager, supported by a visual presentation. The slides presented in respect of the plans were as follows:

• Location Plan - The site lied to the east of the village and comprised two fields of land adjacent Elm Tree Farm, of 4.4 hectares in area;
• Layout Plan - This was the layout of the proposed development, with access via a proposed mini roundabout from Holwell Road, and with a spine road through the site and side cul-de-sacs through the development. The development would provide a mix of terrace, semi-detached and detached dwellings and the full layout details were set out in the report;
• Street elevations - These elevations showed a part street scene of the development and the dotted lines above the ridges were the previously proposed heights. 43 of the dwellings had been reduced in ridge height of up to 1.25 metres, with all now being 2 storey from the previously proposed 7 x 2.5 storey units;
• House type A - this was of a two bedroom proposed unit, shown on the slide as a pair;
• House type L - this was of the largest in footprint, proposed to the southern end of the site;
• Apartment block - this is one of the three proposed apartment blocks for part provision of the affordable housing, reflective of the buildings of Elm Tree Farm Close, located near the site;
• View from the east - the top elevation view showed the ridge heights set behind the existing long hedgerow, which was conditioned to be maintained at this height.

The photograph slides showed the following:

• the boundary hedging at various parts of the site, as well as the main hedge to the eastern boundary;
• Site entrance - this showed the roundabout and entrance to the site, with the proposed terrace to the right, and an open and attractive approach into the development;
• View across open space - this was of the central village green open space, with the variety of house types and apartment blocks behind;
• View of apartments - the three apartment blocks set back from the road with open space surrounding them;
• View from play area - the proposed childrens’ play were with woodland theme equipment providing open space to this corner of the development, being highly accessible to the rest of the village, as well as occupiers of the scheme;
• Photo - view from Hambridge Way showing the long hedgerow to the right and the hedgerow within the site, much of which was to be retained;

The Senior Planning Officer (JG) commented that, in addition to providing 78 dwellings toward the Council’s supply of housing, the benefits of the scheme were:

- 40% affordable housing, by way of 31 dwellings;
- Provision of 10 car parking spaces for the existing terrace on Holwell Road;
- Financial contribution towards a new pavilion at the Pirton Recreation Ground;
- Financial contributions towards education, youth and library services, sustainable transport, waste and recycling, open space management and maintenance, whereby the open space would for the use of the village, not just the residents of the development.

He explained that the above benefits were secured via the Section 106 Agreement on the outline permission.

In respect of updates on comments received since the writing of the report, the Senior Planning Officer (JG) advised that further objection had been received from the Pirton Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, stating again that the proposal did not conform to much of the draft Neighbourhood Plan, and that the applicant had not worked closely with those directly affected by their proposals, as stated in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which was in contrast to the extent of community consultation to inform the draft Neighbourhood Plan.

Further comments had been received from the occupiers of 10 Cromwell Road, Pirton, stating the urbanising effect of the proposed mini-roundabout and this was damaging to the setting of Pirton in the countryside. Also that the alternative of a T-junction was equally viable in terms of highway safety and questioning the safety of the roundabout option in light of statements made in the Stage 2 Road Safety Audit. Also as part of the Audit, a concern was raised over the driveway access to serve the rear parking spaces for the existing terrace and new terrace and that the layout clearly needed revising in this regard. Critical comments were made over the frontage terrace to Holwell Road, in that this would block views of the Chiltern Hills. Comments urged the layout to be rejected regarding the terraces and insisted on more emphasis on green space and soft edging to the village approach.

Comments had been made as to the implications on the layout due to the outstanding archaeology investigations and reporting of the site. The Senior Planning Officer (JG) stressed that the archaeology of the site was subject to a condition from the outline permission, for details of investigation work to be submitted to and consulted upon with Hertfordshire County Council. The initial Written Scheme of Investigation had been approved by the County Council, the investigation works had been carried out and the further report of the findings was awaited. This issue was therefore covered by condition already, and any further conditions on this issue could not be attached to any planning permission granted for this application.

He added that archaeology was not a reserved matter and, like the construction management plan, was completely separate from this application. The matters that were the subject of this application were solely access, layout, scale, appearance and landscaping as these were the reserved matters from the outline planning permission.

In respect of updates to the report, the Senior Planning Officer (JG) stated the following:

• Section 2.4 - Emerging Neighbourhood Plan - the last sentence, starting as “It is anticipated”, to be replaced with “Consultation is currently taking place on the proposed submission version of the neighbourhood plan, which will run to 23rd March 2017”;
• Section 4.3.51 - This dwelling had actually now been built to the west of the site, to the rear of 18 and 20 Royal Oak Lane. The impact upon this property was considered as detailed further in this section; and
• Section 6.1 - Change recommendation on to read - “Recommend approval of the reserved matters, subject to the following conditions…”.

In respect of updates to conditions, the Senior Planning Officer (JG) advised:

• Condition 7 - the requirement for the Stage 2 Road Safety Audit to be submitted to the Planning Authority, was confirmed as not required by the Highway Authority, as the Audit was required as part of the separate Section 278 Agreement with the Highway Authority. This condition could therefore be omitted;
• New Condition - The emergency access located to the southern boundary with Hambridge Way shall remain for the use of emergency vehicles only, unless otherwise agreed in writing by the Local Planning Authority.

Reason: In the interests of highway safety and amenity;

• In order to reduce all ridge heights to 8.97 metres or below, he recommended a condition for the 5 houses that were over this figure which were at 9.3 metres, as follows:

New condition - No development shall commence on plots 12, 13, 14, 69 and 70 until revised plans for the houses on those plots have been submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority. The development shall then be carried out in accordance with the approved plans.

Reason: In the interests of the scale of the development;

• There was a concern over safety of the attenuation pond, regarding children potentially entering this area. This matter would be dealt with on the revised landscaping plans in relation to Condition 3 of the outline permission, which required further finer details of landscaping of the development, including means of enclosure, such as this matter.

Parish Councillors Diane Burleigh (Pirton Parish Council) and Yvonne Hart (Holwell Parish Council) addressed the Council in objection to application 16/02256/1.

Parish Councillor Burleigh advised that Pirton Parish Council maintained that there was a benefit for some development on the application site, but was of the view that the current application was not appropriate for the following reasons:

• Highways layout and access to the site - she felt that these were contrary to Paragraph 131 of the NPPF, as there was an inappropriate roundabout proposed, with associated urbanisation. The applicant had stated that the roundabout was needed for safety reasons, but the Stage 2 Road Safety Audit had indicated concerns about cars speeding at the proposed roundabout. This had not hitherto been an area prone to accidents as the sharp bend in this location was a natural traffic calming measure. She referred Members to a report prepared by Curtin & Co which had indicated relatively low speed values, and so a roundabout in this location was unnecessary. The traffic flow past the existing row of cottages would make it hazardous for the extra pedestrians that would emerge from the site and be walking along Holwell Road Including parents and children walking to school). The egress from the additional parking area to be provided for those would also be hazardous, in view of the limited visibility splays when turning left out of this area;
• Layout issues - she felt that the proposals were contrary to saved Local Plan Policy 57 and, again, Paragraph 131 of the NPPF. The urbanising effect of the roundabout, the signage and lighting, and the suite of small terraced houses proposed at the front of the development, would prevent a soft edge as motorists approached the village. She used a similar development in Offley as an example as to how developers could locate housing away from the road to provide a soft edge. She considered that there was also insufficient green space in the site, with gardens that were much smaller then the average size of gardens in Pirton. There would also be a depreciation in the view of the iconic Chiltern Hills when entering the village;
• Density - she considered that this was too high and contrary to Saved Policy 7 of the Local Plan and emerging Policy HDS4. The proposed density remained above that in Pirton generally. Edge of village developments should acknowledge that they were the “bridge” between the village and the landscape, not simply tagged on to the existing housing;
• Housing mix - this did not meet evidenced local need and was contrary to Paragraph 50 of the NPPF. There were insufficient small family houses for sale, particularly 3-bedroom units, and she asked Members to disregard Paragraph 4.3.32 of the Officer’s report, which was a comment rather than evidence of local need. Furthermore, there was nothing suitable on the site for elderly downsizers;
• Housing Design - this did not reflect the local vernacular architecture, particularly as to the height of the dwellings. Even with a ridge height of 8.8 metres, this was far above the normal height of properties in Pirton. In spite of so called “character areas” in the development, much of what was offered was either pastiche or standard design;
• Adverse impact on the character of Pirton and the surrounding area - she believed the development to be contrary to saved Policy 7 of the Local Plan, the Pirton Village Design Statement (which was Supplementary Planning Guidance), the emerging Local Plan Policy HDS4 and Paragraphs 58, 61 and 131 of the NPPF. The density was too high and there was insufficient green space and garden space to reflect the character of Pirton;
• Emerging Local Plan - this was undergoing its second public consultation, and was therefore of some importance and was referred to by the applicants in their Design and Access Statement. The development also failed to meet the demands of the emerging Pirton Neighbourhood Plan;
• Stage 2 Road Safety Audit - there was no indication as to how the concerns identified in this Audit could be met by the development. The safety issues mentioned in the document could well result in layout changes;
• Archaeology - if this was to be preserved in situ, then the layout of the development could well be affected. The Parish Council was seeking a condition to ensure that observation, excavation and recording took place to ensure that all archaeological remains were appropriately evaluated and protected.

Parish Councillor Hart stated that she was speaking on behalf of Holwell Parish Council and the residents of Holwell. She commented that the number of objections indicated quite clearly that Holwell residents were opposed to this application. A development of this size and location would affect a large number of residents, not only during the construction period, but thereafter.

Parish Councillor hart stated that the proposal for 78 dwellings would increase the size of Pirton by some 15-20%. This would be totally unreasonable in terms of its impact on local services, roads and schools in the area. The application did not meet the community’s needs and therefore failed to deliver the requirement for sustainable development in Pirton.

If the development was to proceed, Parish Councillor Hart considered that the traffic implications for Holwell and Pirton and the surrounding area would be totally unacceptable. The proposed rout for construction vehicles through Holwell had not been analysed thoroughly enough, and Holwell’s quality of life would be threatened.

Parish Councillor Hart commented that the solitary daily bus which served the villages had a limited timetable and no service on Sundays. The morning and evening services which transported pupils to secondary schools in Hitchin was already overflowing. Children were regularly standing by the highway in a very vulnerable position waiting for the bus. This matter had been notified to the Local Education Authority on a number of occasions.

Parish Councillor Hart advised that the infrequent bus services meant an increased likelihood of commuters using their cars. The applicant’s three year plan did not show any proposed improvement in the bus services serving Holwell and Pirton.

Parish Councillor Hart considered that the area could not sustain such an intrusive development as the one proposed. She felt that it would only be a matter of time before a serious incident occurred.

In conclusion, Parish Councillor Hart stated that the proposals showed a complete disregard for the community and its wishes, and she urged that the application should be rejected.

Following some questions and answers, the Chairman thanked Parish Councillors Burleigh and Hart for their presentations.

District Councillor Claire Strong addressed the Committee as a Member Advocate.

Councillor Claire Strong (Member Advocate) addressed the Committee in respect of application 16/02256/1.

Councillor Strong advised that she had been one of the councillors representing Pirton and Holwell for the past 22 years. The residents of Pirton were not against development, as at least 70 new houses had been built in the village over that time (mainly small, sympathetically designed in-fill and brownfield developments).

Councillor Strong considered that an application the size of the one now proposed would result in a detrimental effect on the locality, particularly with the use of a roundabout to gain access to the site.

Councillor Strong referred to the history of the application site. The site had been subject to two previous planning applications, both of which were refused and dismissed at appeal. She quoted a Planning Inspector on one of the previous appeals against refusal of 8 houses on the site as stating “The houses, which would form a natural extension to the village, together with any street lighting deemed necessary, would inevitably detract from the visual openness of the surrounding rural character and appearance of the area”.

Councillor Strong considered that the current proposed development contained no softening as road users approached the village. In addition, the scale, density and mix of housing would be totally inappropriate. 55% of the development would be 4 or 5 bedroom homes. There was some smaller homes and a percentage of affordable housing, but were the larger homes really what the village wanted?

Councillor Strong stated that when the site was first referred to in the Local Plan it indicated an allocation of 47 houses, not the up to 82 homes now proposed. She considered that this was an overdevelopment of the site.

Councillor Strong was of the view that the access to the site would generate increased traffic. It would cause an additional highways risk. Indeed, the Planning Inspector had stated as much in the aforementioned dismissed appeal letter for just 8 houses on the site.

Councillor Strong felt that the Committee had justifiable reasons to refuse the application on the grounds of overdevelopment (scale, density and mix) and on site access issues, because of known traffic problems in that part of the village. In addition, the row of nearby cottages was in a narrow part of Holwell Road and to be subjecting those cottages to the increased traffic movements was likely to cause highway safety problems.

Councillor Strong concluded by asking Members to consider the impact of the application upon the village and to therefore refuse planning permission, asking the developer to submit a more modest fresh application, which fitted in with the existing village and which was acceptable to existing residents.

The Chairman thanked Councillor Strong for her presentation.

Mr Philip Wright (CALA Homes) and Mr Mike Lake (Applicant’s Agent) addressed the Committee in support of application 16/02256/1.

Mr Wright advised that he was the Senior Planning and Design Manager for Cala Homes. He stated that Cala Homes took pride in delivering high quality homes, evidenced in the recent Paddocks development in Hitchin.

Mr Wright commented that the Pirton scheme represented a culmination of negotiations with Pirton Parish Council and regular dialogue with NHDC Planning Officers. A great deal of attention to detail had been made in respect of design, layout and houses types, in order to reflect the character of development in Pirton. This included the provision of traditional roof forms, contrasting brickwork, selective use of renders and slate tiling. To add interest, the dwellings would be of variable height across the site.

Mr Wright believed that the scheme made a positive contribution and added to the character and distinctiveness of the area, with its carefully designed layout.

Mr Mike Lake (Applicant’s Agent) advised that the application site was identified in the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA), which had informed the emerging North Hertfordshire Local Plan. The site was within the village envelope, was allocated in the emerging local Plan and referenced in the emerging Pirton Neighbourhood Plan.
Mr Lake reminded Members that outline planning permission for up to 82 houses had already been granted. There was a general thrust of acceptance for some development on the site. This was a reserved Matters application dealing with the details of the scheme.

Mr Lake commented that one of the reasons that the outline permission had been granted was due to the lack of a five year land supply for the District, and on the back of the Government’s identified need for additional housing in the South East. He summarised the major components of the proposed scheme as follows:

• The application was for 78 units;
• The layout contained a major spine road running through the site, with various side roads. He contended that the front of the site matched the terraced cottages further up Holwell Road. This reflected the rural nature of the site, and would be supplemented by green areas in this location. Further green spaces would be provided throughout the site;
• The dwellings had been designed to reflect the traditional design of the existing houses in Pirton. There were three clusters of dwellings with timber cladding and tiled roofs. At the rear of the site there was a lower density of larger houses;
• The average density on the site was 17.7 dwellings per hectare, against an average for the village of 17 dwellings per hectare. The density varied throughout the site;
• He realised that access to the site was a contentious issue, but the applicant had erred on the side of safety by including a roundabout at the Holwell Road junction, as recommended by Hertfordshire County Council as Highways Authority;
• It was proposed to use traditional fenestration and materials in construction, and all ridge heights had been reduced to under 9 metres;
• The scheme included appropriate landscaping (including hedging, screening and three areas of open space). The open spaces would all be linked via footpaths, which in turn would link into the village footpath network on Hambridge Way;
• Two additional car parking spaces would be provided for the residents of the existing row of terraced cottages in Holwell Road;
• The proposed apartment blocks on the site had been separated to protect views into the Conservation Area; and
• 31 affordable dwellings would be provided on the site. Various financial contributions would also be made for the new pavilion, play equipment, recreation ground, all levels of education, cycleways and library provision.

Mr Lake concluded by stating that he believed that the application was a well thought out, well developed proposal, linking the existing village and integrating into the countryside. He asked the Committee to support the Planning Officer’s recommendation that the Reserved Matters application be granted.

Following some questions and answers, the Chairman thanked Mr Wright and Mr Lake for their presentations.

The Senior Planning Officer (JG), in response to the presentations, informed Members that the roundabout option for site access had been considered a safer option than the T- or Y-junction option, as confirmed by the Highways Authority. The safety benefits were considered to outweigh the urbanising effect of the roundabout.

The Senior Planning Officer (JG) confirmed that the development density of 17.7 dwellings per hectare was marginally above the village average of 17 dwellings per hectare.

The Senior Planning Officer (JG) stated that saved Policy 7 of the Local Plan had been referred to in the presentations. However, the site was outside the Policy 7 boundary, and so did not apply in respect of application 16/02256/1.

The Senior Planning Officer (JG) felt that the design of the scheme was reflective of the mixed character of Pirton, and the proposed use of high quality materials was commended.

The Senior Planning Officer (JG) explained that, at the current time, the emerging Neighbourhood Plan for Pirton carried limited weight in this case, as did NHDC’s own emerging Local Plan.

In respect of any archaeological implications, the Senior Planning Officer (JG) advised that a report on this matter was still awaited, and would not be required to be completed prior to the Reserved Matters application. However, if the report when received required any layout changes to the development then these changes would need to come back to the Committee for decision.

In respect of the Stage 2 Road Safety Audit, the Senior Planning Officer (JG) explained that if any layout or access changes were needed then this, too, would be required to come back to the Committee for decision. However, he reminded Members that there had been no Highways Authority objection on the outline permission granted for u[p to 82 dwellings on the site.

The Committee debated the application. A number of Members spoke in support of the development, whilst others expressed their concerns about various aspects of the application.

A Member commented that, although he had some empathy with the residents of Pirton regarding this application for 78 homes, the District had to build 14,000 houses by 2031 and most areas had to make a contribution. In respect of application 16/02256/1, he could see little wrong with it. He felt that it was of good design and that the proposed mix of dwellings was excellent. Another Member considered that a roundabout would be the safest means of access into and out of the site.

It was therefore moved and seconded that the Reserved Matters application be granted. Upon being put to the vote, this motion was lost.

The Members who had expressed concerns over the development made the following points:

• It appeared that an alternative proposal for a T- or Y-junction access to the site (rather than a roundabout) had not been put forward to the Highways Authority;
• The urbanising effect of the roundabout when approaching the site and the proposed new terraced housing at the front of the site nearest to the roundabout; and
• The mix of the proposed development, especially the fact that it paid little heed to the housing needs of the village.

In respect of the latter point regarding the housing mix, the Development and Conservation Manager cautioned against using this as a potential reason for refusal, in that the Committee had already granted outline planning permission for housing. The mix and whether or not it met an identified need was not about layout, appearance or scale, and so that particular concern was not a Reserved Matter.

The Development and Conservation Manager commented that, should Members be minded to refuse the application on highway safety grounds, then at any subsequent appeal the Committee would need evidence to support its highway safety concerns. Expert evidence would therefore be required to demonstrate how the Committee considered that there were highway safety concerns.

As it appeared that the reasons for any potential refusal of permission may not be the most robust, the Committee considered an option of deferring the application, to enable officers to negotiate with the applicant to endeavour to address Members’ concerns about the urbanising effect of the roundabout and terraced houses proposed at the front of the site and to consider the alternative of a T- or Y-junction, instead of the roundabout, to gain access to and from the site. Upon it being moved and seconded that the application be deferred, and upon a vote being taken, it was

RESOLVED: That, subject to the applicant agreeing to an extension to the statutory period determination period, the determination of planning application 16/02256/1 be DEFERRED, to enable further negotiations between officers and the applicant to endeavour to address Members’ concerns about the urbanising effect of the roundabout and terraced houses proposed at the front of the site and to consider the alternative of a T- or Y-junction, instead of the roundabout, to gain access to and from the site.
Details reserved by Condition 6 (Construction Management Plan) of planning permission reference no. 15/01618/1 granted on 27 May 2016.

Upon being moved and seconded, and a vote taken, it was

RESOLVED: That, in the light of the decision relating to application 16/02256/1 set out in Minute 88 above, the consideration of the details of the condition contained in application 17/00335/1DOC be DEFERRED to a future meeting of the Committee.
90 16/02863/1 - LAND REAR OF 39 - 59 STATION ROAD, ASHWELL
Outline Planning Application (all matters reserved, except for access) residential development comprising of 9 dwelling with associated access off Green Lane.

[Note: Prior to the consideration of this application, Councillor Fiona Hill made a Declarable Interest in the matter, as she knew the Highways Consultant for the scheme in a personal capacity. She would listen to the Senior Planning Officer’s presentation and the public speakers on this matter, and would then withdraw from the meeting before the Committee debated and voted on the application.]

The Senior Planning Officer (JC) introduced the report of the Development and Conservation Manager, supported by a visual presentation.

The Senior Planning Officer (JC) advised that appended to the report was the report on the previous application for development of the site, and the subsequent Appeal Decision Letter, which dismissed the appeal and supported the officers’ previous recommendation for a refusal of planning permission.

The Senior Planning Officer (JC) explained that the site was an arable field, with access via Green Lane, a single track lane. The current application reduced the number of dwellings proposed on the site from 14 (in the previous application) to 9. However, the Senior Planning Officer (JC) considered that the current application had still not overcome the objections on the previous application, and that she was therefore recommending that application 16/02863/1 be refused planning permission.

The Senior Planning Officer (JC) updated the Committee by referring to an e-mail from the applicant’s agent, which had been forwarded to Members, and which contended that Green Lane was a privately owned road. Despite this assertion, she reported that the Highways Authority had confirmed that Green Lane was not a private road, but was an unmaintained public highway.

Mr Bill Rogers (a local resident) addressed the Committee in objection to application 16/02863/1. Mr Rogers advised that he lived in Green Lane and was speaking on behalf of his family, as well as other residents in Green Lane. He had also been endorsed by Ashwell Parish Council to address the Committee.

Mr Rogers began by making a general comment on Ashwell’s capacity as, since 2015, there had been a further 35 or so houses created in the village, and yet residents had heard of no review being undertaken by the Hertfordshire County Council Education Authority in the context of recent developments undertaken, as well as those in for planning or about to be considered. There had been some recent reports of prospective residents not being able to secure places for their children at Ashwell School and choosing not to live in Ashwell as a result. Extreme problems were also being experienced with service capacity at the village Doctor’s Surgery.

In respect of application 16/02863/1, Mr Rogers referred to the officer’s report and the large number of objections made against this application. However, he emphasized that the key issue arising from a development proposal on this site was safety. The access proposed was unsafe and would present the same dangers to existing residents and visitors of Green Lane as had already been determined by the Planning Inspectorate as being “detrimental to the safety of such users”.

Mr Rogers referred to one tragic and fatal accident (involving a local resident) that had occurred at the Green Lane/Station Road junction. He felt that the highways agencies did not take into account any “near misses” in their calculations when assessing road safety. Himself and other residents routinely witnessed “near misses” on at least a monthly basis. He felt that an increase in traffic in the vicinity arising from the proposed development would result in a major increased likelihood of further serious accidents to road users and pedestrians at this already dangerous junction.

Mr Rogers stated that the Officer’s report referred to an independent review of the Transport Statement and Safety Audit, which had concluded that it was not possible to materially improve Green Lane or its visibility splays onto Station Road. He therefore considered that it was not possible to provide a safe means of access to the proposed development.

Mr Rogers drew Members’ attention to the comments of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England set out in Section 3.6 of the officer’s report, recommending that the application be refused permission.

Mr Rogers stated that Green Lane was a private unmade track and, by modern standards, was not really fit for purpose for the number of residences it currently served - Hertfordshire Highways had determined that it was already at capacity. There was nothing in the current application which had materially changed the aspects of the risk to safety which had been considered and determined to exhaustion in earlier applications and at appeal.

Given that this was the seventh application for development on this site, Mr Rogers considered that it seemed the applicant was trying to wear down the Council and local residents by attrition. He therefore asked the Committee to heed the warnings and advice of officers and the numerous consultees, recognise the dangers to safety presented by this application far outweighed any benefits, and refuse planning permission.

The Chairman thanked Mr Rogers for his presentation.

For the avoidance of any doubt, the Highways Consultant present at the meeting confirmed that Green Lane was a highway, but not publically maintained.

Members were of the view that, as indicated in the report, it was virtually impossible for vehicles to pass safely in the narrow Green Lane. The Committee felt that the applicant would be unable to improve the width of Green Lane without the owner’s permission. As currently proposed, the access was considered unsuitable for the proposed development, and upon being proposed and seconded, and a vote taken, it was

RESOLVED: That application 16/02863/1 be REFUSED planning permission, for the reasons set out in the report of the Development and Conservation Manager.
Residential development comprising 5 x 5-bed and 8 x 4-bed dwellings with associated garages, parking and amenity space following demolition of all buildings and structures.

The Development and Conservation Manager introduced the report, supported by a visual presentation.

The Development and Conservation Manager advised of an update to recommended Condition 16. He considered that this condition, relating to electronic vehicle charging points was justified, and he recommended additional wording at the end of the condition: “The charging points shall thereafter be retained for their intended use”.

The Development and Conservation Manager stated that the application proposed the demolition of all of the Equestrian Centre buildings on the site, and their replacement with 13 houses. A public footpath which runs through the site would be diverted before work commenced.

The Development and Conservation Manager referred to the proposed housing development. The key point was that, in Green Belt terms, the site was previously developed land, and so it was not inappropriate for it to be developed for alternative use, provided the new development in the words of the NPPF (paragraph 89) “had a greater impact on the openness of the Green Belt and the purpose of including land within it than the existing development”.

The Development and Conservation Manager considered that the spread and footprint of the proposed development was actually less than the exiting Equestrian Centre buildings on the site. He felt that it consolidated development on previously developed land and therefore improved the openness of the Green Belt.

The Development and Conservation Manager explained that some of the proposed houses had been reduced in height, and comprised a mix of barn style and more traditional dwellings. He felt that the visual impact was quite low, again when compared to the existing buildings.

The Development and Conservation Manager advised that the site was not identified in the North Hertfordshire Local Plan, and was therefore a windfall site, and part of the 500 units allocated as such in the Plan.

Parish Councillor Steve Sanders (Codicote Parish Council) addressed the Committee in objection to application 16/02967/1.

Parish Councillor Sanders advised that the Codicote Parish Council Planning Committee gave all planning applications in the Parish careful consideration. In the case of application 16/02967/1, the Parish Council had objected on the basis of one of its policy decisions to oppose any applications for development in the Green Belt and to retain the rural nature of the village.

Parish Councillor Sanders considered that the existing Equestrian Centre comprised building that one would normally expect to find in rural locations. The Parish Council accepted that, on some occasions, there may be special circumstances that might allow limited development on Green Belt land, normally with some improvements in local services or other planning gain. The Parish Council could find no such special circumstances in relation to application 16/02967/1, and could see no gain for the Parish with 13 new 4 and 5 bedroom houses being built. There would also be a loss of employment, as nine small businesses currently operated from the site.

Parish Councillor Sanders was concerned that the proposed new buildings could be seen from some distance. The diverted footpath would also be close to the proposed new houses, again impacting upon the rural nature.

Parish Councillor Sanders referred to Paragraph 3.8 of the officer’s report, where CPRE Hertfordshire stated that “the NPPF placed a strong emphasis on sustainability and this site was not sustainable. The nearest bus stop was over a kilometre away, the nearest primary school 1.4km and other social amenities such as shops, surgeries etc were in Codicote and Knebworth which were over 2 km. None were readily accessible on foot or by bicycle”. Little attention had been paid to Pottersheath Road, which was very narrow.

Parish Councillor Sanders advised that NHDC had recently refused two similar applications for much smaller developments in the vicinity, one of which had been refused on appeal, on the grounds that the proposed developments were not sustainable. The Parish Council was asking NHDC to be consistent by refusing application 16/02967/1 planning permission.

The Chairman thanked Parish Councillor Sanders for his presentation.

Vicki Davies (Applicant’s Agent) addressed the Committee in support of application 16/02967/1.

Ms Davies advised that the proposal was for residential development of the site. She considered that the proposal was appropriate development in the Green Belt and accorded with one of the exceptions listed in Paragraph 89 of the NPPF, which stated that partial or complete redevelopment of a previously developed site was acceptable, provided it did not have a greater impact on the openness of the Green belt than the existing development. She was of the view that this was one of those exceptions.

Ms Davies acknowledged the objectors’ concerns about loss of facilities on the site. However, this loss was not protected by any policies, and indeed there were some letters of support for the development, in that the reduction in activity on the site might benefit the local highway network.

Ms Davies stated that the benefits of the scheme would include Section 106 contributions to education, library services, waste and recycling, and off-site affordable housing. In noting that the CPRE had objected on grounds of sustainability, she felt that the social, economic and environmental benefits of the scheme outweighed any harm caused to the area.

Ms Davies commented that the 15 letters of support to the application included the reduction in traffic; the design of the new dwellings being sympathetic to the surrounding area; and that a small development would complement the existing housing in the area.

Ms Davies explained that Plots 1 and 2 would be agricultural barn-type dwellings and the remainder a courtyard of more traditional style dwellings. Discussions were ongoing with the HCC Rights of Way Officers in respect of the Public Footpath diversion.

Ms Davies concluded by stating that a lot of work had gone into formulating the application and a number of amendments had been made to satisfy the Planning Officer. She hoped that the Committee would agree that the final application showed a high quality scheme, appropriate in this location.

Following some questions and answers, the Chairman thanked Ms Davies for her presentation.

In response to matter raised in the presentations, the Development and Conservation Manager confirmed that this application was not for new development in the Green Belt, but was for redevelopment of existing developed land in the Green Belt. In which case, there did not need to be any special circumstances to allow development in this situation. In respect of the sustainability matter, he referred to paragraph 4.3.8 of the report which went through the three issues of social, economic and environmental. He had concluded that there were economic benefits (new homes), the environmental benefits were neutral (although traffic movements would be less than the existing use), and the social benefits were negative as the site was relatively inaccessible to local services. However, in the overall planning balance he did not consider that the site’s relative social isolation was so harmful as to significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits of delivering new homes, and in accordance with a presumption in favour of sustainable development he considered the scheme to be acceptable.

In reply to a Member’s question, the Development and Conservation Manager explained that the Lead Local Flood Authority had received further information to overcome its previous objection to the scheme, subject to the imposition of 3 recommended conditions. In response to a further question, he advised that the site entrance would be shared between the new development and the adjoining Arnolds Farm.

The Committee considered that the scheme appeared to be a high quality development. In supporting the officer’s recommendation that planning permission be granted, Members agreed that a landscaping condition be added to the grant of permission.


1. That, subject to the applicant entering the necessary Section 106 Obligation with the Council to secure the delivery of additional services and infrastructure (as set out under Paragraph 4.3.5 of the report), and to the applicant agreeing any necessary extensions to the statutory determination period to allow the completion of the S106 Obligation, application 16/02967/1 be GRANTED planning permission, subject to the conditions and reasons set out in the report of the Development and Conservation Manager, including the following amended and additional conditions:

16. Prior to occupation, each of the thirteen properties shall incorporate an Electric Vehicle (EV) ready domestic charging point. The charging points shall thereafter be retained for their intended use.

22. Prior to commencement of the development hereby permitted full details of soft landscaping shall be submitted to and agreed in writing by the Local Planning Authority. All approved landscaping shall be implemented in accordance with condition no. 21 of this planning permission.

Reason: To ensure suitable landscaping associated with the development in the interests of amenity.

2. That, in the event that the applicant fails to agree any necessary extensions to the statutory determination period, powers be delegated to the Development and Conservation Manager to refuse planning permission on the basis of the absence of a completed Section 106 Obligation.
Installation of 6 floodlights to senior football pitch (as amended by plan received on 20 December 2016).

The Development and Conservation Manager introduced the report, supported by a visual presentation.

The Development and Conservation Manager drew Members’ attention to the comments of Councillor David Levett on the application, as circulated. He stated that Councillor Levett had commented that he had received no formal notice that the application was to be reported to the 16 March 2017 meeting of the Committee. The Development and Conservation Manager advised that officers had informed Councillor Levett at a briefing meeting held on 10 February 2017 that the application was to be reported to the 16 March 2017 meeting. In respect of Councillor Levett’s point raised with regard to Environmental Health, and his assertion that the Council was relying solely on the applicant’s evidence, the Development and Conservation Manager explained that the Environmental health department had considered, investigated and verified this evidence and had concluded that the level of light spillage from the proposed floodlights would not be so significant as to cause unacceptable harm to local residents.

As part of the slide presentation on the application, the Development and Conservation Manager referred to Councillor Levett’s comments about the cumulative impact of the floodlighting/lighting in the vicinity of the site, including lighting at the North Herts Leisure Centre car park and floodlighting at the nearby County Ground. The Development and Conservation Manager commented that the Leisure Centre car park lighting had caused problems, but would in future be turned off at 11.00pm each night. In respect of the County Ground floodlights, he felt that these were a significant enough distance away from the properties in Schoolfields and Quinn Way for cumulative impact to be relevant in this case.

The Development and Conservation Manager advised that the Committee had granted planning permission for a similar scheme to that proposed in application 16/02831/1 in 2012, but that the permission had lapsed as the Football Club had been unable to attract sufficient funding at that time to proceed with the development. The Club how had such funding, hence the submission of a fresh planning application.

Mr Andrew Wong (local resident) addressed the Committee objecting to application 16/02831/1.

Mr Wong advised that he was speaking on behalf of the 20 properties in Schoolfields and Quinn Way who had objected to the application. Despite the previous planning permission, he felt that if granted permission this application would result in unprecedented amounts of cumulative light spillage and noise. He was concerned that such disturbance would be on two sides of his own property, both from the floodlights the subject of the current application and from those of the adjoining County Ground.

Mr Wong considered that he was unaware of any precedent for the granting of planning permission for floodlights on two sides of a residential property, especially in a dense urban area, such as Letchworth Garden City.

Mr Wong stated that a significant amount of research had been conducted by residents into the impact of the proposal upon them, in terms of light spillage, noise and human rights. The outcome of this research had been objectively presented to the Planning Officers, and touched on policies in the Local Plan, the National Planning Policy Framework and the Human Rights Act. He felt that these issues had not been considered fully in the initial application and he deemed this still to be the case. He hoped that the Committee was well versed in the information provided by him and his fellow objectors.

Mr Wong considered that it was the responsibility of Planning Officers to ensure that all the facts were presented to members in an impartial manner. He asked Members to ensure that this had been the case in respect of this application. He contended that the Officers had presented a view in the report, but that he felt it was a very restricted view of the full facts, including the representations made by the objectors.

Mr Wong asked if floodlights affected two sides of any councillor’s property, then how much detail would they need to see to come to an informed decision as to whether or not it was acceptable. He asked Members of the Committee how familiar they were with the application site and how much they understood the impact of the proposal on residents’ lives.

Mr Wong referred to paragraphs 4.3.12 and 4.3 13 of the report. This indicated that the proposal would impact on certain properties, and he was sure that lights would shine directly into the first floor bedroom windows of his property, particularly as there were very few trees to screen the effect of the lights.

Mr Wong asked the Committee, as a minimum, to organize a site visit to truly understand all aspects of the site before making a final and informed decision on the application.

Following some questions and answers, the Chairman thanked Mr Wong for his presentation.

District Councillor Julian Cunningham (Member Advocate) addressed the Committee in respect of application 16/02831/1.

Councillor Cunningham stated that, as the Planning Officer had pointed out, the Committee was considering a planning application that it had previously agreed, but which had not been implemented. He fully understood that in normal circumstances it would be difficult to overturn the previous decision. However, the Committee was permitted to this when it could be shown that there had been changes in circumstances surrounding the application.

Councillor Cunningham considered that clearly the application itself had not changed. What he considered had changed and what gave the Committee the opportunity to have a further think about the application was the surrounding planning environment. The important change was the fact that the Council now had a published new draft Local Plan. Although this document carried limited weight at present, this would increase as the Plan progressed through its various stages. However, even in its current form it had some weight and he suggested that the Committee should not ignore its provisions entirely, especially when they covered areas not dealt with specifically in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Accordingly, Councillor Cunningham invited the Committee to consider carefully Policy D3 of the emerging Local Plan:

“Where living conditions of an existing development would be affected by a proposed use, the Council will consider whether there are mitigation measures that can be taken to mitigate the harm to an acceptable level. If not then the development will not be permitted.”

Councillor Cunningham had reviewed the Council’s saved policy from its current Local Plan and could not find a similar proposal. He argued that Members should therefor give some not insignificant weight to this particular new policy.

Councillor Cunningham asked the Committee to consider the following questions:

1. It was common ground that there would be some adverse impacts on a number of residents. How much effort had been expended in mitigating this harm? The application was for all practical purposes exactly the same application as 6 years ago. Had technology not changed in any way during this period such that the impacts of the lighting required might be lessened? Did the applicant make any attempt to address this point? If the Committee felt that that this was a valid point then Members may wish to consider deferring the application and requesting more up to date evidence.

2. What account had been taken of other changes in the local environment in the last 6 years? Significant additional artificial lighting had been introduced across the playing fields in the form of additional pitch lighting and in the nearby clubhouse. Again, a more up to date assessment might be appropriate.

3. Why does the current application, even it was based on the most up to date information, omit some of the information which was appended to the original application? In particular, the contour map of light spillage did not show the location of the houses impacted by this spill. If it had, Members might have noticed that, contrary to the statements, there were premises where at least part of the land was possibly impacted by luminescence above the 5 Lux threshold. Many gardens were affected above the 2 Lux limit and a couple of houses may also suffer from this level of spillage.

4. How much consideration had been given to the actual levels of noise that might be generated by the increased levels of activity? The report was somewhat casual in this respect, stating that “I presume matches are already played there”. Undoubtedly true, but surely the issue to consider was not whether there was already noise, but the frequency and timing of the additional nuisance. Perhaps the Committee should consider amending the conditions on usage to ensure that they were only used by the senior teams and that ancillary use and therefore further nuisance was not allowed?

5. For reasons unclear in the documents available, there was a provision that on 15 nights the lighting could continue to be on until 10.00pm. There was no mention of this in the application. Why was this recommended and how would it be monitored? Would Members like more information on how this need had been assessed? Did the Committee need to strengthen the protections given by this condition?

6. Should the Committee give consideration to whether it would be appropriate for an automatic timer to be installed to ensure that the lights were turned off at 9.00pm?

Councillor Cunningham summed up by stressing that he was not asking the Committee to reject the application. He was suggesting that changes in policies meant that Members had the opportunity to review the application in rather more detail than the report suggested, and that there may be some advantage in either seeking further information or tightening some of the proposed conditions to ensure more effective mitigation of the nuisance issues.

The Chairman thanked Councillor Cunningham for his presentation

Mr Tony Eden (applicant’s representative and Chairman of Letchworth Garden City Eagles FC) addressed the Committee in support of application 16/02831/1.

Mr Eden made the following points:

• He confirmed that the previous permission had not been commenced due to lack of funding, but that funds were now available;
• In terms of changed circumstances, he could not see how the Local Plan impinged on the application site, as it had been a playing field for many years, long before Schoolfields and Quinn Way were built;
• The Club was requesting exactly the same consent as was previously given, with the same conditions;
• The use of the pitch up to 10pm on 15 nights per year had been arrived at after long negotiations, and on such occasions would be used by the Club’s senior team for midweek matches. It was a grass pitch and the Club could not afford its overuse, which would ruin the playing surface;
• Matches would kick off at 7-7.30pm, and hence a 9pm finish would be difficult, hence the proposed extension on those 15 nights to 10pm. The 15 would very much be a maximum, and the Club had no intention for any other teams to use the pitch;
• The floodlights would be essential for the Club’s development. The Club had a flourishing youth set up and, as players got older, many wished to remain at the Club to play as adults, rather than joining rival clubs in the area. The senior team would be unable to gain promotion to a higher level without the provision of floodlights;
• The Club had attempted to obtain use of the County Ground on several occasions, but those requests had been denied by the Hertfordshire Football Association;
• In respect of the fears of the neighbouring residents, there were some properties in Schoolfields that backed onto the site. The light contour map forming part of the application had been provided by the same consultant employed by the Club for the original application, who had confirmed that the information supplied was still up to date;
• All 6 of the 15 meter high floodlights had back light shields to reduce the ambient light (2-3m outside of the touchline). There was a mature tree screen between the rear of the houses in Schoolfields and the site, then a bridleway, and then more trees directly in front of their rear fences. He had been assured by his lighting consultant that the ambient light should not directly impinge into Mr Wong’s rear bedroom;
• In respect of noise, there would of course be some from the players and also some from the spectators. However, spectators were not allowed to stand along the end of the pitch nearest to the residential properties. The current average attendance for games was 30-40 spectators, and if the team progressed then this could perhaps increase to crowds of around 100 spectators per game. He therefore felt that the noise would not be too intrusive;
• Although the Human Rights Act had been mentioned by Mr Wong, as far as he was concerned this was not a planning consideration. He felt that the players also had a right to play football.

Mr Eden respectfully asked the Committee to approve the application to enable Letchworth Garden City Eagles FC to move forward.

Following some questions and answers, the Chairman thanked Mr Eden for his presentation.

The Committee had been convinced that the floodlights would for the most part be in operation when the senior team had midweek matches, and that the 10pm finish on 15 occasions per year gave the Club sufficient flexibility should some of those matches be cup games which could required extra time to be played.

The Committee was mindful that prosed Condition 5 stipulated a monitoring of the new floodlights for a period of nine months during which, if necessary and to safeguard the amenities of the occupiers of nearby residential properties, the floodlights would be re-aligned and or the shielding adjusted.

A Member commented that the Committee had, in the past, considered a number of applications for floodlights in the vicinity of residential properties. This was a “repeat” application, and he felt that very little had changed on the site since the previous permission granted four years ago. He was content with the application and therefore recommended that it be approved.

The Committee was supportive of this recommendation, subject to an addition to proposed Condition 4 requiring that all lighting must be switched off within 15 minutes following cessation of matches / training on the pitch during any evening.

RESOLVED: That, subject to the conditions and reasons set out in the report of the Development and Conservation Manager, application 16/02831/1 be GRANTED planning permission, and with the following amended condition:

4. The operation of the floodlighting hereby permitted shall only be permitted between the hours of 8.00am (0800hrs) and 9.00pm (2100hrs) on any day and at no time on Sundays. A switch off time of 10.00pm (2200hrs) is permitted on 15 days during any one calendar year. All lighting must be switched off within 15 minutes following cessation of matches / training on the pitch during any evening.
The Development and Conservation Manager presented the report entitled Planning Appeals. He advised that, since the last meeting of the Committee, two planning appeals had been lodged and two planning appeal decisions had been received, all as detailed in the report.

The Development and Conservation Manager drew attention to the two appeal decisions, namely the allowing of the appeal relating to the Windmill, Charlton Road, Hitchin, and the dismissing of the appeal relating to the McCarthy and Stone development in Station Road, Letchworth Garden City.

RESOLVED: That the report on Planning Appeals be noted.
Published on Thursday, 6th April, 2017