Demolish existing dwellings and erect 3 no. blocks of flats (31 flats in total) with car parking, cycle and refuse storage.
Cllr Gray left the room and did not take part in the debate or vote during consideration of the item.
The Senior Planning Officer introduced the application to demolish the existing dwellings and erect 3 blocks of flats (31 flats in total) with car parking, cycle and refuse storage. The revised recommendation and some additional conditions had been included in an update sheet that was circulated to the Committee at the meeting.
He conveyed the observations of the Housing Enabling Officer that it would be very difficult to find a social housing provider who would be prepared to manage two individual flats within larger blocks of a different tenure. Recently providers had wanted to sell flats in blocks where they did not own the freehold, as they were unable to influence the management of the blocks, particularly in relation to fire safety and risk assessments. There were a number of affordable housing schemes being worked on in the area that would benefit from financial assistance, therefore in this instance it was decided that a financial contribution would be acceptable.
Members were shown a location plan and site plan that identified the Conservation Area boundary and included block C at the rear of the site and although this was outside of the Conservation Area, it was recognised that this would have an impact.
Also shown were the elevations and floor plans, including Blocks A and B elevations which picked up on the proportions and fenestration of the neighbouring properties, in particular, the adjacent listed building Cranford House.
The plans for Block C had been amended to mitigate the impact on residents at 8 Ricketts Close, by cutting back the elevation on the south east and south west elevations and moving the extension to improve outlook and daylight in line with Building Research Establishment (BRE) guidelines. The relationship of the buildings was now acceptable in residential amenity terms and it was difficult to construct an argument to suggest that the loss of daylight was such as to provide a reason for refusal.
A street scene slide showed the previously approved flats, which demonstrated the standardised elevation treatment and fenestration of that scheme. The contrast with the current proposal was explained including the reduction in overall mass, the design treatment in the spirit of a Victorian villa influence and with Block B moved further away from Cranford House.
Photos were shown of Cranford House, the site frontage with derelict properties, Rembrandt Hotel site access and rear car park, College Lane (access), the existing dwellings and unkempt garden area, the rear of all properties and the site relative to 8 Ricketts Close showing windows on the side elevation.
The Key Planning Matters were outlined including the principle of development, heritage impact, scale, design, character, appearance and amenity. In respect of heritage impact, there were significant public benefits of the scheme that clearly outweighed the harm to the setting of the listed building, including improvement to the extant scheme in terms of design and reduced massing, removal of the dilapidated buildings and the provision of much needed housing and contribution towards affordable housing.
The District Valuer had advised that the scheme was not viable for on-site provision of 35% affordable housing and the Housing Enabling Officer was content with reduced provision as a financial contribution that would be outlined in a Section 106 Agreement.
Andy Louden, who lived in a neighbouring property, addressed the Committee with his principle concern that the windows in his lounge would overlook block C and cause significant reduction in light. He also highlighted the dominance of a building 5-10 metres away from his property when the building on this site was currently 40-50 metres away. He questioned why Block C had not been positioned closer to Block B than Ricketts Close.
Carol Evans, the applicant’s agent, addressed the Committee in support of the scheme, stating that the scale of the buildings reflected the area and was effective use of brownfield land. She referred to the design and quality of the scheme that was an improvement on the extant approved application. There was no material harm in loss of light or amenity in relation to Block C. The parking shortfall of 2 spaces had been based on the 2011 calculator, but this had been offset by greater amenity space above the minimum standards. The District Valuer had agreed an equivalent of £87.5k off site affordable housing contribution that could be used more effectively elsewhere in the town.
The Senior Planning Officer advised that the existing permission on this site had been recommended for refusal by officers and was approved by the Planning Committee. This application was an opportunity to provide a scheme that was a better standard of design and more appropriate in scale.
The Highways Officer confirmed that the parking arrangement was acceptable given the sustainability of the location along a bus route and near to the train station, shops, and educational establishments in a safer routes to school area, electric charging points and cycle parking.
Members considered that this was a prime brownfield site that should be used for housing. It was an improvement on the previously granted application with a good design that respected the area.
Members discussed whether 3 electric vehicle charging points were sufficient and were advised that this could be increased in negotiation with the applicant if necessary by way of condition. However, there was no status in policy at this stage to indicate that there should be one charging point per parking space.
Further to a question it was confirmed that the access to Block C from College Lane was private highway with legal right of vehicle access to the site. Maintenance of the lane was the responsibility of the owner and as College Lane was included in the application site, notices had been served to make the owner aware of this. In terms of pedestrian access, there were 2 paths that avoided using College Lane.
Proposed by Cllr Ireland, seconded by Cllr Sarah Williams.
Decision: That authority be delegated to the Head of Planning to grant permission subject to
· the completion of a Legal Agreement under section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended) to secure an Affordable Housing Contribution of £87,500.00 index-linked using RPI from the date of this committee report, in lieu of on-site provision
· submission of details of an acceptable surface water drainage system; the installation, maintenance and management of which to be controlled by appropriate planning conditions;
and the conditions and reasons outlined in the appendix to these minutes, including the 2 additional conditions outlined in the update sheet.