Erection of 13 no. houses and 6 no. flats with associated access and parking.
Cllr David Gray, Cllr Louie O'Leary and Cllr Kate Wheller did not take part in the debate or vote on this item.
The Committee considered an application for the erection of 13 houses and 6 flats with associated access and parking.
Members were shown a location plan and aerial photograph showing the informal footpath to the Manor roundabout and Spa Road, listed buildings located 100metres from the site and trees alongside Weymouth Way. An extract from the Local Plan Map showed that the site was adjacent to, but outside of, the Defined Development Boundary (DDB) and the layout plan provided an overview of the basic structure of the site and the Conservation Area boundary extending over a large area including Radipole Village. It had been made clear in the report that, in the absence of a 5 year housing land supply such sites should be considered for development potential if sustainable.
The layout plans included appropriate new planting and the Senior Planning Officer drew attention to a cypress tree that was subject to a Tree Preservation Order. He confirmed that whilst this tree overhung the application site, it did not form part of it. A plan of the southern part of the site showed the scope of additional landscaping and new planting to include field maple and damson in addition to hedgerows. He confirmed that some of the existing copse would need to be removed as a result of this development.
Slides were shown of the various elevations and floor plans of the proposed dwellings in addition to photos of the site and surrounding area showing Weymouth Way in relation to the site, existing vegetation and copse, the informal footpath and character of nearby houses, including the Radipole historic buildings.
The Key Planning matters were highlighted including that the scheme:-
· was adjacent to the DDB in a sustainable location;
· considered to be appropriate development in the Conservation Area given the current context;
· included the retention of a footpath link that was improved;
· addressed ecological matters;
· included the provision of 32% affordable housing on-site with the shortfall as a financial contribution of £29,000; and
· provided an additional19 houses to the local housing land supply.
The scheme would include 6 affordable housing dwellings on site, with the financial contribution being used to provide affordable housing elsewhere which was supported by the Housing Enabling Officer and was in accordance with policy.
A number of written submissions in objection of the proposal and a statement by the agent were read out at the meeting and are attached to these minutes.
The Senior Planning Officer responded on the following points in response to the issues raised in the written submissions:-
· That the application site outside the DDB had been explored extensively in the report under the principle of development.
· The Council's 5 year housing land supply equated to 4.83 years which undermined the housing policies in the adopted Local Plan. It was therefore necessary to look carefully at sites that came forward even when these were outside the DDB.
· The site scored highly in terms of sustainability as it was within 5 minutes' walk of local facilities,10 minutes' walk to a local supermarket, 5 minutes' walk to a bus stop and close to the cycle network. The distance to Weymouth town centre and the railway station was 1.5 miles.
· It was unlikely that the trees along Weymouth Way would be removed as a result of this development and would remain in public ownership.
· The site was cut off from the historic buildings by Weymouth Way. This meant that there was no relationship with the historic buildings and setting of Radipole Village and it was therefore considered that this could not inform the development of this site. Although the Conservation Officer had not been initially supportive of the scheme, a logical conclusion had been reached over a period of time to draw on the qualities and character of newer dwellings and the Conservation Officer was now supportive of the development.
· Ongoing discussions had taken place with the Natural Environment Team to develop a Biodiversity Mitigation and Enhancement Plan, including ecological planting throughout the site as well as trees planted in gardens. A contribution towards Radipole Nature Reserve had been secured which was consistent with policy.
· The copse in the south eastern corner of the site was likely to be removed in part, with certain trees being retained.
· The site had been used as a pony paddock and not been used as a public space although the informal path had been accommodated within the scheme.
In addition, the Tree and Landscape Officer confirmed that the Cypress tree had been taken into proper consideration in the development proposals. He advised that the removal of trees on the western side of the copse would expose the remaining trees in a way that they have not grown up with. The ground currently occupied by the copse would become part of a garden and turn the landscape from being an ecological wildlife area into a more manicured setting with only a couple of the existing copse trees remaining that would form the backbone of the new planting.
The Highways Officer advised that the highways proposal was satisfactory, well connected to the road network and could not be refused under NPPF guidance.
The meeting was adjourned for a short period (10.58am to 11.01am) to allow a comfort break prior to the committee debate on this application.
Cllr Nick Ireland drew attention to comments made by the Conservation Officer and asked which of these had not been included in the scheme. He asked about numbers of people on the housing register, whether low cost housing was affordable and the need to look carefully at whether the scheme met policy SUS2 as a site outside of the DDB and not in the Local Plan.
The Senior Planning Officer stated that the scheme would provide access to local facilities and have less impact on the local countryside as it was adjacent to the DDB and scored highly in terms of sustainability. He confirmed that 95% of the design characteristics sought by the Conservation Officer had been incorporated in the latest amended plans and related to finer details of the development, including materials.
The 6 affordable housing flats would be available at 70% discount of the normal market price and met NPPF requirements. The Housing Enabling Officer was supportive of the proposal as it included smaller 1 and 2 bed flats.
Cllr Jean Dunseith outlined her concerns regarding the exit and entrance onto the brow of a hill with cars accelerating up the hill from Radipole Village and the need to conserve green spaces and for residents and children to step into green areas and be at one with nature. She was disappointed that there were only 6 affordable homes and that none of these were for rent and asked whether the discount on the affordable housing would continue if the properties were re-sold. She also asked about the location of a gas pipeline in relation to the site.
The Highways Officer stated that there had been no recorded accidents in the area during the past 5 years and that existing residents reversed in and out of driveways in the vicinity. All of the proposed houses had turning areas within their frontage and he therefore did not consider that the application could be refused on highway safety grounds.
The Senior Planning Officer confirmed that the gas pipeline was in the locality and did not cross the application site. SGN Gasworks Ltd had not objected during consultation on the application. He confirmed that any reduction in the affordable housing units would be continuously applied and was enshrined in the Section106 requirement.
Cllr Kelvin Clayton stated that SUS2 stipulated that developments outside of the DDB must be strictly controlled and that the report acknowledged that the Council was only just below its 5 year land supply. He asked whether there was any evidence of the need for 4 bed homes in the Weymouth area.
In response, the Senior Planning Officer advised that the 4 bed homes were in the context of a mixed development site and were split between semi- detached and detached homes.
Cllr Peter Barrow felt that the committee was being asked to disregard plans and policies such as the SHLAA, the Local Plan and DDB in order to provide an argument for continuous expansion in the Conservation Area. He commented that, although the affordable housing element was to be welcomed, this would not have a great impact in reducing the housing waiting list.
Cllr Susan Cocking asked how much of the copse would remain and the Tree and Landscape Officer stated that the last proposed house on the south east corner of the site was entirely within the copse area. This meant that a large proportion of the copse would disappear with 3 decent trees remaining, including a sycamore. The copse did not register as individual trees and much of it would need to be taken out due to the poor condition of individual trees. He confirmed that there were between 40-60 tree species in the copse that had been wind pruned at one edge. Removal of a substantive part of the copse represented a total change of character in that locality.
Cllr Nick Ireland stated that the proposal contravened policies SUS2, SUS3, ENV2 and ENV5. The proposal did not meet any other criteria other than sustainability and the loss of green space, irreplaceable habitat and positive contribution to the character of the area outweighed the need for housing on this site. He proposed that the application be refused.
This was seconded by Cllr Kelvin Clayton who stated that the Council's declaration of a climate emergency was a material consideration and gave more weight to policy SUS2. This policy allowed for development outside the DDB to be strictly controlled and he questioned the need for this development, particularly given the small number of affordable homes.
Cllr David Shortell asked about the results of the ecological survey and the adoption of the Roman Road extension by Dorset Highways.
Officers confirmed that reptiles had been found on site which would be trans located in accordance with the Biodiversity Mitigation and Enhancement Plan. An archaeological programme of works would also be carried out. Roman Road was currently being offered for adoption.
The Chairman adjourned the meeting at 11.58am in order that officers could formulate the wording of the reasons for refusal based on the comments made by members. The meeting was reconvened at 12.12pm.
Cllr Louie O'Leary left the meeting at 12.08, however, he did not take part in the debate or vote on this item.
Decision: That the application be refused for the following reasons:-
1. The site is outside of the defined development boundary and the Council has declared a climate emergency, as such the development is therefore contrary to Policy SUS2 of the West Dorset, Weymouth and Portland Local Plan (2015). The site is a currently undeveloped green space with a copse and is within the Conservation Area. The site is considered to make a positive contribution to the character of the Conservation Area by virtue of its openness, trees and copse and the development would neither preserve or enhance the character of the Conservation Area contrary to Policies ENV2 and ENV4 of the West Dorset, Weymouth and Portland Local Plan (2015) and the National Planning Policy Framework (2019).
2. In the absence of a completed planning obligation the scheme would not ensure the affordable housing and affordable housing financial contribution are provided, nor the ecological financial contribution and nor would the replacement public footpath be provided and maintained. As such the development is contrary to Policies HOUS1, ENV2 and ENV11 of the West Dorset, Weymouth and Portland Local Plan (2015) and the National Planning Policy Framework (2019).