The Committee considered a report of the Planning Officer for a new residential three-bedroom detached bungalow on land at 27 Blind Lane, Chester le Street (for copy see file of minutes).
The Planning Officer gave a detailed presentation of the application which included a site location plan, property elevation and floor plans, site photographs and the existing and proposed layout plans for the property.
The Chair thanked the Planning Officer for her presentation and asked Councillor Martin to address the Committee.
Councillor Martin, local ward Member addressed the Committee firstly to thank the Planning Officer for all their hard work in preparing the report and guiding both himself and residents through the process and secondly to object to the planning application. He felt the application needed to be brought to committee as the community needed further scrutiny on the lack of consultation with residents regarding the application. He informed the Committee that letters had been sent out to the neighbouring area that sit beyond the cul de sac behind trees, a grassed bank and a main road and who would not notice an additional property being built at Blind Lane. He added that only the house directly next door to the land within the cul de sac had received a letter and although the Council had fulfilled their statutory duty he was disappointed that those most affected by the application living in the cul de sac had felt left out. He noted that out of the 15 objection notices received only one would be genuinely affected.
Councillor Martin felt that there was a principle to develop in this area but only if people were sufficiently notified. He deemed that this had not happened in previous years. Through the process and asking questions he notified the Committee that an additional condition had been added to the application to protect trees in the area that acted as a buffer from the noise of the A693 which had not been done on previous successful applications.
Councillor Martin drew the Committee’s attention to the unique design of the properties within the cul de sac that all had the same proportions which differed from that proposed in the design of the the new build. He felt that the application should be refused based on the NPPF regarding well-designed places as paragraph 127 stated that developments should be sympathetic to the character and create a strong sense of place. He acknowledged there was not a shortage of houses in the Chester le Street area with six years supply therefore one more property would not make a difference but would be detrimental to look of the area and would outweigh the slim economic benefit to the area.
Councillor Martin notified the Committee that due to his involvement with residents regarding the application he could not participate in any discussions with members in an objective manner and therefore agreed to leave the meeting after Ms Gregory-Martin had spoken.
The Chair thanked Councillor Martin and asked Ms Gregory-Martin to address the Committee.
Ms Gregory-Martin addressed the Committee by stating that she was not opposed to the principle of the development but was against the inappropriateness of it. She stated that the proposed design was out of scale, out of proportion and out of character with the neighbouring properties and would ruin the unique sense of place that was valued and enjoyed. She thought it was a shame that the local environment and a garden would be destroyed that involved the destruction of trees and hedgerows that provided homes for birds, owls, bats, insects and other wildlife. She added that they formed a barrier against the noise and pollution of the A693 that should be considered in respect of the climate change issues and carbon emissions.
Ms Gregory-Martin informed the Committee that the original builder in the 1970's could only site seven properties of the current design and scale on the land due to the limited amount of space after the construction of the single access road. She noted that over time the existing properties had been modernised but the overall design, size and gardens had not changed. In addition, the cul-de-sac had developed its own unique identity and character to live with a vibrant community spirit where everyone took pride in their gardens, two of which had won awards in the local 'Chesters best' competition
Ms Gregory-Martin felt to cram in a single build, completely at odds in design to its neighbours, would spoil the community character and neither number 27, nor the new build would have a garden anywhere near the size of the other properties. She acknowledged that the planning officer had admitted (paragraph 57) that the new design differed as it was both smaller and simpler. She thought the Planning Officer was wrong to say the new bungalow would not be noticed as it was at the end of the cul-de-sac but it would. She thought it was also wrong to imply that it was acceptable because it had not been opposed. She notified the committee that it had not been opposed because no one knew about it.
Ms Gregory-Martin drew the committee’s attention to the 'hammer-head' turning bay at the end of the cul-de-sac that was a valuable asset but if this build went ahead would be directly in front of new build that would provide a temptation for the new occupants to treat it as an extra parking space. She noted that if this area was blocked with cars, then large HGVs would have no option than to reverse all the way back onto to the A693.
Ms Gregory-Martin concluded that the application be refused as the NPPF justified refusal due to the inappropriate development of residential gardens (paragraph 70), highway safety (Paragraph 109), design that failed to improve the character of the area (paragraph 130) and Councillor Martin mentioned paragraph 127. She thanked the committee for the opportunity to address them with her objection.
Councillor Martin left the meeting.
The Chair thanked Ms Gregory-Martin and asked the Committee for any questions or comments.
Councillor Boyes wanted to know if there was a history of planning applications for this area that had been refused as they were not listed in the report.
The Planning Officer notified the committee that only the most recent applications were included in reports, she detailed four applications that had been approved that dated back to 2008. The Officer was aware of earlier refusals on the site however she confirmed that these would have been assessed against the relevant policy at the time and that policy has changed since these earlier refusals. The Officer confirmed that for the previous applications the necessary statutory consultation required would have been carried out.
The Planning Officer confirmed Cllr Hopgood’s query that the five letters of objection had been received as a result of extending the consultation to residents within the cul de sac.
Councillor Hopgood queried from the previous planning applications that had been approved how many had been made through delegated decisions.
The Planning Officer was aware that the last two applications had been dealt with by delegated decisions but did not have access to information on any other previous applications
Councillor Jewell wanted to know whether notices had been displayed on lamp posts in the vicinity.
The Planning Officer informed the Committee that notices had not been attached to lamp posts as they were not required. She added that due to the Covid 19 pandemic the Governments safety guidance had been for people to remain at home therefore Officers had not been able to get on site.
Councillor Wilson raised the issue of safety regarding the access on to the highway from the development.
The Planning Officer had received no issues from Highways regarding any safety concerns.
The Highway Development Manager stated that Highways had assessed the planning application and had found that the cul de sac had parking facilities for seven vehicles including three in curtliage parking spaces per existing property and two visitor laybys that catered for four cars which was above Durham County Council’s parking requirements. He noted that the cul de sac had a hammer head at the top that acted as a turning area for vehicles that would be at the back of the development. He acknowledged that there had been issues in the past with existing visitors parking in the hammer head making turning difficult.
The Highway Development Manager advised that the new development would provide three additional parking spaces that would decrease the need for people to park in the hammer head keeping it clear for people to turn easily.
Councillor Jewell requested clarity as to whether the parking issues in the hammer head were existing and whether the new development would create additional problems.
The Highway Development Manager clarified that parking issues were an existing problem and the new development would not make the situation worse.
Councillor Wilson was satisfied with the response regarding highway safety.
Councillor Tucker was not clear how the egress and access was going to be granted with the new development and whether the drive was to be a separate or shared one.
The Planning Officer explained that the egress and access to the development would be at the top of the hammer head with a long unshared drive with parking for three cars plus a garage.
Councillor Tucker thanked the Planning Officer for the explanation.
Councillor Bainbridge was concerned that the design was greatly different to the existing properties and wondered if it could be made more similar.
The Planning Officer informed the committee that all the established bungalows were similar but the proposed property would be a simple designed bungalow that would sit at the top of the cul de sac and would not be visible on the street scape.
Councillor Milburn reiterated Councillor Bainbridge’s concerns that was answered satisfactorily by the Planning Officer.
Councillor Jewell thought that there were a variety of types of buildings on Blind Lane in Chester le Street.
The Planning Officer confirmed that Blind Lane accommodated a variety of types of properties.
Councillor Shuttleworth left the meeting.
Councillor Wilson proposed approval of the application and was seconded by Councillor Tucker.
Upon a roll call of members to ascertain their voting intentions by the Solicitor it was
That the application be APPROVED subject to conditions in the report.
Councillor Martin was invited back into the meeting.