Agenda item

DM/20/00219/VOC - 7 St Ebba's Way, Ebchester


The Committee considered a report of the Planning Officer for the variation of approved plans and access conditions of planning permission DM/15/01563/FPA to regularise works done and allow changes including extended driveway, front seating area, alternative windows, access ramp, moving garage further from rear wall, raising of garage roof height and raising boundary wall height at 7 St Ebba’s Way, Ebchester (for copy see file of minutes). 


The Planning Officer delivered a detailed presentation of the application which included a site location plan, site photographs and the existing and proposed layout plans for the property. 


The Chair thanked the Planning Officer and asked Councillor Stelling to address the Committee.


Councillor Stelling, Local Ward Member addressed the Committee to object to the planning application.  He was aware of the history of the development transforming a former church into a house that had been ongoing for four to five years without completion.  He felt that the applicant had not completed any stages of the original application and had failed with the completion of the proposed front drive and landscaping that had left the area a mess as illustrated in the photographs.  He had empathy with the residents of Cohort Close and St Ebbas Way as the residents had had to endure the eyesore for years. 


The Senior Committee Services Officer read out a letter of objection on behalf of the residents of Cohort Close and St. Ebbas Way who thanked the committee for allowing them the opportunity to submit their letter for consideration.  The residents asked that the planning committee consider their points that objected to the planning application.  The residents noted that the Local Plan Policy stated that conversions should ‘respect the character of the existing building and locality'.  The residents disagreed with the planning officer’s conclusion that the change to the original plans met this requirement.


The residents informed the committee that the plot housed a chapel, which although on a large plot had lots of open landscaped garden to the front and a small vestry building to the side, which blended in seamlessly with its neighbours.  The residents felt that the proposed changes would result in an over developed site, that produced a prominent and imposing build that ‘stood out' from its neighbouring properties. They thought by extending the driveway to nearly 11 metres the frontage would resemble a public carpark and be totally out of character for the area. In their opinion it would not be visually attractive and sympathetic to the local character and surrounding built environment.

The residents were concerned that the highway officer’s report had been compiled without a site visit and thorough evaluation of the road and its usage had not picked up on.  The residents asked the committee to consider, that as residents they had invaluable knowledge and experience on the usage of the road and the footpath that ran parallel to this conversion as they used the facility on a daily basis.  The residents were very worried about their safety should the proposed plans be approved.


The residents explained that Cohort Close and St Ebbas Way alone had over 40 vehicles coming and going, in addition to visitors and service vehicles.  They added that pedestrians used the footpath and road to walk to school, the shops and access local amenities and it was a very busy area.  They added that the road was already very difficult to negotiate, without the additional hazard of an expansive driveway onto what had effectively become a single carriageway with extremely poor visibility at the junctions where Fossway and Cohort Close join St Ebba’s Way.


The residents stated that whilst the applicant had expressed that there was a problem with safe parking, it should be noted that this was not the case prior to him purchasing the property.  They noted that there could not be any guarantee that the current on street parking would be improved or made any safer, by allowing the applicant to make the changes he was proposed. They felt that by agreeing to these changes, the legal right to park on a considerable length of dropped kerb would be given to one household, with absolutely no legal obligation that this area of dropped kerb was kept clear of his vehicles and therefore allowing a safe, clear and unobstructed view for other road users and pedestrians. The residents believed that the safety of their community should be the prime consideration, not the applicant's ability to park as many vehicles as he chose, where he chose. They informed the committee that the applicant had numerous vehicles which could not physically be accommodated off road under the proposed changes.


The Planning Officer responded to both Cllr Stelling and the letter from residents in that she was aware of the situation and the enforcement history of the site, however the planning authority could not insist on a time scale for completion under policy guidance especially under the circumstances with the Covid 19 pandemic. She added that the design and landscaping would be for half of the frontage of the property but had to be in keeping with the surrounding area.


The Highway Development Manager acknowledged that the development would provide additional parking with a double drive to accommodate two vehicles and a garage. He understood that enforcement had been involved with the construction with site visits undertaken by Highway Officers and the Neighbourhood Protection Manager.  He noted that in terms of highway safety he had no concerns as it was a residential area where the speed of traffic was expected to be low.  He agreed that there were issues with cars that parked on the footpath in the estate but that did not pose any visibility impairment.  He added that there was a requirement that driveways should be kept clear and people could park outside their own property as long as they did not cause any obstruction. 


Councillor Jewell stated that he had knowledge of the area and wondered how much movement of traffic went through the former social housing estate.


The Highway Development Manager clarified that there would be approx. 40 vehicles that would be in and out of the estate spread across a ten-hour period.  In highway terms he classified this as low traffic movement.


The Chair asked Committee Members for any questions or comments.


Councillor Shield as a local member addressed the committee with a peripheral view towards the planning application.  He informed members that he was aware of the development and knew that the applicant had failed to comply with elements of the original planning application that had forced planning enforcement to investigate that resulted in the new planning application being submitted.  He notified the committee that during the Covid 19 pandemic where the Government had stipulated that people should stay at home the applicant had continued work on the development subsequently involving Planning Enforcement again who gave him a verbal warning to cease any further work.


Councillor Shield was concerned that the footpath outside the development that served as the main access route in and out of the estate would be prone to an expansive dropped kerb.  He was unclear as to how the canty lever gates would operate on such a large scale.  He was conscious that if the proposed drive was constructed it would only accommodate three of the applicants cars with one in the garage but the remainder would be situated on the highway near his property that would cause visibility issues and unsafe for cars entering and exiting the drive.


The planning Officer explained that the electric gate would be raised off the ground and would move together behind each other as it opened and closed.


The Highway Development Manager stressed that there would be no way to determine whether or not high sided vehicles would park near to the driveway to obscure visibility or cause obstructions. He acknowledged any high sided vehicle parked alongside any driveway may cause a visibility issue. He advised Members that they should not consider the users of the existing development when they assessed the application, as vehicle ownership and type could change throughout the lifetime of the development.  He acknowledged there was an issue of vehicles that parked on footways in the estate to avoid blocking the carriageway.  He added that this would be less likely if there was more in curtilage parking spaces.   




Councillor Shield felt that there was not enough recess within the grounds to allow for the cantilever gates to work and have in curtilage parking spaces. He thought that there was a large amount of dropped kerb for access into just one property and was not convinced that residents would be safe whilst the work would be carried out to install it.  He stressed that this footpath was the only means of access into and out of the estate and it would be required to be closed in the process forcing pedestrians into the road.  He was fearful that an accident would occur in this area as he was aware that the applicant had numerous vehicles including high sided ones and trailers that would be parked near to the property that would cause visibility issues.  He was also aware that the estate was used as a rat run therefore moved that the application should be refused.


Councillor Tucker was concerned that the hedge along with bends at either end of the road would cause impaired visibility for anyone pulling out of the



The Highway Development Manager notified the committee that the bends at either end of the road was a positive element acting as a buffer to slow traffic down as it would be most likely vehicles would not be travelling in excess of 15mph and that would calculate to enough safe stopping distance  to where the driveway would be constructed.


Councillor Milburn had sympathy for Councillor Shield as she had a similar issue in her ward with an old chapel being turned into a house.  She was concerned that there would not be enough room at the front of the building for the driveway for cars to park.


The Planning Officer showed the photographs of where the garage had been demolished that made room for the proposed driveway should the application be successful.


Councillor Milburn was still unclear as how the proposed driveway would accommodate three cars at the front of the property and wondered if the drive could go to the rear.


The Planning Officer assured the Councillor that there was enough room for the driveway as measurements had been taken.


Councillor Wilson wanted to know if the new development would add to the issues of parking in the estate. 


The Planning Officer confirmed that the parking issues were already in existence due to the age of the estate as properties were built without curtilage parking. 


Councillor Jewell asked whether the development would make the parking issues worse or would it improve the situation.


The Planning Officer anticipated that the development would improve the parking situation.


Councillor Hopgood wanted to know why the applicant had not anticipated that the retaining wall would be an issue by moving the garage in the original application.  She was concerned that the applicant had warranted planning enforcement to become involved with the site by not adhering to or honouring the original application


The Planning Officer explained that originally the applicant had not expected there to be any problems with the retaining wall but concerns were raised when there were complications with the neighbour’s fence that had fallen and the applicant needed to help with the situation.


Councillor Thompson voiced concern that the original planning application had been successful.


The Planning Officer confirmed that the original application had been assessed accordingly with planning principles and policies that had highlighted no concerns with the design or highway safety that deemed the application to be successful.


The Solicitor stressed that the committee needed to determine the planning application that was presented and not the previous application.  She added that the planning enforcement involvement with the site could not be taken into consideration.


Councillor Wilson proposed that the application should be refused and was seconded by Councillor Thompson.


Councillor Boyes advised the committee that the reasons for any decision should be supported in case the application went to appeal.


The Solicitor stated that Members could consider the changes from both applications.


Councillor Tucker had serious reservations over the safety of the variations due to the substantial bends at either end of the road, the operation of the gate to allow safe passage in and out of the driveway and would not be in favour of the application being approved.


The planning Officer advised that an additional condition could be placed in the application to cover the operation of the electronic gates.


Councillor Shield had concerns with the application and would not support its approval as he believed it breached GP11 and HP7 policy as it did not reflect the character of the area.  He felt that the development contradicted the NPPF and the Derwentside Local Plan with regards to the safe and suitable access to the property.  As a local member he knew the area and the people who needed to be listened to as the implications of the development outweighed any benefits to the area.


The Highway Development Manager assured the committee that Highways had no concerns over the standard width of the road that allowed the passing of two cars without being too narrow. He advised that as the dropped kerbs works were undertaken by the County Council, he could guarantee that every safety precaution would be put in place when the dropped kerb would be constructed with the erection of barriers and bollards to allow pedestrians to step into the road safely while works took place.  He estimated that the works would take approximately one day that would limit the inconvenience caused.  He reiterated that the bends at either end of the road would be beneficial to reduce the speed of traffic and there would be no defence at an appeal from a Highway safety perspective.


Councillor Bainbridge asked why the extension of the driveway and dropped kerb had not been in the original application.


Councillor Martin was concerned about the closing of the footpath and the ability for pedestrians to get past.  He wondered if there was a footpath at the rear of the property that could be used as a diversion.


Councillor Shield explained that there was a passageway at the rear of the property that led to a garage site but it was not a suitable footpath although it could be walked on. 


The Solicitor advised upon listening to the debate that there had been no substantial reasons put forward to justify a refusal of the application.


Councillor Jewell also noted that the number of vehicles that the applicant owned could not be taken into consideration by the committee.


Councillor Boyd left the meeting.


Councillor Shield proposed that the application be refused and was seconded by Councillor Thompson but stated that should the application be successful he requested that additional conditions be included regarding the restricted hours when work could be carried out.


Councillor Boyes proposed a counter recommendation that the application be approved subject to the inclusion of additional conditions that was seconded by Councillor Bainbridge.


Upon a roll call of members by the Solicitor to ascertain their voting intentions on the proposal to refuse the application it was




That the proposal to refuse the application be rejected.


Upon a roll call of members by the Solicitor to ascertain their voting intentions to approve the application with the inclusion of additional conditions it was




That the application be APPROVED subject to conditions in the report and additional conditions applied that would be determined with the Chair, Vice Chair, Legal, Planning Officers and Local Ward Members.



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