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Agenda item

DM/20/01961/FPA - William Robson House, Claypath, Durham, DH1 1SA

Extension and conversion of the multi-level decked car park to form 3no. 2-bed apartments and 4no. 2-bed townhouses.


The Senior Planning Officer, Paul Hopper, gave a detailed presentation on the report relating to the abovementioned planning application, a copy of which had been circulated (for copy see file of minutes).  Members noted that the written report was supplemented by a visual presentation which included photographs of the site.  The application was for the extension and conversion of the multi-level decked car park to form 3no. 2-bed apartments and 4no. 2bed townhouses (Resubmission) and was recommended for approval subject to conditions.


The Senior Planning Officer referred Members slides relating to the application site location and photographs of various views of the site.  He reminded Councillors that the Committee had visited the site previously in association with a previous application in 2019.  He referred the Committee to proposed elevations, which set out the twin ridged, dual pitched design for the roof, to allow for natural light to the first floor bedrooms through north-facing, conservation style roof lighting.  Members noted the issues in respect of previous application and the Senior Planning Officer referred to a comparison of the proposed development and the current view from the nearby Blue Coat Court.  It was noted the land dropped away on the southern side of the side toward Leazes Bowl and it was explained the proposed floor plans were such that rooms facing the trees to the south of the site were not habitable rooms, and within the recommendation there was a condition for obscure glazing to help protect the trees from requests for excessive pruning or removal. 


The Senior Planning Officer noted in terms of statutory consultation responses, the Highways Authority had no objections subject to a CMP, noting the constrained access arrangements.  He added that Northumbrian Water Limited had offered no comments in relation to the application.  It was noted the City of Durham Parish Council had raised concerns as regards the development becoming Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) or a Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) and noted ongoing discussions with the Parish Council.  He added that the issue had been confused in terms of typographical errors within some of the application’s support documents that made reference to student accommodation.  He explained, as set out within the report, clarification had ben sought from the Applicant, the application was for C3 residential use and not student use and if there was any change from that it would be subject to planning control. 

He added the Parish Council also had concerns in terms of, accessibility requirements, waste collection arrangements and highways safety and disruption during the construction phase.


The Senior Planning Officer noted no objections from internal consultees subject to conditions.  He explained there had been one letter of objection received from PRISM Planning Consultants, on behalf of all residents of Blue Coat Court, raising concerns as regards the proposed development on residential amenity.  It was noted that subsequent to amendments to the scheme and additional information the objections had been withdrawn.


The Senior Planning Officer noted that the planning considerations, the application was considered in relation to CDP Policy 6, and that the site was centrally located and was considered a sustainable site in terms of new residential development.  He added that the application site was previously developed site and the proposed development would not result in the loss of any valued assets, there was mix of house types, and the issues in relation to HMOs or PBSA use was as previously mentioned, the application being for C3 residential use, any use as HMOs or PBSA being subject to further planning control.  He reminded Members of the changes in terms of the impact of residential amenity when compared to the 2019 application and reiterated that the residents’ objections had been withdrawn following amendments made to the scheme.  He noted that the application was in accord with policies within the CDP, Neighbourhood Plan and NPPF, including those relation to the Conservation Area and World Heritage Site, and therefore the application was recommended for approval, subject to the conditions as set out within the Committee report.


The Chair thanked the Senior Planning Officer and asked Parish Councillor John Ashby to speak on behalf of the City of Durham Parish Council in relation to the application.


Parish Councillor J Ashby thanked the Chair and Committee for the opportunity to explain that the City of Durham Parish Council had raised a number of concerns about the application.  He noted the concerns arose because of the history of applications that had been made, each in turn quite rightly refused and which, on appeal had been dismissed.


He added that, in effect, Council Officers, the Planning Inspectorate and Members had spent a very significant amount of time and effort considering and refusing a string of deeply unsatisfactory proposals, the current application being the fourth and hopefully the last.


Parish Councillor J Ashby noted the Parish Council welcomed genuine C3 developments in the area that provided residential accommodation for year-long occupation. 

He added that the site was an ideal location for such development, especially suitable for elderly people because of its proximity to the city centre. 


He noted that the Applicant’s supporting statements were confusing and contradictory.  He gave an example, the Transport Statement in support of the application stating 49 dwellings in paragraph 1.1.3 and 74 dwellings in paragraph 5.1.2.  He noted that in fact, together with approved and permitted conversions of existing building at William Robson House, the current proposals would add a further seven two-bedroom dwellings making a grand total, if approved, of 44 dwellings.  He noted that furthermore, and worse, it continued to say in paragraph 3.2.8 that “it is anticipated that the apartments could prove attractive to students of Durham University”.  


Parish Councillor J Ashby noted that paragraph was the main concern of the Parish Council and noted that if the development was as described in the Transport Statement it would fail the policies of the County Durham Plan (CDP).  He noted the Planning Officer dealt with that issue entirely correctly by pointing out that the Applicant would have to apply for planning permission to change from C3 use to C4 or Sui Generis HMOs or indeed a PBSA.  He noted the Parish Council would stay alert in that regard.


Parish Councillor J Ashby explained the second concern of the Parish Council was that essential provision to meet accessibility requirements did not appear to be shown and would therefore need to be specified, if approval was to be given.  He added that the Planning Officer proposed Condition 4 which met that point admirably.


It was explained that the third concern was in respect of the arrangements for the collection of wheelie bins: the applicant’s Design, Access and Heritage Statement stating that “Provision has been made for internal bin storage. The bins will be moved to Claypath on collection days and collected by private contractors.”  Parish Councillor J Ashby noted Claypath was often obstructed by wheelie bins from apartments and restaurants.  He added that the matter must be addressed as 44 domestic wheelie bins would totally block pedestrian movement on Claypath every week.  He noted the Planning Officer informed the Committee that a different arrangement was now proposed, secured by proposed Condition 14.  He added that once again, the Parish Council would be “on the case”.


Parish Councillor J Ashby noted the fourth concern related to the consequences of no car parking provision being made, however, he noted that could not be the basis of a refusal of the application.  He explained the Parish Council suggested that operational conditions would be needed and enforced to manage the entry and exit of construction and building materials lorries.  He noted that was covered by proposed Condition 5.


Parish Councillor J Ashby added that, on the basis of its concerns, the Parish Planning Committee had considered that, despite being a much improved design from the previous schemes that had been refused, lost on appeal, or withdrawn, the latest application should be refused on the grounds of being envisaged as student accommodation contrary to Policy 16 of the CDP and also for threatening pedestrian and traffic disruption on Claypath.  He noted Planning Officer’s report, published eight days ago, addressed the Parish Council’s concerns and proposed conditions which made it possible to accept the development. 


Parish Councillor J Ashby noted that given the history at the site, and the contradictory information provided by the Applicant, the Developer must comply with the conditions, and enforcement action must be taken against any breach of the residential use such as to become HMOs or PBSA use.  He concluded by noting that, on that basis, the County Council had wrestled the application into an acceptable scheme, and the Parish Council expressed its appreciation for that.


The Chair thanked Parish Councillor J Ashby and asked the Committee for their comments and questions.


Councillor M Davinson reiterated the comments he made in relation to the previous application in terms of nearby residential properties being in close proximity to the application site, noting Members had stood alongside those properties when visiting the site previously.  He thanked the Senior Planning Officer and Councillor J Ashby for their work, noting it appeared the loose ends in relation to the application appeared to have been dealt with.  He moved that the application be approved, subject to the conditions as set within the report with an alteration to the start time for works on site from 7.30am to 8.30am.


Councillor P Taylor noted he would second the proposal made by Councillor M Davinson, adding he really appreciated the work of the Senior Planning Officer in preparing his report, noting that both reports at Committee had been excellent.  He added the suite of conditions proposed were firm and well pit and therefore he was content in seconding the approval of the application.


Councillor D Freeman noted he was a Member of the City of Durham Parish Council; however, he was not a member of their Planning Committee and had not been party to their submission in objection to the application.  He explained he initially had similar concerns as expressed by Parish Councillor J Ashby and noted that while some concerns had been addressed by condition, he was cynical and felt the development may end up accommodating students. 

He asked as regards the application coming back in terms of a change of use from C3 to C4 use.  The Senior Planning Officer noted that if an application for the development was submitted for C4 use it would be assessed against Policy 16 of the CDP which referred to the percentage of student properties within an area and balanced communities and therefore, while not prejudging any such application, a robust judgement would be taken at that stage based upon the CDP and the appeal decisions that had been made.  The Chair noted the comments from Councillor D Freeman and the Senior Planning Officer and explained that there was a need for two-bed accommodation and therefore she would take the view that the development offered the opportunity for elderly people, who may then need people to stay with them.


Councillor D Freeman asked if there were any condition that could be attached to prevent occupation by students.  The Senior Planning Officer noted such a condition would not meet the appropriateness test in respect of planning conditions.  The Solicitor – Planning and Development echoed the Senior Planning Officer, noting that it would not satisfy any of the tests in relation to the imposition of a condition.


The Chair noted no further comments from the Committee and the Solicitor – Planning and Development noted the vote was for the approval of the application, subject to an amended condition relating to the start time for works being 8.00am.


Upon a vote being taken it was:




That the application be APPROVED subject to the conditions as set out within the report, and variation of condition 17 in respect of site start from 8.00am (rather than 07.30am).


Supporting documents:


Democratic Services
Durham County Council
County Hall
County Durham
03000 269 714