Agenda item

DM/20/01603/FPA - Site of former St Peters School, Main Road, Gainford

37 no. dwellings with associated access and landscaping (amended engineering plan and drainage scheme 4.2.2021)


The Committee considered a report of the Senior Planning Officer in relation to the erection of 37 no. dwellings with associated access and landscaping (amended engineering plan and drainage scheme 4.2.2021) (for copy see file of minutes).


Councillor S Zair left the meeting at 11.46am


The Principal Planning Officer gave a detailed presentation which included a site location plan, aerial photographs and photographs of the site and noted the application was recommended for refusal.


The Chair thanked the Principal Planning Officer and asked Mr S Longstaff, Agent for the applicant to speak in support of the application.

Mr S Longstaff thanked the Chair and Committee and reminded Members that planning permission had been granted in 2018 for the comprehensive redevelopment of the site, including the former school building.  He added that therefore the site was a housing commitment and delivery from it was included within the Council’s housing land supply.  He explained that, since the approval, Kebbell Homes had worked very hard to agree a deal with the other landowner to be able to have the site developed on a comprehensive basis, however, despite their best endeavours, those discussions had not borne fruit.


Mr S Longstaff noted that therefore Kebbell’s solution to the dilemma was to seek a standalone permission for their part of the site, in the hope that bringing their site forward would encourage the other landowner either back to the negotiating table to agree the comprehensive approach or to give them the necessary confidence to bring forward development for their part of the site, which already had a standalone planning permission.  He added that both schemes could operate independently and would be complimentary.  He explained that approach had culminated in the submission of the current application for housing development on the part of he site that they control.


Mr S Longstaff noted the current scheme would provide the same benefits to the local community that the original scheme would have delivered, including the high quality, well-designed new dwellings within walking distance of local services and facilities on a predominantly previously developed site.  He added there was a policy-compliant number of affordable units within the proposals offering first-time buyer and those on low-income the opportunity to access new housing.  He explained that the scheme would also provide an improved area of open space to the south of the site for all residents to enjoy.


Mr S Longstaff noted that while not the ideal solution the developer had hoped for, he hoped Members could appreciate the difficult position the applicant and their proactive attempts to bring the site forward, notwithstanding problems outside of their control.  He explained that Kebbell believed a start had to be made somewhere and that granting planning for their current application provided the best opportunity available to resolve the problems at St. Peters.  He noted therefore there was disappointment that Officers had recommended refusal of the application, which was in essence the same as that the application already approved. 


Mr S Longstaff explained in terms of the refusal reasons, the applicant had sought throughout the process to deal with the issues raised and it as not felt that the matters raised warranted refusal of the application.  He noted that the proposals would make effective use of previously developed land, and as acknowledged within the Committee report, extend to around 65 percent of the brownfield site.


He explained that the proposals followed a similar design principle to that of the previously approved scheme, the proposed houses would not face on to the St. Peters building, and submitted plans showed that existing vegetation and proposed boundary fencing would screen the development from that area.  He noted that the requirements set out within refusal reason four had not been required when the application had been submitted, however, the house types proposed could readily meet the M4 (2) requirements and that could easily be controlled by way of condition.  He added that the proposed housing mix offered a range of house types including smaller dwellings which would be suitable for those looking to downsize as well as larger properties suitable for multi-generational families.  Mr S Longstaff explained that it was therefore felt the requirements of Policy 15 could be met and as such it was not felt that there was any reasonable basis for the Officer’s recommendation and accordingly he respectfully requested that Members support the application and grant planning approval.


The Chair thanked Mr S Longstaff and asked the Principal Planning Officer to respond to the points raised.


The Principal Planning Officer noted that while the proposals were similar to the scheme that was approved, however, without the conversion of the principal buildings on the site.  He reminded Members that significant weight had been afforded to the retention and conversion of those buildings when the previous permission had been granted.  He added that Officers felt the omission of that element was critical to the application and therefore without the cross-benefit of market housing there was not a realistic prospect of securing redevelopment of the principal building, therefore not an effective use of land.  The Principal Planning Officer explained that in terms of design, the county was in a different planning context with the CDP now having been adopted and design had moved up the planning agenda.  He noted that the design had been robustly assessed and it was not felt that it was up to the standard required, notwithstanding the fundamental issue of the omission of the conversion of the original building.


The Chair thanked the Principal Planning Officer and asked the Committee for their comments and questions.


Councillor G Richardson noted the application was within his Electoral Division, adding the site was a bit of a millstone around the necks of those in the area.  He noted the work of his previous Councillor colleague for the area, J Fergus with her husband having been the Headmaster for the school many years ago.  He noted that for many years there had been attempts to move the site forward, and indeed it had been thought that was the case with the previous permission.  He explained that he, and his current colleague Councillor J Rowlandson, could do nothing but agree with the Officer’s recommendation. 

He added that he had spoken to Parish Council Members and all those he had spoken to were in agreement that the application did not meet the necessary criteria and was not what was wanted.  He noted it was with a heavy heart, as all involved wanted something for the site, he would propose refusal as per the Officer’s recommendation.


Councillor I Jewell explained he could see the pros and cons of the application and noted his disappointment as the proposals that included the old school had been very much welcomed.  However, taking on board the comments from the Local Member, he felt that he agreed and therefore he would second refusal of the application, in the hope something more positive would come forward for the site in future.


Councillor J Maitland noted she was in agreement with the Councillors that had spoken and confirmed that when the previous permission had been granted the aim had been very much to ensure that the site was redeveloped as a whole and to develop now, building homes around a derelict building, would defeat the whole purpose of redeveloping the site as a whole.  She noted the views of the Local Members and explained that while travelling past the site over the years she had noted the deterioration of the building and to build new housing around building was not acceptable and therefore she would support refusal of the application.


The Chair noted there was a proposal by Councillor G Richardson, seconded by Councillor I Jewell, for refusal of the application and upon a vote being taken it was:




That the application be REFUSED.

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