Two storey side extension, single storey rear extension and widening of driveway.
The Planning Officer, George Spurgeon, 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 a two storey side extension, single storey rear extension and widening of drivewayand was recommended for approval, subject to conditions.
The Planning Officer noted a similar application for 11 Cedar Drive, the adjoining property, had been considered last year by Planning Committee and had been approved. He explained that the current application for 9 Cedar Drive did not include a proposal for change of use to a C4 House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) adding that was already possible under permitted development rights. He noted the Council was in the process of introducing an Article 4 Direction that would cover the application site, however, no Direction had been confirmed at the current time. He explained that should such a Direction be confirmed it would not come into effect until January 2022. The Planning Officer noted that therefore the issues being considered were the physical extensions to the property.
The Planning Officer noted the property was located south-west of Durham City centre and referred to photographs showing that of eight semi-detached properties in the area, six having extensions currently, with one having permission for an extension with works in the process of being started. He noted that therefore 9 Cedar Drive was the last property of the row of eight to look to extend, adding that the properties stepped down north to south with the height of 9 Cedar Drive being less than 11 Cedar Drive, though greater than 7 Cedar Drive. He referred Members to photographs showing a car parking space and garage, with the garage to be demolished, being smaller than the required minimum for use by a car. The Committee were shown photographs of a number of two-storey extensions in the area, at 7, 15 and 3 Cedar Drive, with the proposed design being similar to that of 11 Cedar Drive, approved by Committee last year. The Planning Officer referred to photographs showing before and after the construction of a single-storey extension to 11 Cedar Drive, the length of the property, and noted the proposals for 9 Cedar Drive would replicate that of 11 Cedar Drive. He explained that the width of the driveway was proposed to be increased to allow a second car to park and the side extension was proposed to extend forward of the main property by 600mm, in line with the existing bay window. It was explained the gap between the shared boundary with 7 Cedar Drive would be retained to allow external access to the rear garden.
In respect of internal alterations, the Planning Officer noted that the existing garage would be demolished and replaced by a lounge, with the rear extension to accommodate a dining area with the existing lounge and dining area to be converted to two additional bedrooms on the ground floor. He noted there were currently three bedrooms on the first floor with one being quite small and it was proposed that would be converted to a shower room, with the side extension at the second floor proposed to contain two additional bedrooms making for a total of six bedrooms, increased from three.
The Planning Officer referred to elevations and noted they were same as those previously approved for 11 Cedar Drive.
In respect of representations, the Planning Officer noted that there had been no objections from the Highways Section, with the two spaces proposed meeting the requirements for a six-bed property as set out within the Council’s Car Parking Accessibility Standards. He noted there had been a number of representations received, including from the Local Member, the City of Durham Parish Council, and the City of Durham Trust. It was noted the majority of the objections related to the potential use as an HMO, in particular use by students, with a summary of all issues raised contained within the Committee report.
The Planning Officer reiterated that the application was not for a change of use to HMO and that planning permission was not required for such change of use. He explained that in looking at the physical extensions and alterations it was not considered that the proposals were overbearing or that there would be loss of light or privacy. He reiterated that the proposals were similar to those in place at 11, 15 and 3 Cedar Drive and were therefore sympathetic that would make a positive contribution to the character of the area. He noted there were no objections from the Highways Section as the sufficient amount of in-curtilage parking was proposed. The Planning Officer noted that, while the application had proven to be somewhat controversial and attracted a number of objections, Officers had taken into account the objections where material to the application and had felt that on balance the application was in compliance with CDP and City of Durham Neighbourhood Plan (CoD NP) policies as well as the Council’s Residential Amenity Standards Supplementary Planning Document and Residential and was therefore recommended for approval.
The Chair thanked the Planning Officer and asked Members of the Committee for any questions relating to the presentation.
Councillor J Elmer asked as regards the point made by the Planning Officer that the proposed extensions would represent a “positive contribution” to the character of the area, adding he felt that it would be at best a neutral contribution. The Planning Officer explained that it was a subjective judgement, however, with seven of the eight properties already having extensions, and with three having similar extensions, it was not unreasonable to suggest there would be a positive contribution.
The Chair asked Parish Councillor Grenville Holland, representing the City of Durham Parish Council, to speak in respect of the Parish Council’s objections to the application.
Parish Councillor G Holland thanked the Chair and Committee and began by explaining that the progressive and uncontrolled studentification of a small community on the southern margin of the City was causing despair. He noted that there was now yet another C3 house being modified as a de facto C4 HMO. He added that the local despair was outlined in 18 letters of objection from immediate residents because Farewell Hall was still not protected by an Article 4 Direction. Parish Councillor G Holland noted that yet, in the absence of an Article 4 Direction, no one need tolerate bad planning and bad consequences. He explained there were three lines of defence: the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the CoD NP and the CDP, all of which carried their full weight. He added that the comments of the residents must also carry weight as they told Members of the Committee that the progressive introduction of HMOs into their community was causing ever increasing problems with its cumulative impact.
Parish Councillor G Holland suggested that, for a moment, Members could listen to just a few of their words and he quoted:
“4 out of 7 houses will then be HMOs in this row of houses. This will be over 50% concentration of HMOs on that side of street alone”;
“Until recently this area was a residential area, but over a short time the nature of this area has changed significantly”;
“The environment is being degraded”;
“The irreversible negative impact on this small estate is unacceptable”;
“The proliferation of HMO's is clearly driving people out”;
“The loss of family homes in Farewell Hall”;
“There is a large provision of new student accommodation within 5 minutes’ walk of this location as well as 2 or 3 other colleges within 10 minutes’ walk”.
Parish Councillor G Holland explained that planning policies did not encourage that outcome, they were designed to protect buildings, families, and communities. He noted the application contravened several elements of 2019 NPPF, Section 12 which was dedicated to achieving well-designed places, but most especially paragraph 127 that required buildings to add to the overall quality of the area, to be visually attractive, to be sympathetic to the local character and history, and to promote health and well-being. He commented that no one could pretend that yet another HMO in Cedar Drive had any of those merits.
Parish Councillor G Holland noted the CoD NP Policy D4 (a) required that: “all …extensions and other alterations to existing housing should be of high-quality design relating to the character and appearance of the local area”. He added that the proposal was not of high-quality design nor did it relate to the character and appearance of the local area. He explained that CoD NP Policy D4 (c) also sought high quality design in terms of internal form and layout. He suggested that cramming six bedrooms into the property, including two on the ground floor, simply failed to meet that standard.
He noted that removing part of the front garden to replace it with a hardstanding did not add to the quality of the property as had already happened at 3 Cedar Drive, another HMO.
Parish Councillor G Holland noted a similar theme in Cod NP Policy H3, sections a) and c) which required the “sustaining, and making a positive contribution to, the character and distinctiveness of the area” and using “high quality design”. Again, he noted no one could pretend that the application matched the demands of Policy H3.
He explained that the application also failed to meet the demands of CDP Policy 29 on Sustainable Design, which directed that “All development proposals will be required to achieve well designed buildings”, the policy not being restricted to building new estates. He added that CDP Policy 29a required developments to “contribute positively to an area’s character and identity”. Parish Councillor G Holland explained that local community was harmonious, well-established, and sustainable, with families of varying ages. He noted the many comments from the residents clearly showed that what was proposed would not contribute positively to the community: quite the opposite. He referred to CDP Policy 29c and noted that, given the increase from three to six bedrooms and the additional numbers of residents, the heating systems would need to be upgraded. He noted that no details had been provided as to any new installation proposed, and whether they would achieve the reductions in carbon emissions that the policy demanded.
Parish Councillor G Holland noted that CDP Policy 29(d), sought “appropriate storage space and segregation facilities for recyclable and non-recyclable waste”. He added that facility would be needed, given that there would be six, or maybe more, residents. He noted again there was no indication in the details supplied as to how the requirement would be met, within the report the Planning Officer makes a guess for the applicant. Parish Councillor G Holland explained that CDP Policy 29 was also underpinned by its Core Principles, and these form an important guide in helping Members to make their decision. He noted CP5.284 encouraged a “high design quality that respects and responds to the local context and distinctiveness of the area”, adding the application lacks that respect. He continued explaining that CP5.286 confirmed that one “should consider the amenity of both existing and future residents and consideration should be given to matters of privacy”. Parish Councillor G Holland noted that consideration was missing. He added that CP5.287 stated that “Extensions [even if they] are sympathetically designed, must not detract from the character of the area and have no adverse effect on the amenity of neighbours”. He noted that there was no sympathy in the design and, as the residents had set out, the effects were clearly adverse.
Parish Councillor G Holland noted that the application therefore failed CDP Policy 29 (a), (c) and (d) and three of its Core Principles. He added that the application should be rejected, with the decision being sustained by reference to the NPPF section 12 paragraph 127 and CoD NP Policies D4 (a) and (c), H3 (a) and (c). He explained the Parish Council did not agree with the Officer’s analysis which had minimised the damage already done in Cedar Drive and the potential damage attached to the new proposal; and the Parish Council did not agree with the Officer’s recommendation. Parish Councillor G Holland explained that, in planning terms, Members now had the new CDP and new CoD NP, both rooted in the NPPF, adding that those plans were designed to protect our communities from unwanted incursions such as this one. He concluded by urging the Committee to use the plans as they were intended to protect the residents living on Cedar Drive and above all, let right be done.
The Chair thanked Parish Councillor G Holland and asked the Planning Officer to respond to the points raised.
The Planning Officer noted reference to a number of policies, including CoD NP Policy D4(a) and CDP Policy 29 both of which required that proposals contributed positively to the character of the area and to have high quality of design. He reiterated that the application was for extension to a residential dwelling and did not proposed change of use to a C4 HMO. He noted that therefore in terms of the character and appearance of the area, the impact on the proposed extensions was just a physical, visual impact. He reiterated that there were similar two-storey extensions at 11, 3 and 5 Cedar Drive, and another three properties that had extended to the side to first floor level. He noted that therefore there would not be any negative impact from the proposals adding he felt there would be a small positive impact. The Planning Officer noted Parish Councillor G Holland had referred to the internal alterations to the property and layout not being of a high quality of design. He explained that all of the bedrooms met nationally described space standards and therefore would provide a high standard of amenity to existing and future residents and complied with policy.
In reference to CDP Policies 29(c) and (d) the Planning Officer noted that (c) sought to provide renewable and low carbon energy generation for main heating where connection to the gas network was not viable. He added that section of the policy referred to the erection of new dwellings and not those already connected to a heating system and therefore to ask the applicant to explore changes to the heating system was not reasonable or proportionate.
With reference to (d) the Planning Officer explained that the purpose was to encourage recycling and segregated storage, and while he felt the kitchen and dining areas were sufficiently large enough to accommodate segregated storage, he noted that if Members were suitably concerned then an appropriately worded condition could be produced, requiring details of such storage prior to occupation of the extension.
The Principal DM Engineer, David Battensby noted that in respect of parking provision, the proposals included an increase in parking provision to meet the required standards and therefore the Highway Section offered no objections to the application.
The Chair thanked the Officers and asked the Committee for their comments and questions.
Councillor J Elmer noted it was worth taking time to reflect upon the impact that the rapid expansion of Durham University was having on the cohesion of communities across Durham City and while it had originally focussed on the centre it was now increasing spreading to the outskirts of the city, taking in new estates as in the proposals. He added it was very much a race against time as Durham University had plans for even more rapid expansion and, he was afraid to say, were doing so pretty much regardless of the concerns of settled communities across the area. He added that regardless of how the application was decided, in was incumbent upon the Planning Department to expedite the extension of the Article 4 Direction as rapidly as it possibly could to give the Council the powers needed to object to this sort of application that would have a severe impact upon the cohesion of communities in the area.
In reference to CDP Policy 29 (a), Councillor J Elmer noted it referred to a “positive contribution to the community” and he could not see how the application provided such positive contribution and therefore it could be a CDP policy on which the Committee could hang an objection. He added that he would challenge the idea the application represented a positive visual contribution to the area, being a subjective point of view, adding that some people may feel that it had a negative contribution. He noted there needed to be care taken to make objective statements in cases like these, so as not to steer thinking in a particular direction, which he felt was inappropriate. Councillor J Elmer noted the large number of people that would be living in the property and suggested that being able to accommodate all recycling within the kitchen was not credible. In reference to the changes to the heating systems, he noted this would be mandated by Government within the next five years or so and there would be a move away from coal and gas use.
He suggested the Council should be on the front foot and look to use opportunities where there were large extensions to buildings to also require that the heating systems were modernised to low carbon solutions.
Councillor E Mavin noted he agreed with Councillor J Elmer and in reference to HMOs he noted the problems in his area were such that he called HMOs “how many others”. He added HMOs were saturating and watering down communities and did not believe they brought much benefit to an area. He noted the Article 4 Direction was due to come into force in January 2022 and he wished for it to be brought into effect as soon as possible.
The Solicitor – Planning and Development noted the Article 4 Direction was being brought into effect as quickly as possible. He explained that in terms of any “non-immediate Article 4 Direction” there was a 12 month period prior to coming into effect and it was subject to a confirmation regime where, once made, the Council would need to consider all representations and then consider whether or not to confirm it. He noted that in the case that it was confirmed, then the date would not change it would still be January 2022. He added that it was also important to bear in mind what the application before Committee was asking Members to consider. He reiterated the comments of the Planning Officer in that the application was not an HMO in terms of its use, that use already being able to be implemented without planning permission as it was permitted development. He noted that, as the application was not relating to change of use, issues relating to HMO use were not material in terms of the application being considered by Committee. The Solicitor – Planning and Development noted that the issue for consideration was purely the proposed extensions, the operational development the applicant had applied for. He took on board the comments of Councillor J Elmer in respect of CDP Policy 29 requiring a positive contribution in terms of design, clearly an issue that was subjective, however, there appeared to be several other almost identical extensions in the street and surrounding area, therefore that would be an issue for Members to bear in mind when looking specifically at the issues of character, appearance and design.
The Chair noted it was for the Committee to decide upon how to proceed having heard from those stating how HMOs were ruining the City and also having been advised that the area was not yet covered by an Article 4 Direction. He noted that Members had referred to relevant policies within their comments on the application and reiterated it was for Members to decide upon any proposals.
Councillor K Shaw moved that the application be approved as per the recommendation as set out within the report, Councillor D Brown seconded the proposal.
Upon a vote being taken it was:
That the application be APPROVED subject to the conditions as set out within the report.