Agenda item

DM/20/03802/FPA - Land to South West of Osborne Court, Newfield

4 Bedroom brick built house with associated amenities.


The Senior Planning Officer, Louisa Ollivere, 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 4 Bedroom brick built house with associated amenities and was recommended for approval, subject to conditions.


The Chair thanked the Officer and asked Parish Councillor Stephen Hann, representing Pelton Parish Council, speaking in objection to the application to address the Committee.



Parish Councillor S Hann noted he had been resident in Newfield since 1981 and therefore had 40 years of experience of the rainfall and flooding issues in the area.  He noted the flood risk at the application site was very high and was an issue raised repeatedly by local residents and allotment holders who had objected to the proposals.  He noted the Clerk to the Parish Council had submitted an eight point letter to the Senior Planning Officer and he would briefly mention the points raised.  He noted that in reference to the NPPF and flood-risk, mitigation, and food production, he would suggest that there was an obvious impact and therefore it was the extent to which the impact was deemed acceptable.  He added that the field in question had always been outside of the boundary of village expansion, serving as an example of retaining open spaces for rainfall absorption. 


Parish Councillor S Hann noted Newfield had seen loss of open space land with developments of over 280 houses by Persimmon Homes with a Miller Homes development of 200 houses at Pelton.  He noted that ultimately all of the water shed would run downhill towards Chester-le-Street, and he noted the impact that had been felt over the last 5-10 years.  He noted Northumbrian Water had increased the capacity of drains at Chester-le-Street.  He added that the further loss of rainfall absorption could further impact.  Parish Councillor S Hann noted the proposals did not amount to a small build and was close to adjacent properties and impact upon their ‘right to light’.


Parish Councillor S Hann noted that, due to the unique characteristics of the site, Northumbrian Water attended the site to vacuum pump the sewage outlets monthly, and perhaps more frequently.  He added the plot land level fell away from the west before climbing slightly to the east and noted there had been instances in the past where the sewage outlet had been unable to cope, citing examples when a former public house at the top of the bank had been in use.


Parish Councillor S Hann noted issues relating to access and proximity to an existing allotment fence, with allotment land managed by the Parish Council, owned by the County Council.  He noted the need to maintain access for maintenance, with some doubt from current plans as to whether there was sufficient space to do so.  He noted previous applications for development of the site over 15-20 years ago had been rejected for various reasons. 


Parish Councillor S Hann noted there had been assurances that there would be no loss of trees on the site, however, some trees had already been cut down.  He added that the loss of a sycamore tree to gains access would also be significant.  He noted that referred back to the NPPF and wildlife, with tree protection being part of the NPPF.


Parish Councillor S Hann noted his understanding of the County Durham Plan (CDP) was it included the establishment of housing provision for the next six years or more and added, as he had previously referenced, the area had seen a significant number of new build properties.  He concluded by noting a county with and industrial past, such as Durham, needed to retain its green spaces and look to recover brownfield sites, and that the proposals were an unnecessary build in an inappropriate for all the reasons stated.


The Chair thanked Parish Councillor Stephen Hann, and asked County Councillor D Wood, Local Member, to address the Committee.


Councillor D Wood noted he was one of the County Councillors for Pelton and also Chair of Pelton Parish Council.  He added the application had been called-in to Committee by the Parish Council and he noted he would not go over all the points made by Parish Councillor S Hann.  Councillor D Wood noted he would refer to matters that, to his understanding of the NPPF and CDP, would carry significant weight.  He noted the Officer’s report and Parish Councillor S Hann both mentioned a previous application for stables at the site which had been refused.  He explained that the reasons and details were not on the planning portal, so it was clearly some time ago, however the Authority at the time had decided that development was not suitable, and he asked, in the context of the CDP, what had changed since that time.  Councillor D Wood noted, when looking at housing supply, NPPF Part 5 required the sufficient delivery of new homes, with the CDP establishing a six years’ supply across the county.  He referred to the significant housing developments in the area, including at Roseberry Park with hundreds of houses and ongoing development at Pelton Lane Ends, with over 190 additional properties.  He added that when considering further planning approvals where one might need consider whether the name ‘Newfield’ was appropriate.


Councillor D Wood noted that in terms of Part 15 of the NPPF, as referenced at paragraph 18 of the Officer’s report, outlined the need to conserve and enhance the natural environment, adding that at least two trees had already been removed from the site.  He noted Members were being recommended to approve with Condition 4 noting that no trees would be felled until a detailed landscaping scheme had been submitted and approved.


Councillor D Wood noted CDP Policy 6, the development of unallocated land, was referred to twice within the Committee report, once on page 38 and again on page 44.  He noted there was significant difference between the two references to Policy 6, with the reference on page 44 being vague as regards requirements, stating development within the countryside will be permitted subject to certain criteria being met, as also referred to within the Officer’s presentation. 

Councillor D Wood referred Members to the more detailed list of criteria as set at paragraph 24 on page 38 of the report, with the last two being ‘development on sites not allocated in the Plan or Neighbourhood Plan, but which are either within the built-up area or outside the built up area but well related to a settlement will be permitted provided it: …makes use of previously developed land and reflects priorities for urban regeneration’.  He noted that while the conclusion of the Officer’s report notes the CDP provided a greater degree of flexibility, in his mind the early section of the report, at page 38, was quite clear in use of the word ‘and’ throughout the list, showing all items on the list must apply for development to be permitted.  Councillor D Wood noted that the site had not been previously developed, with there only being record of one previously refused planning application.  In light of that, Councillor D Wood asked that Members consider very carefully the wording of paragraph 24 which he believed deserved significant weight in the decision making for the application.


The Chair thanked Councillor D Wood and asked Mr Michael Brown, Secretary representing the Newfield/South View Allotments Association, speaking in objection to the application, to address the Committee.


Mr M Brown thanked the Chair and noted that the Allotment Association had submitted their views to the Planning Department, however they did not appear to have formed part of the Officer’s presentation.  He noted he would cover four main areas: drainage; water supply; security and fence maintenance.  He explained the allotments comprised of 32 plots, with six adjacent the application site.  In terms of drainage, Mr M Brown noted there had been previous flooding on the allotment site, causing problems and destruction of crops.  He added that there had been surface water flooding as well as from a manhole cover within Plot 2 and noted regular attendance by a flushing wagon on the outskirts of the allotments flushing out the drains on the main road.  He noted the allotment holders had cooperated with the proposed developer’s contractors who needed access to the manhole cover, and they had noted from a camera inserted into the drain that there were some kinks within the drain that may have been causing the blockages and therefore was an issue that needed to be looked into further.


Mr M Brown noted that the water supply for the allotments cut across the proposed development site and there was great concern that should the water supply be cut during development and asked what guarantees there were in terms of reinstating the supply, perhaps with a condition to state supply would be reinstated within 24 hours as there was livestock on site and crops, and while allotment holders collected rainwater it would not be enough in dry spells. 



He added that in reference to security there was a fencing corridor adjacent to six of the allotments and concerns had been raised as regards people gaining access to allotments from that corridor, with break-ins having occurred.  He concluded by noting that the fence referred to by Parish Councillor S Hann was maintained by the Parish Council and access would be required to carry out maintenance and ensure security.


The Chair thanked Mr M Brown and asked Mr Steven Clements, agent for the applicant speaking in support of the application, to address the Committee.


Mr S Clements thanked the Chair and noted that he represented The Green Architect who were working on behalf of their clients to design their ‘forever home’, in which to raise their family in their hometown, in a dwelling suited to their needs.  He explained that the proposed dwelling was a reasonably sized brick-built house with four bedrooms and living spaces tailored to the family’s needs.  He added that when assessed in the context of the site as a whole, the dwelling sat comfortably within the large plot.  He noted the site left in others owners’ hands could see multiple homes designed upon it.  Mr S Clements noted the design process entailed three key principles: design, with the client having a specific footprint in mind; easement on the drainage that runs across the rear yard, with the design such to not infringe upon this, the nearest point being 300mm; and the impact of the development on neighbours.  In reference to the last point, Mr S Clements explained that the initial design had the dwelling roadside of the plot, adjacent to the new development on William Street, however, separation distances could not be met, and the 45 degree light splay was encroached.  He added that the current design was fine-tuned to meet each of those criteria.


In reference to drainage, Mr S Clements noted the design was such to compliment the topography of the land with the building being sunken into the plot, and with access to the roadside at a similar gradient to the existing bank, avoiding run off to neighbouring plots.  He added that a CCTV survey of the sewer line suggested that all connections to the plot were functioning correctly and there were no private connections that added additional load to the network.  He noted any minor issues could be addressed within the detailed design and construction.  Mr S Clements noted he had witnessed torrential rain at the site first-hand, and did not note ponding of water, water dispersing over a two to three hour period.


In respect of ownership and ecology, Mr S Clements explained that the site was owned by his client and no third party had any right to access the site in any manner.  He added that may have been overlooked over time, due to the nature of how the site had sat, however, that should not deem it accessible by anyone other than his client. 

He noted that the site was underdeveloped in terms of biodiversity and hedgerows and planting would help to enhance the environment in comparison to what current existed, as well as the replacement of tree that had been lost through development.  He added that the design had been in consultation with the Planning Officer to bring the scheme in line with Council expectations and changes had been made in respect of fenestration and a reduction in the garage size to ensure subservience to the main dwelling.  He reiterated that the client had careful designed the dwelling to be their ‘forever home’ and had the same outlook and would have the same objections neighbours would have in relation to any future development.  Mr S Clements noted the side passage was to allow access and maintenance to the central paddock, as per an existing agreement with a resident, meaning that access was essential.  He added that the passage also allowed for the maintenance of the allotment fencing.  He noted the scheme would look to utilise as many sustainable building methods as feasibly possible, including solar panels and water harvesting in order to be self-sustained.  Mr S Clements concluded by noting that he hoped the planning process so far had shown a desire to work with the Council to deliver a scheme that met the clients’ needs as well as those of the Council.


The Chair thanked Mr Steven Clements and asked the Senior Planning Officer to respond to the points raised by the speakers.


The Senior Planning Officer noted that in respect of points raised by Councillor D Wood in terms of CDP Policy 6, there were ten criteria to ideally comply with, however, they would not be set out in great detail within a report if not relevant to a scheme, for example “…where possible a previously developed brownfield land site…” as the site was greenfield, however that did not mean the site was not suitable for development.  She added that the more critical issue was whether it was a sustainable location and noted that in terms of “…where appropriate reflects priorities for urban regeneration…” as the site was a village location it was not felt that was relevant in relation to the proposed development.  She explained that the Authority was aware of the removal of a tree a few months ago and members from the Enforcement Team had attended the site.  The Senior Planning Officer noted it had only been brought to her attention today that the sycamore tree had been removed.  She noted that the Council’s Tree Officer had assessed the trees on site, and that particular one had not warranted a Tree Preservation Order and the conditions attached were that the tree would be suitably replaced.  In respect of other issues that were raised, the Senior Planning Officer noted that in terms of the sewer blockage issues that was an issue for Northumbrian Water and they had not raised any concerns when consulted upon the application.




Councillor D Wood asked if Officers could reflect upon the wording used within the sections of the report he had referred to as the initial wording within the report had not made it clear why those two criteria were not referenced later in the report.  He added he felt it would be useful for future applications that, where criteria were discounted, that they were flagged within the report itself.  The Principal Planning Officer, Graham Blakey explained that the report contained a summary of CDP policies, which were set out in great detail within the CDP itself.  He noted Members may wish to note words such as “…where relevant…”, however, he explained he took on board the comments as regards those criteria that were being discounted for future reference.


The Senior Planning Officer noted that in terms of flooding it was a complex issue due to the unusual nature of the site and that there were overland flow routes at the rear of the site that could not be impeded.  She added that those had been designed to be within the garden and noted there would be no land level changes or building in that area.  She noted the current land flowed down towards the allotments and Officers would not wish to see that increased.  She added that applicant had submitted details of land level changes, which were not significant, and there was a suitable SuDS measure incorporated into the development and flood mitigation measures could also be conditioned in relation to the building itself.


The Chair thanked the Officers and asked the Committee for their comments and questions.


Councillor A Watson asked as regards the water supply issue raised and asked the applicant’s agent if there was any issue in terms of adding a condition to repair any loss of water supply within 24 hours.  He noted that if that could be incorporated, as the proposals were in accord with the CDP, he would move that the application be approved.


Councillor C Marshall noted issues that had been raised included that the site was a greenfield site with a positive impact on the local area in terms of the environment and biodiversity.  He noted the points raised by Parish Councillor S Hann and Local Member, Councillor D Wood in terms of the amount of development in their area.  He added he was not yet fully convinced the economic benefits of the development outweighed the harm to the environment in the local area.


The Solicitor – Planning and Development noted, in reference to the suggestion by Councillor A Watson, that she was concerned as regards the proposed condition. 



She noted, as Members would be aware, it was only possible to condition in certain circumstances, one of which was that a condition could only be imposed if it was felt necessary to make the development acceptable and that the application would be refused unless that condition was imposed. 

She noted that while it was possible to ask the applicant as regards the issue, she advised it she would not be comfortable in advising Members that as being appropriate.


Councillor S Wilson asked as why the greenfield element of Policy 6 was not deemed relevant without a robust reason, with concern that the CDP was being circumvented.  The Principal Planning Officer noted the point relating to Policy 6 and development outside the area of allocation, Policy 6 being in place to ‘mop up’ those application made outside of allocations.  He noted that it needed to balance the impacts within each location and ultimately there would be sites that were not brownfield and that was the purpose of those caveats within the Policy, i.e., ‘where relevant’ and ‘where appropriate’.  He added that many of the sites could be sustainably located and close to services, with the NPPF giving the direction that sites which may be greenfield, but were sustainably located, should be sequential preferable to brownfield sites that were further away from settlements and in the open countryside.  The Principal Planning Officer explained that in this instance Planners felt that the benefits of the scheme outweighed the loss of the green space.  He noted building into the green space brought a transformative impact, however, that would be mitigated by the design and landscaping that had been achieved.


Councillor A Watson asked why a condition could not be included as regards the water supply if the applicant was acceptable.  The Solicitor – Planning and Development noted that the courts had made it very clear that conditions must meet certain tests and it was not relevant if the applicant agreed, if the condition was unlawful in that it did not meet those tests then it was not something that should be imposed.  She reiterated that was her advice, however, Members were within their right to impose conditions as they saw fit.


Councillor J Blakey asked what guarantees there were in terms of Northumbrian Water looking to solve any flooding issues.  The Senior Planning Officer noted that Northumbrian Water had raised no concerns as regards flooding and reiterated a SuDS would be incorporated into the site to ensure run off to the allotment site was not significantly different to the current situation.  She added that the overland flow route to the rear of the site would not be impeded and noted that any issues in terms of sewer flooding was for Northumbrian Water to rectify.  In terms of the water supply issue, the applicant had undertaken a drainage survey and were aware of all the drains and connections on the site. 

The Principal Planning Officer noted the statutory requirements on Northumbrian Water and added they had been given the opportunity to comment on possible solutions when responding to consultation on the application.  He added that they offered no objections to the application, noting they may have proposals in place or the ability to control issue separately.  In respect of a condition relating to water supply, he noted there were six tests a condition must pass, one of which was enforceability.  The Principal Planning Officer highlighted that should a condition state a water supply must be reinstated within 24 hours, he would ask Members to consider what ability the Planning Department would have in being able to enforce that condition adding that, should the condition be deemed fallible, the condition could be challenged.  He noted the advice that Members had been given in terms of the tests for conditions.


Councillor C Marshall noted that whatever people’s view were in terms of the flood risk, the removal of plants and wildlife would only exacerbate the issue and, given the climate emergency, the Committee needed to be careful to make sure any development was sympathetic to the environmental concerns and while the design of the property was sympathetic to the environment it was in, the impacts on the local environment, biodiversity and the potential to exacerbate problems for allotment holders outweighed the potential benefits.


Councillor C Marshall moved that the application be refused, he was seconded by Councillor S Wilson.


Upon a vote being taken the motion was LOST.


Councillor A Watson reiterated he proposed approval of the application, though he would not look for a condition in relation to the water supply, however, he would wish for it to be noted that the applicant had been willing to repair any loss of connection.  The Principal Planning Officer noted that an informative could be included that, while not legally binding, referred to maintaining the water supply.  He added another issue that had come to light was that Conditions 8 and 9, relating to contaminated land, were no longer required and therefore if Members were minded to approve the application they would be deleted.  Councillor A Watson noted he was happy to amend his motion on the basis outlined by the Principal Planning Officer.


Councillor D Freeman noted he would second the motion for approval, adding it was a finely balanced application, it was a greenfield site, however it was a single property and was sustainable application.  He noted that landscaping could improve as a result of the application, although the removal of the trees prior to permission was not a good start and he hoped the applicant would ensure the site was in a better condition environmentally after development was completed.


Councillor A Watson moved the Officer recommendation for approval, he was seconded by Councillor D Freeman.


Upon a vote being taken it was:




That the application be APPROVED subject to the conditions as set out within the report, with the removal of conditions 8 and 9, and the addition of an informative relating to the water supply.


Supporting documents: