Restore land to agricultural by removal of old house foundation, planting, hard standing and temporary demountable pens.
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 to restore land to agricultural by removal of old house foundation, planting, hard standing and temporary demountable pens,and was recommended for approval, subject to conditions.
The Planning Officer noted the proposals included temporary demountable pens, however, as they would temporary features that would regularly be removed they were not considered to amount to development. He noted that the report, at Condition 6 contained a typographical error with a start time for works of no earlier than 8000, which should have read 0800.
Members were referred to site plans and asked to note the site was within the countryside, outside of the settlement boundary, with the village of Kelloe to the north. It was explained to the north, south and east there were open fields, with the Applicant’s existing agricultural business to the west, which had been approved as part of a scheme submitted in 2014.
The Planning Officer explained that a similar application for the site was refused earlier in the year, however, that application had also proposed the addition of an agricultural building and Officers had been concerned that there was no justification for the new building on the site.
With reference to aerial photographs, the Planning Officer explained the site sloped up quite significantly from the north to the south of the site, and while the photographs showed the site to be covered in vegetation, the Applicant had removed all vegetation and modified site levels across the site to create three plateaus, although not to an engineering level that amounted to development. Members were also asked to note Raisby Quarry to the edge of the aerial photographs.
The Planning Officer referred to photographs of the site, showing the access, adjacent existing agricultural business and proximity to existing housing, the nearest properties being 1 and 2 Bradyll Street, the latter approximately 50 metres away. Members noted other photographs taken from the site, including looking towards the Applicant’s existing agricultural enterprise and downhill and north towards Kelloe.
The Planning Officer noted updates to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), and updated Members as regards the references to paragraphs within the NPPF, namely:
· Paragraphs 42 and 46 of the report, NPPF Paragraph 127 changed to 130.
· Paragraph 50 of the report, NPPF Paragraph 180 changed to 185.
· Paragraphs 54 of the report, NPPF Paragraph 108 changed to 110.
· Paragraph 59 of the report, NPPF Paragraph 174 changed to 179.
· Paragraph 60 of the report, NPPF Paragraph 178 changed to 183.
· Paragraphs 66 of the report, NPPF Paragraph 175 changed to 180.
Members were asked to note a site plan showing the existing agricultural business, application site and cross-section showing the slope of the site. The Planning Officer noted that initially it had been proposed that the entire middle plateau of the site would be covered by hardstanding, however, Officers had sought an amendment to reduce the amount. It was explained there were two public rights of way across the site, namely Footpath 13 and Footpath 14. It was noted a proposed cross-section showed that the site would be excavated to a depth of 750mm and topsoil would be imported to the same depth.
In respect of consultation, the Planning Officer noted that the Coal Authority had confirmed that the application site fell within the defined
Development High Risk Area and their records indicated that fissures, associated with past coal mining activity, were present on the site and they posed a potential risk to surface stability and users of the site. It was noted the Coal Authority requested pre-commencement conditions requiring a scheme of intrusive site investigations and remedial work as a consequence.
The Planning Officer noted the Highway Section and Environmental Health offered no objections to the application, with the Contaminated Land Section recommending a suitably worded informative to be included as regards unforeseen contamination. He explained Officers from the Landscape Section had noted the site was in a prominent elevated position and added that, if the principle of proposals were deemed acceptable, a suitable landscaping scheme should be secured by condition in order to assimilate the hardstanding into the surroundings.
Members were asked to note that the Public Rights of Way Team had offered no objections as the amended site plans showed the positions of the two public rights of way and they would be protected during the works by harris fencing and stiles would be installed at both ends to allow continued access along Footpath 13. The Planning Officer noted the application had been advertised by way of a site notice, with no objections having been received. He added the application had been reported to Committee by request of Councillor M McKeon, a Local Member, due to concerns as regards highway safety and residential amenity.
The Planning Officer noted that CDP Policy 10a permitted development within the countryside provided it was necessary to support an existing agricultural enterprise, the Applicant having an existing agricultural enterprise directly to the west of the application site. He added that the Applicant had explained as regards the lack of progress with the existing business, with grass seed not having taken up as anticipated due to poor weather, and therefore was not yet suitable for grazing for animals. He reiterated that Officers had sought amendments to reduce the size of the proposed hardstanding from 350 square metres to 160 square metres, to greater reflect the storage needs of the Applicant. Members were asked to note that, taking those matters into account, the application was felt to be broadly in accordance with Policy 10 of the CDP. The Planning Officer noted that as the proposals were considered acceptable in principle, a condition was proposed to secure details of a landscaping scheme and that with such a condition it was not felt the proposals would have an adverse impact on the character and appearance of the landscape.
In terms of residential amenity, the Planning Officer noted that the earthworks would likely generate additional traffic movement and it was explained that those movements would be for a limited duration and there were two conditions, one to restrict the hours of work, and a second to secure details of a Construction Management Plan (CMP) that would reduce any potential disruption to acceptable levels that would not warrant refusal of the application. It was reiterated that the Highways Section had offered no objections and the Public Rights of Way Team offered no objections subject to the conditions within the report. It was noted that the Ecology Team had expressed disappointment that the site had been cleared of vegetation, however, they offered no objection as the proposed use for grazing and creation of a wildflower meadow constituted a net biodiversity gain. The Planning Officer concluded by reiterating the comments from the Coal Authority in terms of conditions, noting a proposed condition referring to surface water drainage and asked Members to note the recommendation was for approval, subject to the conditions as set out within the report.
The Chair thanked the Planning Officer and asked Local Member, Councillor M McKeon to speak in relation to the application.
Councillor M McKeon thanked the Chair and Committee and noted she was disappointed with the Planning Officer’s presentation, while well given, as it had not mentioned the enforcement history on the site, which was quite substantial. She noted that a few years ago a Stop Notice had been put on the site in respect of the previous application as while it had been allocated for agricultural use it had been used for tipping. She noted the activity had been undertaken under the guise of agricultural use, however, thousands of tonnes of soils had been imported and aggregates removed to the land the Applicant was now applying for planning permission for. She explained those activities had caused considerable disruption to the villages of Kelloe and Coxhoe, with dozens of dumper truck movements per day for a period of months. She added that had destroyed the road surface and drainage to the remaining properties in Old Kelloe and made the properties hellish to live in. She noted families had moved out of the village, some of those families having lived in the village since before the original Kelloe had become Old Kelloe and explained that gave an impression of the atmosphere the site had created.
Councillor M McKeon noted the extant permissions had been abused time and time again, and other businesses operating from the site included a waste transfer station immediately behind two of the properties. She added that with waste being dumped, stockpiled and burnt, it had caused a nuisance for the villages. She explained another business selling paving had been operating from the site and that people had also been living in caravans on the site without planning permission.
Councillor Mc Keon explained that the existing applications had been a blight on the villages of Kelloe and Old Kelloe and had been the cause of constant noise, nuisance and detritus. She added it would be totally unfair and unreasonable to have an impact upon the highways and residential amenity for existing residents if the application before Committee were granted. She noted that, in relation to the highways access, she had some real concerns as regards how the conclusion had been made. She reiterated that the last time the Applicant used the site there had been dozens, if not hundreds, of trips of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) going through Kelloe and Coxhoe and this had caused mayhem for those living there.
Councillor M McKeon noted she wished it had been possible to have a site visit so that she could have shown Members the roads in the area. She explained that Kelloe was similar to many of the villages between the coast and Durham City, in that it was well populated, however, difficult to get to being remote, a product of the mining heritage of the area. She noted the village was hard to get to from the east or the south, where the application site was, and it was causing her concern. Councillor M McKeon added that the roads on that side of the village were old country roads, many effectively single-track, and the approach to the site was on the bus route for the 57, 57a and 58 services. She noted that, as many Members of the Committee would know, she was one of the most vocal bus users in the County and she could tell Members that those routes were one of the most hair-raising experiences, with winding country roads and the relatively high levels of traffic. She added the roads themselves were bumpy, not in a great condition and explained that if more HGVs were placed on those roads, to the volume that she assured Members there would be, it would be completely inappropriate and irresponsible.
She explained it was the main route between Kelloe and Cassop, Quarrington Hill, Trimdon, Thornley, Peterlee, Wingate and Wheatley Hill. She added a number of those villages shared a GP Group with Kelloe, with the surgery at Kelloe only operating half of the time, so many residents from Kelloe needed to attend their appointments at those other villages. She added that a number of children from Kelloe attended schools in the other villages and that therefore the volume of traffic was greater than one might expect on a typical country road. She suggested not to add any further HGVs on to those roads. She noted that the route she had described was one of the routes, with there being two other potential routes. She explained one, from the east, through Quarrington Hill, which would pass another hamlet, Church Kelloe, a thin, single-track, unadopted road which had dangerous turns that frequently saw accidents.
She added that she, together with former Councillor S Dunn had worked to secure improvements and safety features to that road, it was nowhere near good enough or safe enough for HGVs from out of the area to use, the improvements being to reduce the risk of accidents for those that lived in the area and knew the roads well. Councillor M McKeon noted that both of those routes would still take the bend past The Davy Lamp public house, which was right next to the entrance to the school. She noted, like with many schools, there was a parking problem outside of the school and HGVs coming through the village at those times would cause chaos and mayhem.
She noted the third route would take HGVs through the whole of the Front Street in the village, which had been used previously, and that would cause further traffic chaos, air pollution and resentment. She explained that the Committee would be imposing on Kelloe the type of activity that would earn another community a relief road, adding she felt the application would turn the Front Street into a motorway.
Councillor M McKeon noted there was another planning application in Kelloe for a café, and residents of the village were very excited for it, there not being many service businesses in the village. She added that there was no community centre, and while there was the church, club and school, the was not a community hub and she hoped that the café could become such a community hub, in the way Claypath Deli had become for their local residents in Durham City. She noted that the café would not only be impacted upon from the application in terms of the view, which was currently spectacular, but also in terms of the HGVs going past all the time.
She explained that every Councillor would have a site like the application site in their area, with a number of applications being submitted, causing a lot of enforcement concerns, with many e-mails from residents being received. Councillor M McKeon concluded by noting that she hoped the Committee would not impose upon the people of Kelloe something they would not wish for their own residents and reject the application.
The Chair thanked Councillor M McKeon and asked Officers to respond to the points raised.
The Planning Officer noted that the Local Member was quite correct, there had been a number of enforcement complaints on the site that the Enforcement Team had investigated previously. He noted the latest related to an existing agricultural building where it had been claimed that a paving manufacturing business was operating, with investigations ongoing in that regard. He noted that, in respect of the current application being considered, it would not be refused on the assumption that the Applicant would not comply with the conditions, the Authority would work on the basis that there were the controls to secure details of the construction working times.
He noted the appropriate route would be to investigate, and take enforcement action as appropriate, if the Applicant was to not comply with conditions.
The Principal DM Engineer, David Battensby explained that when looking at road safety, Officers carried out a risk assessment with all such applications and was the basis on which Highways put forward their comments in relation to how an objection could be sustained if an application was taken to appeal. In terms of the highways network, the Principal DM Engineer noted the roads were capable of taking HGVs. He noted that the roads through Kelloe were rural roads, however, he noted they were lightly trafficked currently and had relatively low levels of HGV usage. He added therefore an increase in HGV usage would seem quite high in proportion to what was there at present, however, it would still be low in terms of what was considered the proportion of HGVs to normal traffic. The Principal DM Engineer noted that next to Bradyll Street there was an existing sewage works which generated HGV traffic and added that in order to sustain an objection to the application, Officers would have to be confident that there would be a significant road safety issue generated from the HGV traffic from the application site. He explained Officers did not feel there would be a significant road safety issue and there were conditions required in terms of the movement of vehicles, limiting them to certain periods during the day, and the CMP would also be utilised in order to control which directions those vehicles would be using the highway network. He explained that through that mechanism, HGVs would be directed through the most appropriate routes, minimising the risk in terms of road safety.
The Chair thanked the Officers and asked the Committee for their comments and questions.
Councillor E Mavin noted that while he did have sympathy with the Local Member, he did not feel there were any grounds to refuse the application and therefore he would move approval. He was seconded by Councillor L Holmes.
Upon a vote being taken it was:
That the application be APPROVED subject to the conditions as set out within the report, and the amendment to the typographical error relating to start time of no earlier than 0800 at Condition 6.