21no. 2 bed and 2no. 3 bed wheelchair adaptable dormer bungalows with parking and associated landscaping
The Committee considered a report of the Senior Planning Officer which provided details of an application for 21no. 2 bed and 2no. 3 bed wheelchair adaptable dormer bungalows with parking and associated landscaping at Land North of Tintern Road, St Helen Auckland (for copy see file of minutes).
The Senior Planning Officer provided a detailed presentation of the report and included site location plans, aerial photographs and photographs of the site.
Mr P Glover spoke on behalf of the Applicant and advised that Believe Housing were targeting the scheme as potentially fully electric development which could utilise air and ground source heat pumps with improved thermal insulation and air tightness however the proposal was subject to cost viability so they could not commit until a tender process had been followed on approval.
He advised that Believe Housing throughout their development strategy were planning for on the needs of customers and communities now and in future and addressing the growing need for affordable homes whilst also meeting the needs of residents of all ages across County Durham, whilst also considering climate change.
He advised that there were 10000 people on the waiting list and a growing need to provide bungalows due to the aging population.
Councillor Adam had viewed the site and it was clear that there had been houses there previously, however it was being used as amenity space and he asked whether there had been any consideration to retaining some space for amenity.
Mr Glover advised that the site had been cleared in 2000 and grassed over, it was devoid of ecological features and there was no evidence it was used much apart from dog walking. There was a large area north of the site which was green amenity space within the locality.
Councillor Sterling referred to the sustainability of the site and to the plan for electricity heat pumps, but there was a cost implication and she reiterated the need for sustainable energy, particularly for pensioners.
Mr Glover confirmed that Believe Housings Policy was to achieve zero carbonby 2025 but there was a significant cost in changing from gas boilers to heat pumps. Air source heat pump systems ran at a lower temperature and therefore all heat had to be retained, which required improvements to air tightness and the provision of quality windows and doors, all of which had additional costs to project. In addition, construction industry prices were expensive so although it was an aspiration to achieve a fully electric scheme, the Applicant could not commit to it before planning consent was achieved and a full tender process undertaken to consider whether funds were available.
Mr Glover advised that full electricity could place a higher impact on residents with electric being more expensive than gas at the time of the hearing so another consideration was whether residents would be affected by higher energy prices. The Applicant could also look to introducing solar energy, however this had increased capital costs and until tenders were received a commitment could not be made.
Councillor Atkinson considered this was a good proposal and summed up the positive aspects of the application which included bungalows, disabled access, parking, no objections, acceptance by officers and proposed the recommendation as outlined in the report, seconded by Councillor Stead.
Councillor Boyes advised that he was former Director of Believe Housing and reminded the Committee they had taken over from County Durham Homes and were a major provider with ambitious and well worked schemes. He acknowledged that more could be done with regards to sustainability but there were often finance issues. There was the potential need to review how the Council addressed renewable energy however at this moment they could only accept the scheme as was.
That the application be APPROVED subject to the conditions outlined in the report and the the completion of a Section 106 Obligation to secure the following:
· Provision of 15% affordable housing on site in perpetuity, equating to 3no. units;
· Financial contribution totalling £40,315.50 towards offsite open space and recreational provision, payable in a single instalment prior to the occupation of the first dwelling;
· Financial contribution totalling £10,143.00 towards improved healthcare provision in the local area, payable in a single instalment prior to the occupation of the first dwelling.