The erection of 5 No. 2.5 storey dwellings with associated hard and soft landscaping, boundary treatments and car parking (Revised and Resubmitted).
The Principal Planning Officer 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 the erection of 5 No. 2.5 storey dwellings with associated hard and soft landscaping, boundary treatments and car parking (Revised and Resubmitted) and was recommended for refusal.
The Chair thanked the Principal Planning Officer and asked Local Member, Councillor R Crute to speak in relation to the application.
Councillor R Crute thanked the Chair and Committee and noted his support of the application as a Local Member. He emphasised that there had been no objections from local residents and assured Members that if there had been any significant level of objection, he would not have been able to support the application. He noted that two previously approved application had not been able to be taken forward and explained that the application met the tests within the NPPF including those relating to unallocated sites and housing type and mix. He noted there would be no significant harm and that statutory responses had shown no objections from the Drainage Section, Network Rail, the Highways Section or Northumbrian Water.
Councillor R Crute noted he had asked for the application to be referred to Committee as there had been some potential issues, however, the Highways Section noted no material concerns. He added that while some internal consultees had raised issues, they offered no objection subject to conditions. He noted the principle of development was well established. He acknowledged the issues raised in terms of Ecology and the regulated habitat, however, he referred Members to paragraph 58 of the report which noted the site was “generally outside the 0.4km buffer zone and separated from this by a mainline railway and dense tree line”. He reiterated the two previous applications that had been approved and added he would accept the concerns if the site had been a greenfield site, however it was in a built up area, now lying barren. He noted there was housing to one side of the site, with the busy rail line also nearby. He reiterated that the land was currently unused and attracted anti-social behaviour and fly-tipping, therefore the area and neighbours would benefit from the redevelopment of the site. He reminded Members that despite widespread notification as regards the application, there had been no objections from residents. He noted the report referred to the site as “highly sustainable” and added it was felt the application did not have adverse impact on residential amenity, highway safety or drainage.
Councillor R Crute concluded by reiterating that two previous applications had been approved for the site and asked Members to approve the application to help bring a derelict site back into use, in turn helping to mitigate anti-social behaviour in the area.
The Chair thanked Councillor R Crute and asked Mr Geoff Robson, the Applicant, to speak in relation to his application.
Mr G Robson explained Councillor R Crute had explained the situation exactly and explained if he felt the proposals were wrong, he would not have sought planning permission. He explained he felt the development would benefit the whole area and he just needed help from the Committee to be able to get started.
The Chair thanked Mr G Robson and asked Officer to comment on the points raised.
The Principal Planning Officer explained that when the previous two application referred to were approved, the relevant species protection and CDP had not been in force. He added that in the past, and within the report it was accepted that the site was sustainable. He noted that the issue was the point of principle in terms of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations (2017). He noted there were a number of requirements and duties in terms of protected species and DCC Developer Guidance relating to the CDP stated that C3 development within 400 metres of Habitat Regulations Assessments (HRA) areas would have an adverse impact that could not be mitigated and therefore the only recommendation Officers could put forward to Members was for refusal. The Lawyer (Planning and Highways) reiterated that the issue was the impact on the protected coastline and noted that following assessment of the impact it was shown to not be possible to adequately mitigate or address that impact. He noted that accordingly it was not legally possible to grant approval contrary to the habitat regulations.
Councillor K Shaw asked how the site would have access to the protected zone, with a railway line and fencing being in-between the two. The Principal Planning Officer acknowledged the railway line, however, the Ecologist had taken that into account and given there was still a level of access, that would amount to disturbance and therefore the recommendation was for refusal. Councillor K Shaw asked how potential residents of the site would access the protected zone, given the railway line. The Principal Planning Officer noted that while it may be a long route, the Ecologist felt it was possible. He added there had been the opportunity for the applicant to provided further information on how it could be mitigated, however, it had not swayed the opinion of the Council’s Ecologist.
Councillor C Hood asked what the Committee could do, given the information provided by the Officers on the constraints.
Councillor S Deinali left the meeting at 1.45pm
Councillor C Hood noted the area in question was two-thirds covered in concrete, there had been no objections from local residents and Members were now being told at Committee their hands were tied. He noted he had been elected to look after the residents of the County and he felt in this instance he was being told that he could not.
The Principal Planning Officer reiterated that there was a duty to comply with the habitat regulations and therefore recommend refusal for C3 use. He noted that other potential uses may be possible, however, C3 use was considered to result in an adverse impact. Councillor C Hood asked if those ‘what ifs’ had been shared with the applicant. The Principal Planning Officer noted the alterations in the shadow assessment the ecology consultants had undertaken.
Councillor C Kay noted the references to regulations and policies within the report, and while very dry, he understood those were the metrics Officers needed to use. He added that it was for Members to consider the human aspect and he noted the lack of objection from the people of Blackhall. He noted he would welcome such development and asked whether there was any form of condition that would make it possible to move forward with development. The Lawyer (Planning and Highways) noted that unfortunately the legislation was clear. Councillor C Kay asked as regards the consequences should the Committee approve the application. The Lawyer (Planning and Highways) noted the decision would be unlawful and subject to potential challenge by Judicial Review. The Principal Planning Officer noted that Natural England had advised that insufficient information had been provided, and that potentially, if that additional information were to be submitted his would require further consideration.
Councillor J Elmer noted the statement from Natural England, in terms of disturbance of the protected species by dogs, adding he felt it was unlikely given the railway in-between, however he suggested it may be decreased further by appropriate boundary treatment. He suggested that it may be sensible to defer the application subject to further information in that regard. Councillor C Marshall noted it may be useful to have an indication from the applicant whether deferral of the application would be acceptable. The Chair noted the applicant could respond in relation to the suggested deferral. Mr G Robson noted his Architect had approached Natural England and they had stated the ‘ball was in DCC’s court’.
He explained that the site was fenced off physically with 120 houses and an access road, it was effectively land-locked.
He noted he had purchased the land when at a high value, previous proposals had been approved, unfortunately, there had been an eight month delay in the previous planning approval. He added that if the plans had been approved within the eight week timescales, he would have been able to build the properties. He asked, if approval could not be given today, what the point had been. The Chair noted that if Mr G Robson wished the application to be determined today, Officers had advised Members it would not be possible to approve, however, if Members were to defer the decision, then Mr G Robson could look to provide additional information. Mr G Robson explained would rather the application be determined as he had invested considerably into the proposals and failed to see how to convince Natural England. He added that Natural England had installed pathways and steps to allow access through the ‘protected habitats’.
Councillor C Marshall understood the concerns and frustrations of the applicant, however, he felt that it would be appropriate to defer the application to allow for further information to come forward to see if any mitigation could be provided and he hoped that the applicant would reflect on why the Committee were suggesting deferment of the application to allow him the opportunity to provide additional information.
Councillor D Brown left the meeting at 1.58pm
Councillor C Marshall proposed that the application be deferred, he was seconded by Councillor I McLean.
Upon a vote being taken it was:
That the application be DEFERRED.
Councillor C Kay left the meeting at 2.01pm