Change of use from dwelling to mixed use as dwelling/café (use class sui generis).
The Senior Planning Officer, Lisa Morina (LM) 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 change of use from dwelling to mixed use as dwelling/café (use class sui generis) and was recommended for approval, subject to the conditions as set out in the report. The Senior Planning Officer (LM) explained that since the publication of the report six additional representations had been received, a total of 10 objections including from the Bowburn and Parkhill Community Partnership. It was explained that the main issues raised included: lack of parking, potential road widening; visitors blocking parking for residents; and the impact of commuters parking at Bowburn and ‘carsharing’ into the city.
The Chair thanked the Senior Planning Officer (LM) and asked Councillor Jan Blakey, Local Member, to speak in relation to the application.
Councillor J Blakey thanked the Chair and Committee and noted a number of residents had approached her, and Councillor G Hutchinson, as regards issues of highway safety and complaints relating to parking. She added that issues referred to the A177, the nearby junction and issues on Oxford Terrace. She noted that Co-op store would now allow the proposed businesses customers to use their car park. Councillor J Blakey noted she was not against those wishing to operate a business, however, the frontage of the shops had been designed in the 1950s and when there had previously been a café at the site, there had been a concrete area to the side for parking. She suggested it Members were to grant permission that some parking to the side were provided, asking if the applicants were willing to take some of the existing garden to give this provision. She noted the photographs provided had shown the A177 uncharacteristically lacking in traffic and reminded the Committee it was one of the arterial routes into the city and that there was always traffic on this stretch of road.
Councillor J Blakey noted that it was the attitude of some drivers to simply park wherever they liked, for example over the footpath, and that could cause an issue in terms of highway safety. She noted that the issues were a challenge the Council needed to address in respect of highways in the area.
The Chair thanked Councillor J Blakey and asked Malcolm Robertson to speak in support of his application.
M Robertson noted that the property was a terraced building with a shop at the end. He noted he wished to bring it back into use and it had only required the removal of boards internally, the original connecting door, including key, being in situ. He added removal of exterior boards had revealed previous signage and it was his desire to bring back a small local café only opening until 4.00pm Tuesday to Saturday, with those time meaning there would be no realistic impact upon parking issues, with traffic being primarily in the morning and evening associated with commuters or the Co-op store which had its own parking. He noted the nearby bus stop and cycle route and explained that the type of café offering sustainable local produce, such as County Durham roasted coffee, foraged foods, local jams and use of local flour and would attract the type of customers that were conscious of such sustainability. He noted other green attributes of the proposed business including use of sustainable packaging and composting.
The Chair thanked M Robertson and asked the Principal DM Engineer to comment on the issues raised.
The Principal DM Engineer noted that when the application had been considered by colleagues, the opening hours had been a material consideration as they were outside of peak times. The opening hours would be during the times that residents would likely be at work thus freeing up parking spaces, and additionally, there was a lot of parking available in the area on the public highway. He added that clientele of the café would likely combine their trip with other activities, visiting other shops and facilities. He noted that the proposals did not fall into the need to provide additional car parking spaces and when considered against the previous use of the property as a bed and breakfast, there would be less impact on parking during the busiest evening periods. He noted no grounds to sustain a refusal reason on highway grounds.
It was at this point Councillor J Quinn realised he knew the applicant and accordingly he left the Chamber prior to consideration of the application by the Committee.
Councillor J Quinn left the meeting at 11.52am
Councillor J Elmer noted he was reassured by the comments from the Principal DM Engineer in terms of traffic and parking. He agreed that the culture of these types of cafés was such that it would attract those that would cycle and walk, explaining there was a similar type of café in his area. He added it was it was a positive type of sustainable culture that we should be helping to promote and therefore he would move approval of the application as per the Officer’s recommendation.
Councillor C Marshall noted he agreed with Councillor J Elmer and added that a change of use application should not be expected to deal with existing issues as regards highway safety and parking, many of which were outside of the remit of the Committee. He noted there were no material grounds to refuse the application and he felt the proposals could be a positive addition to the community and therefore he would second approval as per the Officer’s recommendation.
Councillor A Bell referred to the street view shown as part of the Officer’s presentation and asked if there were any help or parking restrictions that could be provided to alleviate the issues as raised by the Local Member. The Principal DM Engineer noted that any additional restrictions on the road would not make parking issues disappear, rather they displace vehicles to other areas, and potentially to areas where they may create issues which do not currently suffer problems. He noted that the areas which had restrictions in place are the areas which the Authority would wish to protect. He noted he would take on board the issue raised in terms of the quality of road marking in the area, however, he emphasised that the highway network in that area did very much function.
Upon a vote being taken it was:
That the application be APPROVED, subject to the conditions as set out within the report.
Councillor D McKenna left the meeting at 11.56am
Councillor J Quinn entered the meeting at 11.56am