Demolition of existing agricultural buildings and erection of 38no. dwellings (Class C3) with associated access and landscape works (amended plans received regarding layout and removal of footpath link).
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 Senior Planning Officer (LM) advised that Members of the Committee had visited the site and were familiar with the location and setting. The application was for the demolition of existing agricultural buildings and erection of 38no. dwellings (Class C3) with associated access and landscape works and was recommended for approval, subject to the conditions and s106 Legal Agreement as set out in the report.
The Senior Planning Officer (LM) noted that an outline permission had been granted in 2019 for a smaller area, though that had now lapsed, and permission for 24 dwellings had been refused in 2020 with impact on residents and future residents, as well as a lack of ecological information having been cited.
The Chair thanked the Senior Planning Officer (LM) and asked Councillor A Surtees, Local Member to speak in respect of the application.
Councillor A Surtees noted that development in principle was the right type, including a mix of properties and affordable homes. She noted, however, there were traffic issues and explained that while the proposed entrance may appear to be at a shallow angle on the photographs within the presentation, in was actually very steep. She added that she had concerns with the access on to the B1283, Hall Walks, with the road being wide and with a 30mph limit. She explained that a survey over one week in November 2021 had shown that 61 percent of vehicles were travelling at over 30mph, and with 20 percent being over 36mph. Councillor A Surtees noted three separate instances of speed awareness activity, with 17 drivers having to attend court, 105 fixed penalty notices being issued, 1,047 drivers having to attend speed awareness courses and with 7.084 vehicles having been shown to be above the 30mph limit. She noted she had tried to speak with Planning Officers to note disappointment as regards no allocation of s106 monies for traffic works to improve the situation. She noted the proposed development, and during its construction, would exacerbate the traffic situation. Councillor A Surtees explained as regards the single track access to the 12 properties on Durham Lane and her concerns relating to the impact of addition traffic.
She reiterated that the development in principle was good, however, she thought it would be better placed within Easington Colliery rather than the proposed location within the Village, it was the right development in the wrong place adding there was also the impact on the Conservation Area (CA). Councillor A Surtees noted that if the application was approved she would continue to fight as regards traffic issues raised.
Councillor A Surtees left the meeting at 10.12am
The Chair asked Julie Catterall, Local Resident to speak in relation to the application.
J Catterall noted that in respect of the previously refused application, the impact of noise levels had been a major issue, and they had not been rectified with this current application. She explained that the A19 adjacent to the site was in an elevated position, with the traffic visible above the application site. She noted the danger in terms of the number of accidents on that stretch of the A19, and a fear that vehicle could come over the top of barriers and into the application site. She explained that 2019 data showed that there were around 72,000 vehicles daily travelling on the A19 and that Department for Transport (DfT) data had shown a significant increase in the traffic levels over the last 10 years. She noted the gardens of the proposed properties would border the A19 and the noise from traffic could heard as a roar and no work appeared to have been done to mitigate that.
The Chair thanked J Catterall and asked Graeme Hill, Local Resident to speak in relation to the application.
G Hill explained he was a resident of Mill Terrace and that the proposed development was not wanted and was not needed. He added that 57 objections demonstrated the strength of feeling on the matter, alongside the objections from the Parish Council and residents in all areas. He noted there were already a number of developments at Easington Village and residents were felling ‘under siege’, with this development being a step too far. G Hill noted that Planning Officers had dismissed the 57 objections, however, had not made a great deal in terms of establishing need, in short the views of local residents were being swept aside in favour of the landowner and developer. He concluded by hoping that Members would have regard for residents and the damage to the wellbeing of residents that would be caused and put people before profit.
The Chair thanked G Hill and asked Lee Fulcher, Planning Agent on behalf of the applicant, to speak in support of the application.
L Fulcher explained that the development was proposed by a local developer, for social housing in conjunction with Believe, with the demolition of some agricultural buildings and the erection of 38 new affordable dwellings, helping to meet the Council’s targets in that regard. He reminded Members that Believe were also developing another scheme in Easington, adding that demand for such properties was very high, with 90 bids per property and 500 enquiries for rent to buy schemes. He referred to the previous refusal and noted that the issues relating to noise and landscaping had been addressed within the current application, and the Council’s Highways Team and Highways England had offered no objections to the current application. He explained that a construction management plan (CMP) was conditioned, and the scheme proposed included a range of house types, noise mitigation and landscaping. He noted that the principle of development had been established with the previous outline permission and the current application was in accord with CDP Policy 6.
L Fulcher explained that the developer had taken onboard feedback received, with an example being the removal of the pedestrian link. He noted the scheme had a number of benefits: 100 percent affordable housing; bungalows; open space; New Homes Bonus; additional Council Tax receipt; and future residents using the amenities in the area. He noted biodiversity net gain for the site, with a 30 year management plan and low carbon buildings with improved insultation. L Fulcher concluded by reiterating that the proposals were in accord with local and national policies and asking that the Committee vote in favour of the application.
The Chair thanked L Fulcher and asked Officer to respond to the points raised by the speakers.
The Senior Planning Officer (LM) noted that in terms of any ‘need’ for the development, there was no policy requirement to do so. In respect of noise, she noted a noise assessment had been submitted and Environmental Health had stated the proposals were acceptable, albeit with a condition for further information to be submitted (Condition 12). In relation to traffic, she noted the CMP at Condition 5 and no objections from Highways England in respect of the application.
The Principal DM Engineer, David Battensby noted the proposed access to the site from Hall Walk / B1283 and explained that when assessed there were specific design criteria that were looked at. He added such criteria included the capacity of the highway, vehicle speeds and visibility. He noted that in terms of capacity there were no issues, and that an extension to the protected right turn would help in that regard. He noted that the vehicle speeds on the B1283 at this location were high due to the lack of credibility of the speed limit.
He explained that in terms of visibility, that there were criteria in respect of the measured 85th percentile speed, with those requirements being met in this case. The Principal DM Engineer noted that in respect of the gradient of the access, there was an established Durham County Council (DCC) Design Guide, and that the developer would be required to put in shallower access in line with that guide. He explained that the 12 properties at Durham Lane only represented 10 trips at peak times and therefore he was not concerned in terms of capacity. He concluded by noting there were no grounds for a highways objection to the proposals.
The Chair thanked the Officers and asked the Committee for their comments and questions.
Councillor C Kay noted the application was a full planning application and noted often an outline application would be received where highways or traffic issues would be noted and asked whether there had been an outline permission sought in this case. The Senior Planning Officer (LM) noted that the application had been submitted as a full planning application, adding there was no requirement to submit in outline as a first stage and the application before Members contained all the necessary details in order for determination.
Councillor J Elmer noted reference to the site being adjacent to the Easington CA and asked what the Council’s response was in terms of impact upon the CA. The Senior Planning Officer (LM) noted it had been considered to be ‘less than substantial harm’, with agreement to the proposals from the Design and Conservation Team being set out at paragraphs 138 to 149 of the report. She added it was felt the minimal levels of harm were outweighed by the benefits of the scheme and therefore Officer felt that the proposals were acceptable.
Councillor J Quinn noted the application was a tough one, being able to see both sides of the argument in terms of the proposals. He noted he had sympathy with local residents, however, there was a need for such affordable housing.
Councillor A Bell agreed with Councillor J Quinn, and while he too had sympathy with residents and acknowledged the number that had objected, there were no policy reasons to refuse the application, and therefore if refused the application would likely be successful at appeal. He agreed there was a need for affordable housing of all, including young families, and therefore it would be difficult decision in terms of the application. He noted that Councillor A Surtees had referred to traffic issues and the Principal DM Engineer has spoken on the matter. He asked if there was any opportunity to be able to enhance any element of the scheme, such as improved road markings, to help in terms of the concerns raised.
The Principal DM Engineer explained that the speed limit already lacked credibility and that the proposed development, as one drove into the village, would hopefully provide additional frontage properties that had been demonstrated to encourage lower speeds by drivers. He noted as the road in question was classified as a B Road with strategic importance, with the road linking to the A19. As such, he explained that there were limits in terms of what could be done regarding the provision of physical traffic calming. He noted there would be appropriate signage and reiterated that the existing protected right-hand turn would be extended. Councillor A Bell asked as regards options for signage or road markings to help. The Principal DM Engineer noted that the location was on the rotation for the speed visor equipment and there had been considerable efforts from Durham Constabulary, as heard, in terms of enforcement. He added that road markings went hand in hand with speed limit credibility, with such signs and road markings being shown to only impact around one mph on speeds, given the width of the road. He noted that the provision of rumble strips was not appropriate due to the noise generated during quiet night time periods affecting adjacent properties.
Councillor R Manchester noted the comments from Councillor A Bell as regards affordable housing and asked as regards any comments from Durham Constabulary, who had objected, in relation to the application and whether there had been any discussions with them in terms of road improvements. The Principal DM Engineer noted that there was not a history of personal injury accidents in the area and in the last 10 years there had been one such accident. He added that therefore the area was not considered one that need intervention. The Senior Planning Officer (LM) note that Durham Constabulary had objected to the originally proposed footpath link, now removed from the scheme.
Councillor A Bell asked as regards the sustainability of the site, access to schools, shops, bus stops and other amenities. The Senior Planning Officer (LM) noted the links to the village and close proximity to bus stops and other amenities.
Councillor L Brown explained she felt the Principal DM Engineer had dealt with the issues relating to highways and therefore she would propose that application be approved as per the Officer’s report.
Councillor S Deinali asked whether accidents on the nearby stretch of A19 were included when looking at incidents, and whether the development would impact in that regard. The Senior Planning Officer (LM) noted Highways England, as the relevant body had been consulted in respect of impact upon the A19 and, subject to the CMP conditions they had raised no objections.
The Principal DM Engineer noted that the A19 was controlled by Highways England, not the Council, and noted that in respect of the potential issue raised in terms of vehicle leaving the carriageway there was a dense vegetation belt providing separation.
Councillor J Elmer agreed with other Members that it was a difficult application to determine given the high level of community opposition, however, it was for the Committee to consider proposals against policy and material considerations and that if the application was refused when in accord with policy it was likely such a decision would be overturned at an appeal. He noted he would comment on the issue of need brought up by the local resident, that the affordable housing to be delivered by Believe, a reputable provider, would meet a clearly identified need. He noted he would second the proposal for approval. The Senior Planning Officer (LM) noted paragraph 88 of the report referred to consideration of affordable housing provision in respect of the application. The Team Leader (Central and East), Sarah Eldridge noted that policy requirement was 10 percent affordable, and that the fact that development would be 100 percent affordable could not be given weight, rather simply that the application was in line with the policy requirement in that regard.
Councillor K Shaw explained while he understood the local residents and had sympathy with their concerns, there needed to be material reasons in objection to the application if it was to be refused. He noted that the Principal DM Engineer had explained as regards the highways issues and therefore he would be supporting the application as there were no policy reasons not to.
Councillor J Quinn he would echo the comments from Councillors J Elmer and K Shaw, noting that if the application were refused, it would likely be approved at appeal, with costs to the Council and ultimately the taxpayer, therefore he too would be minded to approve.
The Chair noted the application had been proposed for approval by Councillor L Brown and seconded by Councillor J Elmer, upon a vote being taken it was:
That the application be APPROVED, subject to the conditions and s106 Legal Agreement as set out within the report.
Councillor A Surtees entered the meeting at 10.46am