Demolition of existing house and rear storage buildings and erection of 41 no. 1 and 2 storey dwellings, with details of proposed access off Seaside Lane and associated parking and landscaping (amended title).
The Senior Planning Officer, Jennifer Jennings 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 demolition of existing house and rear storage buildings and erection of 41 no. 1 and 2 storey dwellings, with details of proposed access off Seaside Lane and associated parking and landscaping (amended title) and was recommended for approval, subject to the conditions and Section 106 Legal Agreement as set out in the report.
The Senior Planning Officer noted that there was a typographical error in the report pack, the adjacent development contribution was £31,000 not £310,000. She added that the voluntary contribution by the applicant in the sum of £13,243 was not required and therefore it could not be given weight. She noted that Condition 3 set out within the report referred to proposed site plans, they would not be required as they were only indicative and therefore would not form part of any approval.
The Chair thanked the Senior Planning Officer and asked Parish Councillor Bill Day, representing Easington Village Parish Council to speak in relation to the application.
Parish Councillor B Day thanked the Chair and Committee noted there was a lot of development in Easington Village, with continued development of green and brown spaces, with a disproportionate number of new houses being approved since 2011. He noted that this had represented a detriment on the character of the village and represented a detriment impact on infrastructure and services. He noted that at the 2011 census had shown 976 households within the Parish, since then there had been consent granted for 378 properties over a number of sites at the Club, former Council Offices, Little Thorpe Hospital. He noted this was in addition to the 900 households to be developed at the nearby Lowfield Road site.
Parish Councillor B Day explained this represented a 42 percent increase since 2011 and added that it was naïve to think that it would not have an impact. He noted the 378 households would no doubt generate around double that in terms of additional car movements, noting that DCC’s Highways only commenting in terms of the bus stop.
Parish Councillor B Day noted that the generic calculations in terms of the number of properties within proximity to the proposed development stated around 750 dwellings, he noted that this ignored the wider developments and the larger expansion in terms of the village.
He noted the Officer’s report stated that the area was in a sustainable location, however, he felt that this was overly optimistic as regards public transport and added that each development increasing the number of cars and with interest shopping an increase in the number of deliveries. Parish Councillor B Day noted objections from residents in terms of the junction and traffic lights. He noted that there were no financial contributions sought, however, it was known that Easington Academy was oversubscribed, with additional demand also coming from developments at Murton and South Hetton. He added that the Planning Officer had said objections had been taken into account, however, they felt they did not have sufficient weight to recommend refusal, Parish Councillor B Day noted that the Parish Council begged to differ, given the 42 percent increase in the number of dwellings in the area and urged that the Committee put people first and refuse the application.
The Chair thanked Parish Councillor B Day and asked Councillor A Surtees, Local Member to speak in respect of the application.
Councillor A Surtees thanked the Chair and noted that she was not averse to housing development and acknowledged the need for social housing and for older persons. However, she noted that the development needed to be in the right place and the proposed site had raised serious traffic and safety concerns, being on a road with an offset crossroads, and with a junction being on a bend in the road. She noted the DCC traffic report dated August 2022 had agreed that the area was an area of concern and needed to be addressed. She explained that turning right was challenging at the best of times leading towards Seaside Lane. Councillor A Surtees noted that the proposed housing was less than 50 metres from the Thorpe Rod junction and the bus stop would be required to be moved. She added that she felt that the proposals amounted to addition impact, and Seaside Lane already had issues in terms of speeding motorists. She noted a recent survey had shown that 61 percent of cars, over a one week period, had been travelling in excess of the speed limit.
She noted that there was another application relating to Tuthill Quarry that would see heavy vehicles accessing the A19 nearby, so it was not just vehicles from housing that needed to be taken into account. Councillor A Surtees noted that she felt the cumulative impact on the highway network had not been taken into account and noted that local knowledge and the other additional developments in the area should be taken into consideration. She noted that Easington Village had been saturated with planning applications over the last nine years. She noted that the contributions as set out in the report were welcomed, however, there was no contribution in respect of school places and noted, as a Governor on two local schools, that places were oversubscribed. She concluded by noting the development would be something welcomed if it was in an area further down into Easington Colliery, however, the proposed site within the application was simply the wrong place.
Councillor A Surtees left the meeting at 11.23am
The Chair asked the Committee for their comments and questions.
Councillor L Brown asked if there was a cumulative impact policy or whether each application was considered on its own merits. The Senior Planning Officer noted each application was considered on its own merits in terms or issues such as highways, drainage as well as against policies in terms of design, layout and character. She noted the application had been considered against the CDP and it was found to meet the requirements of policy. The Highway Development Manager noted that in terms of cumulative impact, the development proposed falls below the national threshold, with so few trips generated that there was no obligation for a transport assessment to be carried out.
Councillor J Elmer noted that biodiversity net-gain could not be achieved on-site and asked if that effectively meant there would be a net loss. He added he was sceptical as regards any description of provision off-site without any specific details. He noted the high level of local objections, as shown by the Parish Council and Local Member, with reference to impact on character, infrastructure, highways, capacity, services and education, with no contributions in that regard. He noted given the information from the Parish and Local Member he found it odd that schools have noted they could accommodate additional children. He added he felt that the developer contributions seemed very low when comparted to the size of the development and loss of green space, so accordingly he had a few outstanding concerns.
The Principal Planning Officer, Paul Hopper noted that in terms of school capacity, the Education Department had been consulted and responded to say contributions were not required, notwithstanding the comments from the Parish and Councillor A Surtees. He noted that when securing s106 monies, they had to be required in order to mitigate the impact of any development, and therefore one would struggle to justify if Education did not say it was required. In respect of open space, the usual methodology was applied, and figures were provided by Spatial Policy methodology.
The Senior Planning Officer noted the responses from ecology were set out within the report, and early discussions had noted that there would not be an ability to meet the requirements on-site and the Ecologist had been agreeable and felt it was achievable to have off-site provision. She noted that while it was always preferrable that provision was on-site, there was scope for it to be off-site, with a site identified and the Ecologist being happy with the proposals.
Councillor J Elmer noted that if there was not sufficient space for provision on-site, this inferred that there were density or financial viability issues, and that off-site provision was a last resort. He asked if there had been discussions in that regard. The Principal Planning Officer noted the reduction in properties from 48 to 41, alongside the suite of financial contributions in respect of the application, including the s39 Agreement for off-site delivery and long term management.
Councillor K Shaw noted concerns had been raised by the Local MP as regards flooding and capacity of the sewer system. The Senior Planning Officer noted the area of flooding referred to was not the area of the application site, rather to the north east of the site. She added that for 48 dwellings drainage was not considered to be acceptable, however, with the reduced number of properties and proposed SUDS, the application was now to the satisfaction of the Drainage Officer and CDP Policy 35.
Councillor K Shaw noted that he had concerns as regards the robustness of the information from the Education Department, noting 80 pupils from Seaham not being in their local school. The Principal Planning Officer noted that they had to accept the information provided by colleagues from the Education Department, however, he would note the points raised by Councillors A Surtees and K Shaw.
The Chair noted there were no further comments from the Committee and asked if there were any proposals. There were none. The Chair asked the Lawyer (Planning and Highways) as regards proceeding, the Lawyer (Planning and Highways) noted that the Chair could propose a motion if he so felt.
The Chair proposed that the application be approved, he was seconded by Councillor R Manchester.
Upon a vote been taken, the motion was LOST.
The Chair asked if there were any other motions. Councillor C Marshall noted that he felt it was a very delicate site, however, having considered further he actually could not see any material reasons against approval. The Lawyer (Planning and Highways) asked on that basis if Councillor C Marshall had abstained on the previous vote. Councillor C Marshall noted he had, however he could not see any policy reason for refusal so would therefore be in support.
The Lawyer (Planning and Highways) noted that the Chair again put forward a motion for approval and was seconded by Councillor R Manchester and upon a vote being taken it was:
That the application be APPROVED, subject to the conditions and Section 106 Legal Agreement as set out within the report.