The Planning Officer summarised the application as follows:
a. There is a lot to commend the application, officers regret that they are recommending refusal. There has been a lot of effort to negotiate to make this workable, but there has been no attempt to compromise by the developer over the past 18 months.
b. Local people are in support and have a valid view on the application, but so does the planning authority. When a planning officer goes through scheme, they look at quality of design, what would it provide, would it realistically work?
c. In 2012 the site had 16 houses in 8 pairs in precast concrete, which have been demolished and cleared. The site has been vacant for a long period. It is a challenging site due to the steep gradient.
d. 36 dwellings are proposed, with 32 houses and 4 flats. All are classed as affordable. There is a good mix of semi-detached, terrace and flats. Construction is grey brick. All properties have private gardens. There are 48 parking spaces and 23 trees. The properties are supplied with air source heat pumps and solar panels. There is a substantial split level on the site with a large retaining wall. A public realm “heart space” is proposed between two rows of terraces in the centre of the development.
e. There are 19 support statements, including the ward councillors. The Council’s City Design and Landscape teams have objected. The estate has green verges to provide an attractive open and airy environment. The local plan says they should be retained. DM17 policy is not to develop an open space with visual amenity. This application will be building on a verge, which is a major reason for referral to committee. The Development of 5 terraced properties on Goodring Hill would be beyond the existing building lines.
f. Houses in the middle and far end of the site have 90-degree angles causing proximity issues, the change in height also compounds this. There is 4m height difference between houses. The spacing between facing windows is only 11m. Recommendations are 18m spacing, with some leeway for dense inner-city areas, but this cannot be justified in a suburban location. The short distance between properties will impact on residents.
g. The gardens are small as is the proposed ‘heart space’. The terraces in the heart space face each other with a 9m spacing. This is not a high-quality shared space. It includes steps, which present access issues. Public use of the space is likely to be a nuisance to residents in the central terraces.
h. Officers recommend refusal. We accept there are positives and commend the community engagement, but this development falls short of several fundamental planning principles.
Questions for Clarification:
i. The area plan is a statutory document. The dispute is between BCC and the development forum. Community led engagement should be given weight, but committee should also be mindful of the policies and the creation of a quality living environment. We have granted high density developments in the past but not something with this level of overlooking and lack of shared space. It is up to the committee to balance arguments to see if there is enough benefit for the community to outweigh officer concerns. Any policy in the statutory development plan should be given primacy, but officers understand this is a difficult balance.
j. The view of local community is that the verges are not being used positively even if the plan deems them attractive. The plan was also developed with the local community.
k. There is a major oak tree on the development which members would seek to retain as a condition should the application be approved.
l. FH felt conflicted. The people who have spoken in favour of this are very high integrity. The design is not ideal and has some significant drawbacks. There are complaints about council policy being too restrictive.
m. RE intended to support the application. He understood it is a hard balancing act, but there is a significant amount of public benefit from the development and it has support from the local community and ward councillors.
n. CJ agreed that the application was a good example of working with the local community and that the benefit outweighs the harm.
o. FB intended to support the application, acknowledging the large amount of work that officers had put into the case. The heart space could have been bigger and the other verge used for a playground. If residents find the verges to be a nuisance, we should listen to them. The houses themselves are designed well. People in the houses facing the heart space will know what that implies in terms of noise.
p. OM thought the local plan was positive and forward looking. Other more objectionable schemes have been approved at this committee. The design of houses is good, there are some access issues. He agreed the oak tree should be protected.
q. SK intended to support the application based on the local community understanding their own needs.
No Councillor moved to vote to refuse the application as per the officers’ recommendation.
Cllr Richard Eddy proposed, seconded by Cllr Chris Jackson, to approve the application and to delegate conditions to officers. One of these conditions should be the protection of the oak tree.
RESOLVED: (8 For / 0 Against / 0 Abstain) that the application be approved and delegated to officers.