Cllr Mead withdrew from the debate.
Officers outlined the key aspects of this planning application during the presentation as follows;
a) That this application had drawn media attention because of the removal of the historical ceiling. It was expressed that it was not against the law and did not require planning permission, and as such this action needs to be separated from the assessment of the application. Details of the site plan were shown.
b) The building was surrounded by listed buildings but was not itself listed. The ground floor was currently a bar/night club with residential accommodation to upper floor.
c) An application was approved in 2005 for a development of residential flats with a similar layout but that permission had lapsed.
d) Those who had responded to the application raised concerned about the loss of the ceiling. In addition the comments included concerns about anti-social behaviour in the area and the addition of student accommodation.
e) The existing residential accommodation was not seen as family apartments.
f) The proposed re-design had been modified to allow for the retention of the windows and the chimney stacks.
g) There is no on street parking in the area but conditions have been imposed to consider the need for students on move in and move out days.
h) Officers recommended approval subject to conditions.
Councillors raised the following:
i) Cllr Eddy believed that there was a stronger argument for refusal than approval. Should the application be approved the developer would be rewarded for his actions, the damage to the ceiling. Believed the application failed to consider the historic interest of the area.
j) Officers explained that the building in question was not listed although sitting in a conservation area. That there was considered to be no grounds for Officers to refuse the application on the basis of heritage impact. Officers had agreed modifications to retain windows and chimney stacks to limit the possible harm of the development to the heritage aspects of the area. As a consequence of the incident of historic ceiling removal prior to inspection by Historic England, the team would now more proactively monitor applications such as these to Historic England to consider whether statutory listing was appropriate. The intention is to improve the flagging system, on such applications, to enable contact with Historic England to press for an early decision on listing. Officers also acknowledge the concern about the numbers of student accommodation in the area but local policy is supportive of the principle of student accommodation in the area. Refusing on this basis would be contrary to policy. Confirmed the floor areas accord with the licencing standards for student accommodation.
k) Cllr Denyer sought clarity on the quality of the accommodation, as she was familiar with the building and was concerned that the bedroom windows did not access sufficient light to enable students to read/write/study. Further explanation was provided by the Officers as to design with reference the appropriate plans.
l) Cllr Breckels shared his concern that the action of this developer may have given others an opportunity to now destroy other buildings in the City. Commented that good light was essential and a comfortable space to enable students to study. He raised concerns about the narrow passageway, shown on the plan that gave access to the proposed accommodation. He believed that there was a risk to those using the pathway and considered it dangerous.
m) Cllr Denyer shared that type of passage way was common in many areas and in her ward. That she is aware that the passageway is at least 2 meters in width and with good lighting should not pose an issue. She reminded committee members that the building was not listed although in a conservation area.
n) Cllr Eddy took the view that the development would cause harm to the character of conservation area and neighbouring listed buildings.
o) Cllr Breckels considered the over concentration of student accommodation in the area; the poor quality of the accommodation plans; harm to heritage assets; safety to those using the passageway to the flats; harm to the character of the conservation area and the inappropriate way the developer had behaved, as grounds for the application to be refused.
Councillor Breckels moved, seconded by Councillor Eddy and upon being put to the vote, it was Resolved (6 for, 4 against) that the application be refused.