To determine an application for the erection of 26 dwellings including vehicular and pedestrian access.
Erection of 26 residential dwellings including vehicular and pedestrian access (Oakmere Homes).
The Planning Officer presented Planning Application No. SL/2018/1032 which sought permission for the erection of 26 residential dwellings on open land including vehicular and pedestrian access. He referred to the site visit and displayed plans and photographs which detailed the proposal. Members’ attention was drawn to the late representation which had been circulated prior to the meeting and which clarified that in total there had been 196 representations received and not 50 as stated in the report.
The Planning Officer explained that a further written late representation had been submitted by Councillor Matt Severn and he read the content to the Committee as follows:
’Natland Mill Beck field is an important open area that enhances biodiversity in an area choked by carbon emissions from nearby busy roads. It is an important 'soak' and flood plain for any effects of groundwater, rain or river flooding. It has a water source running through it, in the event of another storm like 2015 any houses built there would be at high risk of flooding, and also increase the risk of neighbour’s properties flooding. It is not in keeping with local area. It commands no support from nearby residents. Any vehicular access from Natland Road, over an old narrow bridge and down narrow roads past old houses with no pavement and no double glazing, would be deeply inappropriate, intrusive and also unsafe. It should be refused’.
Mr Andrew Thomas, a local resident and, on behalf of a number of local residents, addressed the Committee. He informed Members that he and local residents believed that the application was a totally inappropriate development in a greenfield open site and that similar plans had been turned down twice before. He went on to state that there were strong and material planning reasons why the application should be refused. He highlighted road traffic danger and concerns regarding the inadequacy of the access along Natland Mill Beck Lane, which was currently a virtually traffic free country lane, and stated that there was scepticism regarding the estimated increase in traffic movement on the lane and he outlined a more realistic estimate based on new households having two cars. Mr Thomas went on to highlight concerns regarding the effect on the environment and on the visual appearance of the area which included the historic boundary between Kendal and Natland, the lane, the farmhouse, the mill leat and the listed canal bridge. He informed Members that running a lighted footpath through amenity open space, cutting a new section of road through the field and a building a new footbridge across the beck along with a clutter of road signs, would urbanise the historic area and have a serious and detrimental impact on the area’s visual appearance. He went on to explain that Kendal Town Council’s Local Level Landscape Character Assessment 2011 specified the site as an area of medium/high sensitivity with its function being access; pasture; biodiversity; visual and private amenity and that the site was not just unallocated in the Local Plan but was demarcated as a green buffer on the edge of Kendal. Mr Thomas informed Members that the land allowed open views from the historic canal bridge at Natland Mill Beck Lane and that the open fields and space was enjoyed by walkers and cyclists. He highlighted serious concerns regarding the exacerbated risk of flooding and that United Utilities had raised concerns regarding surface water drainage. He went on to state that Natland Mill Beck was home to protected white-clawed crayfish and was a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and there was a real risk of harm to the beck and its wildlife if the proposal was to go ahead. He informed Members that there were strong planning precedents against the application and that the Planning Inspector, in his report into the Land Allocation Document, considered Natland Mill Beck Lane as an unsuitable access and, at the 2006 Local Plan Inquiry, the land that wrapped round Helme Drive was allocated as ‘important local space’. Mr Thomas concluded his address by informing Members that the land was not allocated for housing, that there was no demonstrable need and it was important for Councillors to keep a grip on the land allocation document and that the development had been refused by the Members of the Planning Committee twice.
Mr Alan Rooke, a local resident, addressed the Committee. He asked the Members to vote on the facts and highlighted that the application had been refused twice before and that Kendal Town Council were calling for it to be refused for many reasons, including on the grounds that it was not allocated land. He stated that Kendal needed to preserve its green spaces, its history and wildlife. Mr Rooke went on to explain that Natland Mill Beck Lane was closed off to the through traffic and should remain so. He concluded his address by stating that these simple facts along with amount of opposition to the application spoke for themselves and that the application should be refused permanently.
Mrs Patricia Hovey, a local resident, addressed the Committee. She informed Members that she had lived in Kendal for over 60 years and spoke as a Kendal resident desperate for the application to be refused for a third time. She stated that there was little more she could add to what had already been said and questioned whether two refusals and 150 letters of objection were not enough to show that this was not the place for another development. Mrs Hovey referred to a report in the Westmorland Gazette where Oakmere Homes had ignored planning conditions on a site in Ulverston. She highlighted that the area was a Site of Special Scientific Interest and went on to state that those who had worked long and hard to draw up the Local Plan for housing in Kendal had omitted the site as quite unsuitable for development due to access and traffic problems. She explained that local residents looked at the site as a little field of rough grass, edged with mature trees with a stream running through and wished that the developer could see the site through the resident’s eyes and not as a piece of land on which to build charmless housing units. Mrs Hovey acknowledged the need for houses in Kendal but stated that there were sufficient sites identified within the Local Plan. She went on to highlight the historic value of the area, the old farm and cottages, the old corn mill, the bridge across the canal bed and the stone-walled leat and stated that all these would be gone forever if the developer got his way and straightened and widened the lane. Mrs Hovey concluded her address by highlighting the distress and heartache that would be caused to many people if the application was to be granted.
Kate Bellwood, the applicant’s agent, addressed the Committee. She explained that she had been present when the Committee had last considered the application and she was aware of their concerns, which had not been so much regarding the site and its suitability for housing but regarding the lane access. She stated that it was important to highlight that there were 19 existing properties using the lane, yet the objectors stated that it was a quiet and tranquil lane. If it was quiet and tranquil with 19 existing properties perhaps it would be the same with the new properties. She stated that people currently walking along the lane came into conflict with traffic and the new footpath through the field would provide a direct link from the canal bridge to Burton Road, which would be fully accessible and safe. The road changes were necessary but modest, pedestrians would use the path and traffic would be slowed and moved further away from the listed buildings. She informed Members that the historic leat would be repaired and cleaned and the field alongside the lane would remain. Only three houses would form the edge of the proposed development on the far side of the beck and the important amenity space would remain a green space. She concluded her address by informing Members that the application had a full allocation of affordable housing, she acknowledged that modest highway works were required but in return there would be public access to the amenity space and a fully accessible, safe path for everyone. The level of traffic was low and acceptable and there had been no objection from the highways department. The development was in accordance with policy and although any development brought change, Oakmere Homes had worked hard to find compromises.
In further presenting his report, the Planning Officer acknowledged the points raised by the public participants. He informed Members that the report conveyed that the principle of the development was sound and was in compliance with policy and that no objections had been submitted by statutory bodies. The Interim Development Management Team Leader informed Members that the refusal of the application in October 2017 had been subject to an appeal which was subsequently withdrawn by the applicant, with a view to the applicant and the planning department agreeing to alternative solutions to the issues which had arisen. He went on to explain that the land that was not allocated in the Development Plan Document but was within the settlement of Kendal and could, in principle, be developed and he advised Members to give due consideration to the fact that all technical matters had been addressed.
The Planning Officer and Interim Development Management Team Leader responded to questions raised by Members. In response to a query regarding land contamination from the old Gallowbarrow landfill site, the Planning Officer confirmed that a phase 1 contamination survey had been completed and the results were negative for contamination.
Members gave consideration to the likelihood of appeal if the application was to be refused, to the fact that Cumbria Highways Authority had only taken into consideration the technical highway safety measures and did not consider the aesthetic qualities and ecological impact of the historical environment. The Planning Officer advised Members that the Planning Inspector’s Report had identified Natland Mill Beck Lane as unsuitable access and that access from Natland Road would be less constrained and a realistic solution as it was straight, wider and a direct route. He concluded by advising Members to consider, on balance, how much harm would be caused and if this harm would be outweighed by the mitigation measures proposed and the affordable housing provision.
A motion to refuse the application based on the damage to ecology, the harm to the qualities of the area, the interference to the rurality and naturalness of the area and the severe impact on the highway was proposed.
Note - Following advice from the Solicitor, the Committee voted to adjourn the meeting at 11.09 a.m. to obtain further advice from the Interim Development Management Team Leader and legal advice from the Solicitor to the Council. The meeting reconvened at 11.28 a.m. when the same Members were present.
It was proposed and seconded that the application be refused on the basis that it would harm the character and appearance of the country lane and lies within the setting of designated heritage assets and the harm caused by the development in this respect was not outweighed by the benefits.
RESOLVED – That Planning Application SL/2018/1032 be refused for the following reason:-
The proposed development, by virtue of the extent of permanent engineering operations to the lane required to facilitate safe access to and from the site, would harm the character and appearance of the area which has the character of a country lane and which lies within the setting of a number of designated heritage assets. The harm caused would not be outweighed by the benefits of the proposed development. The proposed development would thereby be contrary to policies CS8.2, CS8.6 and CS8.10 of the Core Strategy; policies DM1, DM2, DM3 of the Development Management Policies DPD, the saved policies S2, C15 and C16 contained within the Local Plan, and paragraphs 127, 130, 192, 193 and 196 of the NPPF
Note – The Committee voted to adjourn for a break at 11.32 a.m. and reconvened at 11.38 a.m. when the same Members were present.