The Committee considered an application for the erection of a three to four storey building comprising thirty-four extra care apartments (Use Class C2) with ancillary and communal facilities and provision of landscaping, bin and cycle storage, parking, highway works, access and associated works following demolition of existing buildings.
Councillor M Whitehand, Ward Councillor, spoke in support of the application and commented that in her opinion the site was derelict and beyond any form of restoration. Although the proposal was materially larger than the derelict property, Councillor Whitehand thought it would be an improvement to the current state of the site and that the design was in keeping with the character of the area. There was a need for this type of C2 accommodation on this side of the Borough and the Councillor thought that the applicant had taken on board the previous reasons for refusal and had addressed these. The application was supported by residents and 30 letters of support had been received, which showed that local residents were keen to see this derelict site developed.
Following some discussion from the Committee regarding the appropriateness of the development, Mr T James, Development Manager, commented that the applicant had themselves concluded that the proposal was inappropriate development in the Green Belt; as had the Planning Officer. The Planning Committee were advised to focus discussion on whether there were very special circumstances.
Some Members of the committee agreed that there was an argument for very special circumstances and continued the discussion based on this. These Councillors commented that the application was not perfect, but it was a good application that would improve the current site and it was supported by residents. They considered that there was an argument for very special circumstances based on the need for extra care accommodation (C2), contribution to housing supply, re-use of a derelict site and enhancement to the character of the area, employment opportunities and economic benefits. Some Members did not think these were all very special circumstances and were concerned that they could set a precedent for other Green Belt applications.
Following a question, the Planning Officer confirmed that the Council was on target to provide sufficient C2 accommodation in the Borough.
Some Members did not think this was the correct solution for the site and that the argument for very special circumstances had not been met. They thought that if the Borough was on target for C2 type accommodation then this area of Green Belt should not be developed for this use.
Following a question, the Planning Officer confirmed that they were content that two of the previous reasons for refusal based on parking and bin storage had been addressed by the applicant.
Some Members of the Committee commented that even though the proposed development would be materially larger that the existing development, the current run down and derelict state of the proposal site meant that it would be an improvement. Although larger, these Members thought the proposed design would complement the area and would not have a negative impact. Members commented that Borough residents cared passionately about retention of the Green Belt and the fact that this proposal was supported by residents was very telling.
Councillor M Whitehand proposed, and it was duly seconded by Councillor S Dorsett that the application be approved based on very special circumstances relating to the need for extra care accommodation and the re-use of a derelict site and enhancement to the character of the area.
Mr T James advised the Committee that as this application was a major development in the Green Belt of over 1000 sq. m, if it was approved by the Committee, it would then need to be referred to the Secretary of State for a decision.
In accordance with Standing Order 22.2, the Chairman deemed that a division should be taken on the motion above. The votes for and against approval of the application were recorded as follows.
In favour: Cllrs T Aziz, J Brown, S Dorsett, Spenser and M Whitehand.
Against: Cllrs A J Boote, P Graves and S Oades.
Present but not voting: Cllrs L M N Morales (Chairman)
The application was therefore approved.
That planning permission be APPROVED subject to referral to the Secretary of State and delegated authority be given to the Development Manager to impose the relevant conditions and S106 requirements.