Planning Report and Presentation – The Head of Planning Services submitted a report in respect of application 19/03349/FULL, Land at Mascalls Farm, Badsell Road, Paddock Wood, Tonbridge, Kent and this was summarised at the meeting by Antonia James, Principal Planning Officer and illustrated by means of a visual presentation.
Updates and additional representation – None.
Registered Speakers – There were two speakers that registered in accordance with the Council’s Constitution (Planning Committee Procedure Rules)
- Mr Barry Weston, a local resident.
- Mr Alex Davies, Agent (Berkeley Group)
Matters of Clarification by Officers and Committee Members’ Questions to Officers – Members raised a number of questions and officers confirmed the following:
- Officers had been in regular contact with Paddock Wood Town Council (PWTC) throughout the course of the application regarding S106 contributions. PWTC confirmed a few weeks prior to the committee meeting that they were happy with the contributions offered and no further contributions were sought.
- There may not be a requirement to pay the build costs for the new Primary School c £500k if this was funded by Central Government. Berkeley had offered to cover all requested contributions, so this funding could not be reallocated elsewhere.
- The applicant had continuously stated in all documents submitted that there would be provision for affordable rented houses, not social rented housing. However, there was nothing to stop the registered provider providing those as social rented houses for future residents.
- TWBC housing department had been working with Town and Country Housing on other schemes to provide social rent where affordable rent had already been covered within the S106 agreement. Any S106 agreement would not prohibit the provision of social rent on this site.
- The major highways works would be undertaken as the trigger had been met e.g. commencement of development at Mascalls Farm, Mascalls Court Farm and Church Farm.
- Condition 3 stated that no more than 313 dwellings should be occupied prior to the completion of the major highways works, or before the 1 October 2023, whichever was the earlier. This gave the applicant flexibility of which part of the scheme they wished to implement first and resulted in no greater impact on the highway network until the major highway works had been completed. This included a 6 month time buffer in case the highway works overran.
- Paragraph 10.63 stated that Southern Water had no objections to the scheme. Southern Water stated that no foul sewerage should be discharged into the public system until there was sufficient capacity within the foul water network to cope with the additional sewage flows.
- Southern Water were in the process of designing and planning delivery of this off site sewerage network and the re-enforcements required.
- A condition attached to this application required that the properties could only be occupied once TWBC had confirmation from Southern Water that there was sufficient capacity in the foul drainage systems to accommodate the increase in flows.
- The scheme provided a very significant net gain for biodiversity which was above policy requirements (over 40%).
- There were play areas in both phase 1 and phase 2 of the scheme.
- The applicant had proposed that 3 of the affordable units be wheelchair accessible.
- There was no policy at present that required all units to be wheelchair accessible/adaptable.
- There was a planning condition related to the trees along the public right of way. The current path was quite narrow and therefore deemed unsuitable for the projected increase in pedestrian traffic. The Public Rights of Way Officer (PROW) that the path be increased in width (to 2.5m). It was not possible to increase the width of the path to 2.5m without significantly changing the character of the PROW, or impacting existing trees. Further details of improvement works to the PROW were required by condition to ensure any widening/improvement works were not harmful to existing trees. Widening works were likely to be possible in places, but may not be possible along the full length of the PROW due to tree constraints.
- The location and design of the affordable housing within the development had been discussed with the housing team at TWBC and with Town and Country and no objections had been raised.
- Residents of the affordable housing would be closer and have easier access to the amenities in Paddock Wood than those in the market housing scheme.
- Those in the affordable houses would have equal access to all the open space available including the play areas.
- There was no gated area within the development.
Committee Member Debate – Members of the Committee took account of the presentations made and raised a number of questions and issues within their discussions. These included:
- There was concern that the affordable housing was not affordable to any of those currently on the housing list.
- The developers were not delivering a variety of homes if the only homes that were available were not affordable.
- It was suggested the application failed to meet the Council’s policies that were put in place to protect the less advantaged in the Borough.
- If H3 was deemed out of date, the emerging H3 in the pre-submission Local Plan carried forward that value and intent.
- If the application was approved with no social rent (i.e. 60% of market value) the Council was effectively stating that it had no concern about providing genuinely affordable housing.
- Using the calculation included in the existing H3 there should be 26 social housing within the development. Based on the emerging H3 there should be 24 social housing within the development. The development only had a total of 20 affordable rented houses.
- By not building social housing the Council was condoning families to live in poverty.
- It was suggested that a request should be sent to the developers to re-evaluate the mix of housing in accordance with the Council’s existing and emerging planning policies.
- The Borough Council did not have a 5 year land supply. This severely weakened what the Council was able to do to secure policy compliance when dealing with housing applications. The emerging Local Plan had limited weight at the moment and due to the lack of a 5 year land supply the existing development plan housing policies, where they are not consistent with the NPPF were considered out of date. The Council were therefore required to negotiate from a weaker position in order to get the best possible development.
- What was included in the S106 did not prevent the inclusion of social rent – it stated that it should be no more than 80% of market value, but it could be less. This was consistent with what was being delivered at other sites.
- The key matter for the Council was to achieve a 5 year land supply. This would enable the Council to insist on full compliance with adopted policies.
- It was suggested that without a 5 year land supply the Council would be unsuccessful if the application went to appeal.
- There was a request to remove reference to the Memorial Field (Page 71) as there was no planning consent for this at present.
- There was a request to ask the developers to give consideration during the construction works to the residents on the periphery of the development.
- There was no opportunity to transfer the £500k that had been allocated for the primary school (should it be funded by Central Government) to put into social rent. The specifications of S106 agreement did not allow for this. The money was required to be spent for the purpose for which it was collected.
- Money could not be collected by condition or informative.
- It was suggested that PWTC had missed an opportunity to leverage the potential of using the ‘school’ money for an alternative purpose.
- Agreeing this application would improve the Council’s position for developments in the future.
- There was request to refuse the application on the basis of the tenure and mix of housing on the development.
- There was concern about refusing the application. 40 affordable houses were proposed within the development – was there an option to rebalance this and increase the number of social housing. A decision could be deferred so that a more acceptable solution could be sought.
- TWBC confirmed that it was within Members gift to defer an application. But to be aware, a deferral would lengthen the period of determination and opened the Council up to the possibility of an appeal against non-determination. It also decreased certainty for residents, the applicant and the Council in terms of housing numbers.
- TWBC had discussed the provision of social rent with the developer and they had confirmed it would not be viable. The issue had also been discussed in great detail with the Housing Officer who had confirmed the Council was currently in a very difficult position as current policies on affordable housing and housing in general were out of date.
- The scheme provided 100 dwellings towards meeting the 5 year land supply. It included 40% affordable housing which was 5% over the adopted policy. The development also included a number of other benefits including £1.5m towards community services and facilities. Although the Council and applicant considered the financial contributions were CIL compliant, contributions might be at risk should the application go to appeal, should the Inspector have a different opinion.
- It should be noted that the breakdown of affordable housing was the same as approved by Members at a recent application at Turnden. At Turnden, there was a total of 40% affordable housing, 50% affordable rent and 50% shared ownership. There was no social rent included as part of the application.
- A deferral would have the same risk and implications as a refusal. But the outcome would be a matter for the Inspector.
- Given that it would probably be lost at appeal the application should be agreed. Once the Council reached its 5 year housing supply it would be in a much better position to insist in compliance with its housing policies.
- It was acknowledged that it was known before this meeting that the developer was not going to include any social rented homes.
Decision/voting – On the basis that members were satisfied that all relevant planning considerations had been covered within the report, a motion was proposed by Councillor Pound, seconded by Councillor Warne and a vote was taken to refuse the application on the grounds that the mix of tenure of affordable properties failed to meet the identified local need (failure to deliver in accordance with TWBC Core Policy 11, Paddock Wood and the emerging pre-submission Local Plan H3). The motion was not carried.
A motion was proposed by Councillor Bland and seconded by Councillor Backhouse and a vote was taken to approve the application in line with the officer recommendations.
RESOLVED – That application 19/03349 FULL Land at Mascalls Farm, Badsell Road, Paddock Wood, Tonbridge, Kent be granted subject to the plans, conditions and informatives as set out in the agenda report.