Planning Report and Presentation – The Head of Planning Services submitted a report in respect of application PLA/21/01700/FULL, 69 Culverden Down, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent and this was summarised at the meeting by James Moysey, Senior Planning Officer and illustrated by means of a visual presentation.
Updates and additional representation - An additional Condition had been recommended as follows – ‘Details of pedestrian visibility displays within the curtilage shall be submitted and approved by the Local Planning Authority prior to the commencement of any above ground works. The development shall thereafter be carried out in strict accordance with the approved details’. This would be done for pedestrian and highway safety reasons and followed a similar Condition that had been applied to the previous application submitted in 2016.
Registered Speakers – There were 6 speakers that registered in accordance with the Council’s Constitution (Planning Committee Procedure Rules):
- Ms Louise La Trobe
- Mr Tim Shaw
- Mr and Mrs Richard Prescott
- Ms Christine Fisher
- Mr Simon McKay (Agent)
- Cllr Justine Rutland
Matters of Clarification by Officers and Committee Members’ Questions to Officers – Members raised a number of questions and Officers confirmed the following:
- No legislation existed that limited the number of applications that could be submitted. Similarly there was no timescale.
- There was no increase in the scale/bulk of the building. There was no change to the width, depth or position, the only change related to the size of the roof to accommodate an additional unit.
- The building respected the building/roof line of similar buildings in the immediate area.
- This was a brownfield site inside the limits of built development and a sustainable location. The site was considered to make the most efficient use of the land.
- Para 10.24 onwards provided details of any potential impact on the neighbours.
- There would be a good level of screening on the boundaries to the side and rear of the property. The hard and soft landscaping Condition had been recommended that would ensure a good level of screening was retained.
- The principle of an apartment building had been approved by an Inspector and was therefore deemed acceptable.
- The scheme originally came forward with 9 parking spaces for 9 units. Following concerns from local residents this had been amended to 10 parking spaces.
- On road parking was not considered to be an issue as there was plenty of availability.
- Condition 15 that related to delivery/removal of plant equipment and waste could be amended to include an instruction that would require this to be done outside school drop off and pick up times.
- The existing application for 8 apartments included parking provision at the front of the property.
- Over the time of this application and previous applications there had been no issues around parking provision including at school drop off and pick up.
- The position of the apartment building had not changed from what was previously approved. The loss of light due to the increase to the roof height was not deemed significant to warrant refusal.
- The Leylandii was across both properties and could be pruned as necessary.
- The Landscaping Condition could require additional landscaping if appropriate.
- The original scheme did not include a balcony on the top floor. A balcony/terrace had been included as part of the revised scheme.
- Kent CC’s parking standards document was a guidance document, to be used as a measure for parking provision. The parking provision met the guidance for residents but did fall short by 1.8 (2 spaces) in terms of visitor parking. However, it was the view of officers that this was a highly accessible location with bus stops nearby and also within walking distance of the town centre. As such, the proposed number of spaces was appropriate for this development.
- There was also plenty of on street parking availability on Culverden Down, Huntley’s Park and on Connaught Way.
- Site notices were placed as prescribed by legislation to ensure residents were aware of the planning application. The site notice on Connaught Way had subsequently been removed and so had to be reinstated. To allow for this, the Council allowed additional time for residents to respond.
- The site was not in a conservation area and none of the trees were subject to a TPO.
- Condition 18 required a scheme for the enhancement of biodiversity to be submitted and approved by the Local Planning Authority.
- Condition 17 dealt with tree protection.
- Condition 16 required an Arboriculture Method Statement to have been submitted and approved by the Local Planning Authority.
- Condition 14 related to the protection of bats.
- The site constituted a previously developed piece of land, i.e. land which is or was occupied by a permanent structure. The site of the house was previously developed land and therefore was considered as a brownfield site.
- The maximum height of 10.7m did not include the central lantern on the top of the building.
- The difference in height of the previous scheme and the scheme currently being considered was 5.5cm.
- The development at the front had been consistent since the Inspectors decision in 2007.
- Officers reconfirmed that the property being proposed was on the same site as had previously been approved. The width and depth were also the same as previously approved. The only change was to the shape of the roof. It was acknowledged that there would be some loss of light to neighbouring properties but given that the height increase was minimal, the harm was not considered to be sufficient to warrant refusal.
- It was the view of officers that should the application be refused it would be successful at appeal and it was further likely that the Council might be liable for any costs incurred.
- The main points Members needed to consider was the additional unit and the associated increase in roof height to accommodate it.
- The construction and management Condition could be amended to include ‘regular’ liaison. It could also include prescribed times to avoid school drop off and pick up.
- The potential loss of light was subjective and would be dependent on a number factors. There still remained a considerable distance between the adjacent properties.
- Officers confirmed there was a terrace as part of the top floor flat but there were no issues with overlooking onto adjacent properties.
Committee Debate and Officer Responses: Members of the Committee took account of the presentations made and raised a number of questions and issues within their discussion. These included:
- It was important to consider the application on its own merits rather than issues related to previous applications/approvals.
- There were concerns about the overlooking, loss of light and the imposing sense of the development, particularly upon No 67 Culverden Down.
- The overlooking from the rear balcony onto the top floor towards Connaught Way was also raised.
- The Highways issues were also a concern and the fear that there was not enough parking for the development to ensure both the safe exit and entrance into the site and that the street did not become unduly cluttered with cars that should be parked off road.
- There was no time limit for submitting planning applications.
- A legitimate reason would be needed to refuse the application and some Members expressed doubt as to whether one could be found.
- NPPF paragraph 11 d)ii stated that the adverse impact of granting permission would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits. This was sited by some Members as the reason why the application should be refused.
- It was important the word ‘regular’ be added in reference to liaison with residents.
- A Condition regarding electric charging points was already in place.
- Officers reconfirmed the access point had previously been considered acceptable for 8 units. The Highway Authority had not objected to the application. The previous application with only 8 parking spaces would have also been short of the Kent CC’s guidance on parking standards.
- Applications must be viewed on their own merits. An application for 8 units had already been approved and would stand even if the Committee were minded to refuse the current application.
- Officer’s had already advised of a likely successful appeal should the Committee refuse.
- If the Committee accepted the application, the Committee would want the developer to progress to the build without further delay.
- Officers confirmed the distance between the property and the properties on Connaught Way was between 70-75m
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 Patterson, seconded by Councillor Backhouse and a vote was taken to approve the application in line with the officer recommendation and with the following additions:
- An enhanced Condition regarding site access during the building process so that it did not conflict with school drop off and pick up times.
- Regular consultation be maintained through the construction period with local residents.
- The inclusion of an additional Condition relating pedestrian visibility displays.
Councillor Bland requested that the vote for the motion to approve the application in line with the officer recommendation be recorded.
Councillors Hamilton, Patterson, Poile, Pope and Backhouse voted for the motion to approve the application in line with the officer recommendation.
Councillors Atwood, Funnell and Pound voted against the motion to approve the application in line with the officer recommendation.
Councillors Fitzsimmons and Bland abstained.
RESOLVED – That application 21/01700/FULL, 69 Culverden Down, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent be granted subject to the plans, conditions and informatives as set out in the agenda report and the enhanced Condition regarding site access, the inclusion of regular consultation and the inclusion of an additional Condition relating to pedestrian visibility displays.