Planning Report and Presentation – The Head of Planning Services submitted a report in respect of application PLA155/22 Grosvenor Garage, 123 - 125 St James Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent and this was summarised at the meeting by Charlotte Oben Principal Planning Officer and illustrated by means of a visual presentation.
Updates and additional representation – Since publication of the agenda report, the presenting officer updated:
· 11 additional representations from residents have been received (10 against and 1 for). They have raised the following points:
Increase in traffic/congestion
Loss of light/sunlight
Question borough contributions going to Hawkenbury
Design out of keeping with area
· Support the application: Need for high quality homes
Registered Speakers – There were 4 speakers that registered in accordance with the Council’s Constitution (Planning Committee Procedure Rules)
· George Liley, a local resident.
· Chris Williams, a local resident.
· Duncan Parr, on behalf of the applicant.
Borough Councillor not on the Planning Committee:
· Councillor Rob Wormington, St. James’ spoke in objection to the application.
Matters of clarification by Officers and Committee Members’ questions to Officers included:
i. The Council’s Urban Design Officer was involved in the pre application discussions prior to the submission of the application and her comments in paragraph 7.12 of the agenda demonstrated that she had no objection to the application and considered it was a suitable design.
ii. Comments from Kent County Council on the parking standards, correctly showed that it was one space per unit maximum. It was considered that the additional trips generated from the change in use was not likely to lead to any significant impact on the highway safety or congestion.
iii. Condition 9 addressed the potential overlooking from some of the windows to the rear.
iv. In response to concerns raised about the use of date parking ownership levels, it was understood that there were recent ones released from the 2021 census, but they had only been very recently been released, and so were unavailable before the application was submitted.
v. It was clarified that in terms of social housing, the emerging policies 40% was the requirement for greenfield sites. Given that Members were looking at a brownfield site, the requirement for affordable housing was 30% on the basis of the emerging policies, which was why the calculations came out as they did.
vi. There was no social rent provision on site. It was advised that the applicant sought to engage with registered providers to provide some on-site affordable units, however it was notoriously difficult to get registered providers to take on units when they were part of a single block as they did not have control of the circulation and other communal areas. The Housing Officer also engaged with a number of registered providers and they were unwilling to take up any units at the site.
vii. The wording of paragraph 10.45 of the agenda was clarified and discussed in detail.
viii. It was advised that the off site affordable housing Section 106 funding went go to a pool that was held by the Borough Council and the Housing Team allocated those monies to projects in the borough related to social housing that they had coming forward. That could be something that the Council were delivering themselves or in partnership.
ix. The application had met the parking standards and Kent County Council (KCC) had raised no objections.
x. The point was raised that the site was in a very sustainable location and so active travel should be promoted.
xi. It was advised that right to light was not a planning consideration, it was a separate part of legislation. With regard to the shadow studies, Officers had considered those and the impact on the residential amenity of nearby occupiers and were of the opinion that the threshold of significant harm had not been reached and therefore it was acceptable.
xii. Officers considered that as there was a provision of parking that met the standards and with a car club facility already in place on Quarry Road it was not appropriate to secure S106 money for the car club.
xiii. The access to the roof level car park for the existing site was onto Stratford street and that would be closed and no longer require a dropped kerb so will essentially increase on-street parking capacity there.
xiv. The Urban Design Officers comments outlined that the top floor would have a zinc cladding to the elevations which had been selected to reduce the visual impact of the additional floor.
Committee Member debate and Officer clarification included:
i. The principle of development on this site was considered good.
ii. Parking was raised as a concern, however Members noted the sustainability of the site and the need to promote active travel.
iii. It was considered by some that overlooking was an issue and that it was over intensive in that particular area.
iv. It was questioned why more time and effort was not made to get a registered provider on board.
v. It was felt that parking had been discussed in sufficient detail and the policy was to starve the motorist and undersupply parking to encourage active travel.
vi. It was acknowledged that the applicant made an effort to reduce the mass of the building.
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 Neville and a vote was taken to approve the application in line with the officer recommendation.
RESOLVED – That application PLA155/22 be granted subject to the plans, conditions, Planning agreement and informatives as set out in the agenda report.