The report was introduced by Matthew Gallagher, Principal Planner (Major Applications). The application proposed temporary permission for the siting of a double demountable classroom unit to the rear of the school site for a duration of 1 year in order to allow the school to accommodate pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). A current planning application for the construction of the new Treetops Free School (ref. 19/00725/FUL) was scheduled to be determined during this time and if approved, would give time for the construction to take place. Recommendation 8.1A no longer applied because the impact of the proposal was not considered to be so significant on the openness of the Green Belt that it would need referral to the Secretary of the State given the size of the proposed demountable unit. The date given for temporary permission to be granted until in recommendation 8.1B would also be changed to 30 September 2020 as opposed to 15 August 2020 as the Applicant had asked for a full year temporary permission.
Steve Taylor agreed with giving the Applicant a full year for the temporary classroom units and that an extra year to make it two years would not affect anything. Matthew Gallagher explained that it was within the gift of the Planning Committee to grant longer than a year if they wished to do so. The Applicant had sought 12 months temporary permission but if they needed this to be extended, they would need to apply again.
Picking up on Steve Taylor’s point, Councillor Churchman queried whether the Committee could give temporary permission for a longer time until the units were no longer needed, once the construction of the Treetops Free School was in place. Matthew Gallagher said that the Treetops Free School (19/00725/FUL) application was still live and under consideration so the application could not be pre-judged. The recommendation was to stick with the given time limit.
The Chair noted some of the comments from neighbouring properties referred to within the report and questioned how construction work would be managed around the area as he was aware of a road that backed around the site. Referring the Committee to condition 4 on page 101 of the agenda, Matthew Gallagher said that the vehicles accessing the site for the construction phase would be required to travel via Stanford Road and not Buxton Road.
Drop off and pick up points for pupils arriving on mini-buses would be subject to recommended condition no. 3 (car park management plan). Subject to these recommended conditions there were no significant concerns raised from Highways as the construction was relatively small in size.
The Chair noted earlier comments regarding extending the proposed temporary planning permission for up to 24 months and questioned the process. Matthew Gallagher explained that the national guidance was to not grant a succession of temporary permission. However if the Committee wished to grant a longer time period of 24 months, this could be allowed. If Treetops School required a further extension, they would need to apply again.
Councillor Chukwu noted the site location was within the Green Belt and questioned why temporary permission should be granted. Matthew Gallagher confirmed the site was within the Green Belt and that a new building for a school would be deemed to be inappropriate development on the Green Belt. He went on to explain that Members should consider harm to the Green Belt on one hand and on the other hand if there were very special circumstances to outweigh the harm. In this case, there was a need for SEND places in Thurrock and there was strong support from national and planning guidance for new schools so the harm to the Green Belt was clearly outweighed.
With the Committee moving into debate, the Chair started by saying that granting temporary permission for 12 months was reasonable but would agree to extend for a longer period of time if there were good reasons to do so.
Steve Taylor said that although the site was on Green Belt, the need for school places was very special circumstances so outweighed the harm to the Green Belt. Councillor Byrne agreed with this and would support the application.
The Vice-Chair wished to propose an alternative recommendation which was to grant temporary permission for 24 months instead of the 12 months with the reason given as ‘to prevent a problem arising in the event of any delay to the permanent building’. This was seconded by Councillor Byrne.
The alternative recommendation met the test set out in the Constitution, Chapter 5, Part 3(b), 6.5 and the Committee moved on to the vote.
For: (9) Councillors Tom Kelly (Chair), Mike Fletcher (Vice-Chair), Gary Byrne, Colin Churchman, Angela Lawrence, David Potter, Sue Sammons, Abbie Akinbohun and Daniel Chukwu
Planning application 19/01095/FUL was approved with an extended time period (condition no. 1) of 24 months (expiring on 30.09.2021) and subject to the other conditions set out in the report.