The report was presented by Nadia Houghton, Principal Planner. There had been two further letters of objection to the application. One was in relation to the concern of badgers on the site which had been addressed on paragraph 1.2, page 24 of the Agenda. The other objection was in relation to the lack of information available on surface water drainage which had been available but had not uploaded to the website correctly. The information had been re-uploaded and the information had been sent to the objector. The application was detailed in Appendix 1 and was a proposal for the construction of 8 x two bedroom semi-detached dwellings with associated access, car parking and amenity areas. Officer’s recommendation was to approve the application subject to conditions for the reasons listed on page 36 of the Agenda.
The full details of the application can be found on pages 23 – 46 of the Agenda.
The Vice-Chair noted the information given regarding the proposed materials to be used that would give the dwellings a modern appearance and that the properties did not meet the amenity space requirements. He went on to mention other developments that had been rejected for not meeting the minimum amenity space requirements and questioned why this proposal had not been refused for the same reason.
Nadia Houghton explained that there was a variation of size with gardens in the proposed dwellings but the average amenity space overall was 57.2 sq.m. She went on to advise that the gardens of houses in the surrounding area were also similar in size. The proposed dwellings were located separately from properties on Meesons Lane and Badgers Dene. The design was different from the surrounding houses within the area because of its proposed modern design but given their location there was no objection to the difference in design.
Councillor Rice noted that there had been concerns on overlooking from other properties and mentioned that past planning applications had been refused before on the grounds of overlooking of properties. He went on to say that a condition should be embedded into this application to ensure windows were obscured to control overlooking from other properties.
Nadia Houghton explained that the proposed dwellings faced directly to Helleborine that was over the road but there was no overlooking due to the intervening distance. The proposed bathroom windows would be obscure glazed.
Councillor Rice sought reassurance on the concerns raised over the possibility of badgers on site. Nadia Houghton replied that she had visited the site with the Essex Badger Protection Group and whilst it had been established that there was an inactive sett on site, there had been no evidence of recent badger activity.
The Vice-Chair queried the time of the site visit. Nadia Houghton answered that the visit had taken place during the day but was aware that badgers were nocturnal. However, if there had been badgers on the site, there would have been evidence left behind by badgers but there had been none.
Councillor Lawrence asked if the experts consulted had spoken with residents and raised concern over whether there had been badgers on site. Nadia Houghton reiterated that a meeting had taken place involving the Council’s Ecology Advisor, the Applicant’s Ecology Consultant and representatives from the Essex Badger Protection Group, which included a joint site visit to examine the site for evidence of any badgers using the site. It was confirmed by all at the joint site visit that there were no badgers on the application site or any evidence of badgers.
Councillor Byrne mentioned that the email that had been circulated by the resident on objection had shown a photo of badgers on the site. He queried whether the photo taken could have been of another sett. Nadia Houghton replied that it was uncertain where or how the photo had been taken but confirmed it was unlikely that it was from the sett within the planning application site.
The Chair invited registered speakers to present their statements to the Committee.
A Resident, Joyce Tyler, gave her statement in objection.
Ward Councillor, Tony Fish, gave his statement in objection.
The Applicant, Stuart Oldroyd, gave his statement in support.
Steve Taylor, Campaign to Protect Rural England Representative, questioned the market cost for each proposed dwelling. Nadia Houghton answered that the Applicant had not given an indication on the proposed cost for the proposed dwellings.
Noting the number of objections to the proposal and concern over badgers on the site, Councillor Rice thought a site visit was needed to ensure that no badgers were on the site.
The Vice-Chair thought that it sounded like there was a possibility of badgers on the site despite there being no active sett there. He went on to say that he was concerned with the number of planning applications including this one that did not meet the minimum criteria. Some of the proposed dwellings in this planning application did not meet half the amenity space required and he commented that the potential people who would buy these properties would have young children who would need to be placed in the nearby schools. This would result in an increased pressure in those schools as the Ward Councillor had highlighted in his objection statement. The Vice-Chair stated that he would be voting against the proposal.
Councillor Shinnick agreed and stated that she was not in favour of the application. Councillor Lawrence also stated that she would be voting against the proposal and said that the area used to have more greenery which was disappearing over time. She believed that there were badgers on the site.
The Chair said that there were not enough reasons to refuse the application but noted that there were a lot of objections to it. He thought a site visit could have taken place last month when the application had been deferred. He stated he was in favour of the application as there were not enough planning reasons to refuse it but noted that material planning considerations had to be given as grounds for refusal.
Councillor Rice proposed the site visit. Councillor Shinnick seconded this.
For: (4) Councillors Colin Churchman, Angela Lawrence, Gerard Rice and Sue Shinnick.
Against: (4) Councillors Gary Byrne, Mike Fletcher, Tom Kelly and David Potter.
The Chair used his casting vote to vote against the site visit. The site visit was rejected.
The Vice-Chair proposed an alternative motion to Officer’s recommendation to refuse the application on the grounds that:
1. The appearance of the proposed dwellings was out of character with the surrounding houses in the area.
2. There was a lack of private amenity space and did not meet recommended requirements.
The Committee felt that other reasons of badgers on the site and that, the methodology used to calculate traffic flow was not applicable to Thurrock; should also be added as grounds for refusal. However, these issues had been considered by the consultees who raised no objection on these grounds and it was considered that these matters would not be supported as a refusal by the Planning Inspectorate in the event of an appeal. There had also been no objections from the Council’s Ecology Advisor and from highways. These reasons were not added in the alternative motion to refuse the application.
Councillor Rice seconded the Vice-Chair’s motion.
For: (7) Councillors Gary Byrne, Colin Churchman, Mike Fletcher, Angela Lawrence, David Potter, Gerard Rice and Sue Shinnick.
Against: (1) Councillor Tom Kelly.
The motion was carried and planning application 18/00551/FUL was refused planning permission with the final wording for the two reasons for refusal to be agreed by the Chair.