The report on pages 147 – 166 of the Agenda was presented by Lucy Mannion.
Steve Taylor mentioned that the dropped kerb shown in the Officer’s presentation used to have a gate behind the hedge row that was used to hay from there to the farm across the road.
The statement of support from Nick Westlake, the Agent, was read out by Democratic Services.
Councillor Byrne questioned what features of the proposed dwellings indicated that it was designed for over 55’s such as a ramp. Lucy Mannion answered that there were no specific features indicating that the dwellings were for over 55’s and that anyone could live there.
Councillor Rice questioned if the proposed dwellings were secured for over 55’s. Lucy Mannion answered that the location was not suitable for over 55’s and that an agreement could be secured for over 55’s to purchase the homes but this could potentially be overcome by future buyers.
Steve Taylor noted that the previous application for four proposed dwellings had been refused and the current application now proposed five dwellings. He questioned whether the Applicant had discussed the application with the LPA before submitting it. Lucy Mannion said that the Applicant had not approached the LPA for advice or discussion before submitting the application since the refusal of the first application.
Councillor Lawrence thought that the location of the proposed development was ideal as it was not in a busy area. She also pointed out that there would be changes to the Green Belt soon through the Development Plan and that Thurrock needed to be more forward thinking before other bigger companies took these opportunities of developments. The Vice-Chair noted the speaker statement and thought there was a local need for homes for older people and that there was not a good supply of homes for over 55’s. He felt more weight should have been attached to specialist older people’s home need and that some of the case of VSC put forward by the Applicant should be considered again.
Councillor Rice pointed out that the Applicant, as part of the s106 agreement, would remove the Permitted Development Rights (PDR) to ensure the proposed bungalows would remain bungalows forever. He stated that there was a lack of bungalows in Fobbing and that there was a planning application down the road that was for 180 homes. He referred to the correspondence from Gillian Sanders who had given a history of the site in that a home had been on that site but had been bombed in the war and had never been replaced. He said the site was not within the Fobbing Conservation area; the proposed development was well connected to the central village with bus stops nearby that arrived every hour and that the internal designs of the proposed dwellings were good as they were single storey with rear gardens.
The Chair did not feel that the comments regarding the previous building on site in 1939 was relevant to the application. Officers explained that there had been no remains of the home from 1939 on the site and that if the remains had moulded into the landscape, leaving no built form on land behind, it would not constitute as Previously Developed Land (PDL). This was highlighted within the NPPF and the Planning Inspector in the previous application that was refused had clarified that the site was not PDL.
Regarding changes to the Green Belt, Jonathan Keen highlighted that permission should not be given through small planning applications such as the one before Committee and release of Green Belt sites had to be considered on a strategic level taking into local infrastructure. In regards to Green Belt spatial designations, he said that even though these could not be seen, it did not mean that it would not be harmful. He highlighted the appeal decision for the previous refused application from August 2019 in that the Planning Inspector had raised harm to the Green Belt refused on those grounds; and had raised concern about the design and appearance of the buildings which was the same as in the current scheme. Matthew Gallagher added that the Green Belt was primarily intended to keep land open although openness could have a visual aspect, the Green Belt was a primarily a spatial designation. Noting the comments regarding the Fobbing Waterworks application, he said that each case should be judged on its own merits.
Councillor Lawrence thought the designs of the bungalows were innovative as old bungalows required a lot of work. She felt the open plan design in the proposed dwellings would work out better for over 55’s. Steve Taylor commented that the farmland was not public land but gave a visual openness. Referring to the PDR mentioned in the speaker statement, he commented that the bungalow could be passed down to a younger person who would be able to appeal the PDR in the future. Councillor Byrne pointed out that Members needed to look at the plan and not the age the proposed dwellings were for. He thought the location was too far from local amenities.
The Chair proposed the Officer’s recommendation and was seconded by Councillor Byrne.
FOR: (2) Councillors Gary Byrne and Tom Kelly.
AGAINST: (6) Councillors Mike Fletcher, Angela Lawrence, Dave Potter, Gerard Rice, Sue Sammons and Sue Shinnick.
The Vice-Chair proposed an alternative motion and the reasons were summed up as follows:
There was a debate over the sixth reason as the earlier approval of 19/01058/OUT had merged the towns of Tilbury and Little Thurrock together. Councillor Rice pointed out that the development would not result in unrestricted sprawl and prevent build up within the area. Jonathan Keen said that the application would be deferred to the next Committee meeting as Officers would need to assess the reasons provided by Members and the impacts of approving the application.
The Chair noted that the Applicant had stated that they would commence works within a year if the application was approved, instead of the usual three years. Matthew Gallagher explained that the wording ‘commencement’ did not necessarily mean that construction work of the site would be completed but instead, a trench, for example, could be dug as ‘commencement’ of works.
With the Vice-Chair proposing the alternative recommendation to approve, Councillor Rice seconded this.
FOR: (6) Councillors Mike Fletcher, Angela Lawrence, Dave Potter, Gerard Rice, Sue Sammons and Sue Shinnick.
AGAINST: (2) Councillors Gary Byrne and Tom Kelly.
The application was deferred to enable Officers to assess the impacts of approving the application. The report would be brought back to the next Committee.