The report on pages 157 – 202 of the Agenda was presented by Matthew Gallagher.
The Chair thought the proposal was good but questioned why there were no affordable homes. He noted that 1.7 car park spaces per dwelling was suggested and that the site was not near a train station. He questioned if car park spaces could be increased. Matthew Gallagher confirmed that there was no affordable housing and it was not a factor that weighed in favour of the proposal. The cost of a new football stadium was a factor and the viability assessment had showed that there was no money left over for affordable housing. If Members sought to approve an application without affordable housing, the Council’s Core Strategy highlights that this would could be justified through a viability appraisal. But Members were reminded that this case was different to previously approved GB applications where Members had highlighted the need for affordable housing and this factor had been promoted as contributing to very special circumstances.
Regarding car parking spaces, Matthew Gallagher referred to the table on page 160 of the Agenda and said that the detailed level of car parking provision would be settled through any reserved matters submission. However, the Applicant was not seeking that detail at this stage, they were seeking an upper limit to number of residential units which was 112. The residential layout plan was indicative and so was the number of car parking spaces of 192. If Members were minded to approve the application, a planning condition could be implemented to address car parking to ensure that the reserved matters were in line with the Council’s car parking standards. He went on to say that the site was not a town centre location but was also not remote and said that if Members were minded to approve the application, they could consider travel plans to reduce any potential overspill from residential parking. Officers were satisfied that there was adequate car parking for the football stadium.
Councillor Lawrence noted the points relating to flood risk and said that there were no objections from the Flood Risk Manager and also that Amazon was built in the same area. She accepted the harm to the GB but said that there were VSC to approve the application. She referred to a photograph of the GB which was opposite the junction of the A126 that she had sent to Members of the Committee and stated that the GB could look like that picture if it was not sorted out. She went on to say that she was supportive of the application and said that the VSC was that the football club had been there since the 1950s and was the only location that it could continue in. There were also health and wellbeing benefits and an opportunity for the Martial Academy Trust to relocate here. She said that the stadium would improve the area as well. Matthew Gallagher stated that Members needed to consider the application before them that was before the Committee only and he was unable to comment on Councillor Lawrence’s picture as it was not presented to Officers earlier and without knowing the full planning history of the site, but welcomed Members to send queries on other sites or planning applications to the planning department. Councillor Lawrence felt the picture affected the current planning application as it could affect the look of the area that the site was within. The Chair acknowledged Councillor Lawrence’s point and pointed out that the current application’s site had to be considered within its boundaries.
Councillor Shinnick was supportive of the application and said that Tilbury needed the infrastructure instead of warehouses again. The Vice-Chair agreed and said that there was a flaw in GB thinking. Although Members recognised the harm to the GB, he said that this application was not similar to other GB applications where it was proposed homes on the GB. He felt that insufficient weight had been attributed to some of the harm in the table on page 188 of the Agenda:
The Vice-Chair noted that material planning reasons would be required if Members were minded to approve. He said that these would be:
Most of the Members were supportive of the application. It was said that there were no flood issues raised so Officer’s flood concerns should not be considered (Members were reminded that, subject to conditions, there were no flood risk objections); Thurrock Council did not have the funds to build a new stadium; and; Tilbury deserved a new stadium that would be an asset where most young people would play and could help to deter crime.
Steve Taylor said that he objected to building on the GB but he noted the benefits of the proposal for Tilbury residents. Councillor Byrne pointed out that not much consideration had been given to affordable homes and commented whether Tilbury residents would be in a position to afford unaffordable housing.
The Chair agreed and said that Rightmove showed properties in Tilbury were of a lower value which needed to be taken into account. He also said that the views were not brilliant as the Amazon warehouse was north of the site and questioned what was to the south of the site as he wondered whether the costs for the proposed dwellings would be reasonable. Matthew Gallagher answered that it was a showmen’s homes site and a general purpose residential site after. The Chair queried what was to the side of the site and Councillor Rice answered that it could be a travellers’ site to the left upon entering Tilbury though he was not completely certain. Councillor Lawrence pointed out that herself and Councillor Liddiard had complained about the area as there was pony and track racing that was hazardous along with the selling of food on the site.
Referring back to Members’ comments, Matthew Gallagher explained that the flood risk issue had not been raised as an objection and the application was to be considered on GB harm. He said that viability applied to every development proposal that the Council dealt with and if an application was not financially viable, the development would not be built. In regards to Amazon, the site was formerly within the GB which was removed through the Core Strategy (2011) through a planned release. It was also removed from the highest flood risk area. On affordable housing, he said that there was no affordable housing due to viability issues but the Council’s policy enabled Members to consider the application on that basis. He reminded Members of the balancing exercise where harm had to be considered and substantial weight put on the harm. Harm had to be clearly outweighed by other considerations for VSC to exist.
The following speaker statements were heard:
Councillor Rice said that Tilbury was the forgotten part of the Borough and referred earlier to the weight given to the table on page 188 by the Vice-Chair. He pointed out that the Council did not have a five year housing supply; no 20% buffer; and failing on its yearly housing targets. He noted no objections on flooding issues but the Environment Agency and Flood Risk Manager requested suitable conditions to be added which he thought had significant weight. Health benefits were also important and the stadium would join Chadwell St Mary and Tilbury together. Sport England had no objections and the site was previously developed land. The stadium would provide a home for the Martial Arts Academy.
The Chair noted that the resident’s speaker statement had raised issues of water pressure and questioned if the stadium could use a different water source. Matthew Gallagher answered that the stadium would have a plastic pitch so would not need water. He went through the weight that Members had attributed to the table on page 188 and said that ‘Securing the long term future of Tilbury Football Club’ was not a VSC as every football club wanted to be financially stable. He went on to explain that if Members were minded to approve, the focus should be on community benefits; health and wellbeing benefits; and five year housing supply. Caroline Robins added that Members could not use ‘Sport England has no objection’ as a reason as a negative could not be used as a positive. She reminded Members to acknowledge that there would be substantial harm to the GB before giving weight to the reasons that outweighed that harm.
The Vice-Chair said that substantial harm to the GB was acknowledged and that the reasons for Members minding to approve the application was that there would be community benefits and health and wellbeing benefits which carried significant weight. Contrary to Officer advice, Councillor Rice felt that ‘Securing the long term future of Tilbury Football Club’ should still be afforded moderate weight and ‘Enabling development’ as significant weight as the developer was contributing a large sum of money to build a new stadium which was why there was no s106 agreements (n.b. a s106 agreement is required). He agreed with the Vice-Chair’s weighting and said that there was no five year housing supply; no 20% buffer and there would be employment through the construction phase. The Chair pointed out that the large sum of money was also for the housing development that would be behind the stadium. He raised concerns on the density of the site for housing and that there would not be enough parking available. He did not wish to see residents in the area to be affected by overspill parking.
Matthew Gallagher reiterated his explanation earlier (Clerk’s note – paragraph 3 under this application) in regards to car parking. Regarding the Chair’s concerns on density, Matthew Gallagher said that it was 55 dwellings per hectare which the Council sought through one of its Core Strategy policies and the proposed housing was close to this figure. However, the site layout was indicative.
The Vice-Chair proposed the alternative motion to approve the application and was seconded by Councillor Rice. The reasons were summed up as:
As the application proposed building on the GB, if approved, it would be subject to the usual steps of referral to the Monitoring Officer, drafting of s106 and then referral to the Secretary of State.
FOR: (9) Councillors Tom Kelly, Mike Fletcher, Gary Byrne, Colin Churchman, Angela Lawrence, David Potter, Gerard Rice, Sue Sammons and Sue Shinnick.