Councillor Byrne asked for the application to be deferred as there were concerns over the application. Democratic Services advised that procedures be followed to enable the application to be heard before Members considered a deferral of the application.
The report on pages 267 – 282 of the Agenda was presented by Matthew Gallagher.
In regards to flooding, Councillor Byrne pointed out that the site had flooded nine days ago and that the riverbank would need piling as it was on a different level. He also questioned if there was a safe drop-off point. Matt Gallagher answered that there was a main river adjacent to the site so the site itself was within flood zones two and three. The site was protected along with the south of London Road but the north was not protected. He said that he was aware of the recent flooding and that flood risk was a planning consideration hence why the application had been submitted with a flood risk assessment. The Council had applied the sequential test and the exceptions test for this which had passed because there was nowhere else to put the station. The other key consideration was that the NPPF was clear that the application should not increase the risk of flooding elsewhere. The consultant who had provided the flood risk assessment for the development had stated that there was no net loss of floodplain storage so this development did not make the situation worse which was the planning test. Therefore, an objection on flood risk grounds could not be submitted as there was no objection on that ground. Regarding a safe drop-off point, he said that this application was phase one and that the Council had recently received a request for pre-application planning advice for phase two which suggested that the Applicant was serious about making an application particularly where they had sought design advice from architects. Regarding piling, he said that this application was accompanied by a range of different studies and if piling was required, the Applicant would have instructed the technical consultants who would be aware of what was required to pile the station and aware of the site’s proximity to the main river so should follow the relevant processes. He highlighted that the Applicant was the Council that was a competent and responsible organisation and would follow the necessary consents and processes.
The Vice-Chair questioned if the two phases were being delivered by different architects. He also commented that it would be logical to view the whole application as one rather than in two phases as it was being delivered by the same engineering consultant. Matthew Gallagher said that it was the same engineering consultant who was familiar with the site and had produced a number of reports to support the pre-application advice of the site. He said that the application was a legitimate planning application. He went on to say that he understood Members’ concerns on the need to see phase two with phase one and stated that each application had to be assessed on its own merits.
The Vice-Chair raised concerns that the same issues would arise again as the previous plan could not be delivered so it was important to see the whole plan in order to judge it on its merits. He highlighted that Members needed to see how phase two would relate to phase one. Matthew Gallagher explained that phasing was usual in complex sites which would be delivered over a longer time frame such as the case with previous applications such as the Purfleet-on-Thames project. This proposal for this application was as detailed in the report and would potentially have a proposal for a car park; cycle parking; electric vehicle charging points and a bus turn around point. Leigh Nicholson added that he understood Members’ concerns on the next phase and the associated costs but highlighted that costs were immaterial when considering a planning application and the likelihood of what could happen. He stated that Members had to consider the application that was within the red line boundary on its own merits.
Steve Taylor sought clarification on why the Council was the Applicant and not Network Rail. He commented that the Council was funding to improve an asset that was owned by Network Rail. Matthew Gallagher explained that it had been an aspiration of the Council’s to secure a bus turnaround point within Stanford-Le-Hope in fact which had also been in the s106 agreements with London Gateway when it was signed in order for people to go to the London Gateway via rail or bus. It was not unusual for the Council to seek to improve station facilities because although Network Rail had a role, they were not delivering the project but ensuring the sign off for standards. It was part of the Council's ambitions to improve that part of the town centre and public transport accessibility and sustainability. In regards to funding, he said that the Applicant would have considered the financial implications of the project to ensure that it could be delivered.
Councillor Byrne said that there was a financial cap on this development which was £19.6 million and that if phase two cost £15 million, the project would not be delivered. He said that Members needed to see the full plan. Matthew Gallagher reminded Members that costs were not a material planning consideration and that Members had to make a decision on a planning application with consideration of it complying with development and plan policies along with other relevant material planning considerations. He went on to say that it had to be assumed, as with any other planning application, that the Applicant had taken a risk assessment to identify build costs through the use of consultants and advisors.
Councillor Byrne sought detail on the proposed housing development that was originally proposed for car parking, on the brewery site that was at the back of the application site. The Chair asked what the proposals for car parking would be. Matthew Gallagher explained that based on the pre-application planning advice that had been received recently, there was mention of an upgraded and expansion of the existing station car park of up to 81 parking spaces including electric vehicle charging points; secure cycle storage; electric pedal bike hire; bus turning space; pedestrian crossing and landscaping. He stated that there was no mention or reference to housing. The Chair sought clarification on the current number of car park spaces available to which Julian Howes said that there was currently around 70 or 73 spaces.
The Chair noted that the old application had two bus turning points and noted this was now removed in this application. He commented that people would have to cross the road if arriving by vehicle and he questioned if the pedestrian crossing was being proposed as mitigation. Matthew Gallagher reminded Members needed to consider the details proposed within the current application and not details in a potential future phase. Julian Howes explained that the old application had proposed a bus turnaround facility to the front of the station where the taxi pull in had been. There were two bus stops that were currently in place which would remain and continue to operate as it currently did.
Democratic Services read out Ward Councillor Terry Piccolo’s supporting speaker statement.
The Vice-Chair commented that Stanford-Le-Hope’s residents needed a fully functioning modern station but he was concerned as the last application for the project had not been delivered. He said that Members needed to see the full plan for the project. Councillor Rice said that he supported Councillor Piccolo’s statement but noted the concerns raised by Members and that Members wanted to see the whole plan before making a decision.
Councillor Byrne proposed deferring the application so that Members could see the whole plan. The Chair said that he was reassured that the Applicant would provide a good turning point along with the parking and pedestrian crossings due to the purchase of the Daybreak Windows site. He was minded to approve the application and if the application was approved, he said that a condition should be included where it would not allow this development to go ahead without approval for phase two. The Vice-Chair felt a deferral was a more sensible option to enable Members to see both applications to enable Members to see a whole picture of the whole plan.
Leigh Nicholson noted that the reasons for deferral were because Members wanted to see the proposals for car parking; bus turnaround arrangements and cycle facilities. He noted the Chair’s suggestion for a condition to be added if the application was approved and said that a suitably worded condition could be added in conjunction with the Chair.
Councillor Byrne questioned whether the whole plan could be brought to Committee once the project had gone out to tender as this would show whether the project could be delivered or not. The Vice-Chair agreed that the plan should be looked at after it had gone out to tender to avoid the same situation that had occurred with the old application which had been a good plan but could not be delivered. He said the material reasons for deferral was to ensure that Members had the complete view of the whole plan and to avoid the same problems as the old application on the same project.
The meeting was adjourned at 11.18pm to establish an internet connection with the Chair. The meeting recommenced at 11.26pm.
Due to the lateness of the meeting, Members agreed to move the last item onto the Extraordinary Planning Committee meeting on 25 February 2021.
As Members were minded to defer the application, Leigh Nicholson noted that Members wanted to see the supporting facilities for the station in regards to car parking; cycle storage and bus turnaround point which was a planning reason. Adding to this, Matthew Gallagher said each application stood on their own merits and that a decision for this application could still be made. He explained that delaying the determination of this application because Members wanted to see the details of a future application could have implications for the deliverability of the station which Members should also consider.
Councillor Byrne proposed that the application be deferred so that Members could see the future proposals together with this application and for both applications to come to Committee after it had gone out for tender so Members could see what could be delivered of the project. The Vice-Chair seconded this.
FOR: (7) Councillors Mike Fletcher, Gary Byrne, Colin Churchman,
Angela Lawrence, Gerard Rice, Sue Sammons and Sue Shinnick.
AGAINST: (1) Councillor Tom Kelly