The report on pages 29 – 62 of the Agenda was presented by Matthew Gallagher. Since the publication of the Agenda, he highlighted that there were five late letters received in objection to the application; a number of late letters received in support of the application; and that a £50,000 financial contribution had been offered to Thurrock Council for improvements to the road in the site’s area. The Chair added that Councillor David Van Day had sent a letter of objection to Members of the Committee.
Referring to pages 52 – 53, the Chair noted the Applicant’s proposal included a ‘HGV Loop’ to help alleviate the problems on Ship Lane. He pointed out that it would not completely solve the problem and that the Council was aware of the problems and was considering a roundabout which he thought would ensure that HGVs turned around and that restrictions could be implemented from there. He went on to say that in discussions with the Council, he was aware that there was no funding available for this and sought more detail as the report highlighted that Members could not add weight to the Applicant’s proposal of the HGV Loop. Julian Howes confirmed that the Council did not have funds at present for the roundabout option considered by the Council. He said that the Council did not have the powers to prevent HGVs going down Ship Lane or for camera enforcement to be installed but could only enforce powers under the Traffic Management Act where HGVs used bus lanes due to the wider lanes. Under the enforcement system, a facility had to be provided for a lorry to be able to turn around which the Applicant had put forward as a mitigation measure. However, the Highways Team was not convinced that this would work as lorries could still potentially ignore this.
The Vice-Chair asked what the size of the original stadium car park was in comparison to the new PDI car park. Matthew Gallagher answered that the PDI car park would be larger by a degree and that there was a material difference between a car park that could accommodate 1,224 vehicles. The Vice-Chair pointed out that even if the HGV issues were resolved, another issue would arise with the increase of vehicles along some parts of the road in an area that was already experiencing traffic problems. He commented that the PDI car park was proposed in the wrong place at the wrong time and would only add to the pollution and ‘rat run’ problem on the road. Matthew Gallagher pointed out that Highways England was not highlighting an objection subject to the mitigation of the HGV Loop. He said that if this mitigation was to be secured through a condition, this would be subject to legal tests for planning conditions and relevant to planning.
Councillor Byrne sought clarification on whether it would be two football pitches that would be lost in this application. Matthew Gallagher confirmed that the proposed PDI was cited on the practice pitches where the grass was overgrown which would still be available as practice pitches with some maintenance. He highlighted that Sport England had asked for a mitigation payment if those pitches were to be lost.
Referring to Matthew Gallagher’s point about the mitigation of the HGV Loop, Caroline Robins highlighted that the turning circle was not related to the proposed development and the development had planning tests to pass. The Chair felt that weight could be added to the mitigation of the HGV Loop as the developer was trying to find a solution to the HGV problems in Ship Lane as part of the development’s proposal.
Councillor Churchman felt that more cars would be added to this site and sought further details. Matthew Gallagher explained that the application proposed vehicle pre-delivery inspection use which would involve the importation of vehicles; testing these on site and exporting to various car dealerships.
Councillor Lawrence sought clarification on the background of Grays Athletic FC and why they would be based at this site. Matthew Gallagher explained that the football club’s previous grounds were leased to them which had expired or not renewed so was now without a home and had been ground sharing with other football clubs.
Speaker Statements were presented by Teresa Webster, Resident in objection to the application and by Julian Sutton, Agent in support of the application.
Councillor Byrne questioned the number of car park spaces proposed to which it was confirmed that it was 1,224. He pointed out that two full sized football pitches would be lost for a giant car park and that Aveley already had football grounds and questioned what the benefit would be for Aveley’s residents. The Chair pointed out that the pitches had not been in use for the last few years and was opposite an industrial site and next to a hotel so it was not the most pristine Green Belt site.
The Vice – Chair said that it was not about the quality of the Green Belt but rather what was proposed to be built on it and the impact of this around Ship Lane. He said that the number of vehicles on the road would increase with the development and impact upon the traffic and pollution in the area which would not help as the area was already identified with a pollution problem. He stated that Members wished to see Grays Athletic FC find a ‘home’ but not at the expense of Aveley’s community which was already in a ‘rat run’ with its traffic issues. The Chair said that the area was an industrial area and accepted that there were issues on Ship Lane but that there would only be 1 to 3 increases in traffic movement. He pointed out that this additional traffic would be from a part of Ship Lane that led to the site which was no more than 100 metres. The Vice-Chair pointed out that the additional traffic would add to an already overburdened road and that it did not take into account the traffic that would be generated from football club, he was liked the idea but not the location.
Councillor Rice felt that Members needed to see the site to view the level of traffic on Ship Lane. Councillor Lawrence felt that a site visit was not needed and that the views of the Aveley residents should be considered. She agreed it was the wrong location for the PDI car park and that the football grounds could still be leased for the football club to use. Steve Taylor highlighted that a large chunk of the Green Belt would be lost and that turning the site into an industrial area could potentially add to the traffic issues and cause further gridlock if incidents were to occur on the A13 or M25.
Councillor Shinnick highlighted her concerns on flooding in the area as she had been in the area recently and had seen that the water level had risen in the Mardyke. She said that the car park would not absorb the water if it flooded and was concerned for the residents of Aveley. Councillor Sammons said she was not in favour of a site visit and that Ship Lane was a congested road and the additional traffic would only add to the problem. Councillor Churchman stated that Members wanted to see Grays Athletic FC do well but not at the detriment of Aveley. He said that Aveley was not the right location with the traffic issues and flood plain with the Mardyke.
Councillor Byrne questioned why 1,200 car park spaces were needed when there would only be 300 vehicle movements. Matthew Gallagher explained that new or used vehicle stock would be delivered and potentially held on the site before it would be exported out of the site so there was a need for storage capacity. The number of vehicle movements did not equate to the number of car parking spaces. He noted that Members had discussed the number of vehicle movements in the site’s area and highlighted that Officers had not raised this as a reason for refusal due to the Applicant’s proposed mitigation measure and there was no objection from the Council’s Highway Team or Highways England. He highlighted that the reason for refusal was because the site was Green Belt and that Officers did not consider that the harm was clearly outweighed. Julian Howes added that the vehicles would be delivered onto the site on big transporters which held 8 – 10 vehicles and that the 300 vehicle movements consisted of the lorries and transporters going in and out of the site but not necessarily as individual vehicles. Councillor Lawrence raised concerns over the big transporters as these could cause further potential traffic problems as well if these were to ‘tip over’.
Councillor Rice proposed a site visit and Councillor Shinnick seconded.
FOR: (3) Councillors Tom Kelly, Gerard Rice and Sue Shinnick.
AGAINST: (6) Councillors Mike Fletcher, Gary Byrne, Colin Churchman, Angela Lawrence, David Potter and Sue Sammons.
The site visit was rejected.
The Chair said that the HGV issues in Ship Lane would continue and that the Council and the developer could work together to install the roundabout to resolve these issues. He felt the development could be ‘workable’ and pointed out that the Green Belt site was not pristine and that the flooding concerns were more the Applicant and would not have affected the Mardyke as the flood agency had not raised any objections. Councillor Lawrence said that she hoped that the Council’s Regeneration Team took the discussions into consideration as a football club was needed in Grays.
The Vice-Chair proposed the Officer’s recommendation to refuse and was seconded by Councillor Churchman.
FOR: (7) Councillors Mike Fletcher, Gary Byrne, Colin Churchman, Angela Lawrence, David Potter and Sue Sammons. and Sue Shinnick.
AGAINST: (2) Councillors Tom Kelly and Gerard Rice.