The report was presented by the Principal Planning Officer.
The Chair enquired as to why the green space wasn't built on, when the houses were originally built. He continued by saying Members assumed once visiting the site, it was supposed to be a little green space for the residents who lived there. The Principal Planning Officer advised planning permission was given in 1983/ 1984 for the redevelopment of 307 houses and at that time, it was shown as an open area on the approved plans.
Councillor Watson queried as to whether there was a condition that the area should be remain an open space as part of a Section 106 Agreement. Officers confirmed they had looked at the original application and did not have copies of any Section 106 agreement which required it to stay as open space.
Councillor Watson continued to enquire as to what Officers plans to mitigate traffic in the area, given the size of the roads and including the HGVs which were going to require access to the site. The Principal Planning Officer advised Officers had been looking at restricting the construction hours so that HGVs could only access and start at a reasonable time.
Councillor Piccolo commented that the planning permission had been granted 37 years ago and during this time the land had been used by residents. He continued by mentioning in his knowledge, that public use of this piece of land in the 37 years had never been restricted, and the Council had been cutting the grass for this time. He stated he thought it would now be public land and it couldn’t be developed.
The Legal Representative advised clarity be sought as to the extant use of the land.
The Senior Highways Engineer explained the scenario existed for roads, however, was not aware if it was the same for open spaces.
Councillor Watson mentioned Tilbury was a floodplain in its own right and enquired as to what is the flood risk for that particular area. The Principal Planning Officer advised a response had been received from the Environment Agency and they didn't have any objections to the proposal. A flood risk assessment was carried out and set out mitigation measures, including the levels of the first floor to provide refuge to the potential residents and the Environment Agency were happy with the detailed included in the assessment.
Speaker statements were heard from:
During discussions, the Principal Planner clarified a Land Registry search was carried out and the land in question was in private ownership still and therefore owned by the developer.
Councillor Polley mentioned the thing that struck her on the site visit was how well maintained the space was. The residents hadn’t asked for this to be given up for car parking, and obviously valued the space.
The Chair stated, Members would have to make a decision as to whether they had material reasons for refusal or whether they accept the application whether liked it or not. He continued by saying he didn’t like the parking situation and that there was an argument to be had, that whilst it's not public open space, it has been used as open space by the residents.
Councillor Watson remarked she visited the site one evening, it was packed down both sides of that road with parked cars. She continued by saying she was really worried about the hours of construction, not to mention the noise itself going on there without the size of the HGV's going through small roads.
Councillor Piccolo observed the space was central in this estate. He felt the intention was always that the land was to be green space for the estate, and regardless of what had happened, he thought it was made very clear that it should be maintained as green space for residents.
Councillor Arnold remarked he couldn’t think of a reason to support the application. He stated it was a lovely piece of land, which was very well cared for and clearly had good use by residents.
The Chair thanked Members for their comments and sought if anyone wished to recommend the Officers recommendation. No Members recommend the application as per the Officers report, the Chair then sought an alternative recommendation.
The Assistant Director of Planning, Transport and Public Protection advised the Constitution was clear that an alternative recommendation would need to be out forward, which met with council policies. He further advised the NPPF made reference to open spaces and recreation and read the relevant sections from paragraph 98 and 99 to the Committee.
Councillor Piccolo suggested a recommendation of refusal as Members had seen evidence to show that the green space was utilised extensively by local residents. Looking back over the years whilst the Council might have maintained the fence and have cut the grass, the local residents had made sure that the open space had been occupied and used for the benefit of the local area.
He continued by stating other reason he thought needed to be looked into, was the fact that the space had never been built on and had always been used by the local residents, who obviously appreciate it.
The Assistant Director of Planning, Transport and Public Protection summed up Members views and confirmed there was enough reasoning for a refusal and sought the opinion of the Legal Representative who agreed. The Assistant Director informed Members that the precise wording of the decision notice would be drafted by Officers and approved by the Chair prior to issue.
Councillor Piccolo proposed a recommendation to refuse the application and was seconded by Councillor Watson.
For: (7) Councillors Tom Kelly (Chair), Georgette Polley (Vice-Chair), Paul Arnold, Terry Piccolo, Sue Shinnick, James Thandi and Lee Watson