The application was presented by the Principal Planner, Tom Scriven, who informed the Committee that there had been 1 update since the application had been last presented at Committee on 25 April 2019. This was a further letter received in objection and was already assessed within the report. The Officer’s recommendation of the application remained for refusal for the reasons outlined on page 53 of the agenda:
· That the scale of the proposed development would result in inappropriate development in the Green Belt which was by definition harmful. In addition, the development would cause loss of openness due to the siting and substantial increase in the scale of the buildings proposed on the site. The circumstances put forward by the Applicant did not constitute very special circumstances to justify inappropriate development in the Green Belt. The proposal was therefore contrary to Policy PMD6 of the adopted Thurrock Local Development Framework Core Strategy and Policies for the Management of Development (as amended 2015) and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
The Chair opened the item up to the Committee for questions.
(Councillors Mike Fletcher and Gary Byrne were unable to participate on this application as they had not been present when the item was first presented on 25 April 2019.)
Councillor Little queried the number of bedrooms in the proposed dwellings. Looking at the floor plans, the Principal Planner said each proposed dwelling consisted of 5 bedrooms.
Referring to paragraph 6.28 on page 39, Councillor Little did not think there was a need for anymore large houses. The proposed homes were not affordable and were not for social housing. In response, the Principal Planner said there was no identified need for large houses but it was not to say that there was no demand for these. Councillor Little went on to say that the current need was for smaller houses to which the Principal Planner confirmed was correct.
With no further questions, the Chair moved the item onto the debate which he started off by stating that the adjacent development known as Thames View Farm had undergone the correct procedure for development that had been through the site allocation process via the Local Plan. The Chair went on to mention the site visit that had taken place on 4 June 2019 and that the site of Silver Springs was just a back garden and should go through the same site allocation process. The Officer’s recommendation for refusal was clear and concise which should be followed and the Chair would be voting with Officer’s recommendation for refusal. He felt that if the application was approved, it would set a dangerous precedent for similar applications in the future.
Referring to the site visit, Councillor Rice commented on the spaciousness of the area. Mentioning paragraph 145(e) of the NPPF, he went on to say that the Committee could depart from an Officer’s recommendation. The reasons that could be used for departing from Officer’s recommendation would be:
Councillor Rice went on to say that there was a need for larger homes for ‘Captains of the Large Industries’ who would be best placed in Thurrock. He wished to make the case to depart from the Officer’s recommendation as the reasons he had given were sufficient so the application could be approved.
The Chair agreed that there was substance in Councillor Rice’s reasons and said that although the Local Plan was still developing, Thurrock did have an updated Core Strategy from 2011 and 2015. The recent Issues and Options Stage 2 Consultation (IO2) had identified which Green Belt sites could be released for development but the Silver Springs site was not appropriate for development at this time. The proposed development had skipped the vital steps of the site allocation process through the Local Plan and the site was considered to be a back garden at this time.
Agreeing, Councillor Little said the proposed development would result in a major change to the character of Fobbing High Road and would set a precedent for similar applications. She asked if there would be nearby school places available for the children that might live in the proposed dwellings. Answering the question herself, Councillor Little said there would be none and to enable these children to travel to their schools, the Council would have to arrange and pay for their travel.
Councillor Lawrence questioned whether anyone had noticed the industrial site within the area and on the same side of Fobbing High Road. She went on to say that although there was no development allowed on the Green Belt, some of the back gardens of Fobbing High Road did not appear to be well looked after so the proposed development would be a better fit for the area. The Principal Planner answered that if there was a change in the use of a back garden for use as a scrapyard or to store excessive amounts of waste, planning permission would likely be required. However, if this type of application was to be submitted, it would likely be considered inappropriate development on the Green Belt and refused. If a back garden was used for these purposes without permission, the Planning Enforcement Team would look into this and take enforcement action if required. There may have been historical uses for some of the back gardens but the service had no control over these. However, this reason could not be used to justify the development of other garden sites. Councillor Lawrence thought that the scrapyard and other back gardens might have been seen during the site visit.
Continuing on, Councillor Lawrence said that the proposed development’s layout fitted in well with the character of the area and agreed that DP World employees were looking for houses in the area so there was a need for these houses.
Referring to Councillor Lawrence’s comment on the industrial park, Steve Taylor, said that the site had been in use for over 40 years. However, the proposed development, if approved, would be a big departure from the Green Belt.
The Chair agreed that the proposed development was impressive but it still needed to go through the correct avenues.
Pointing out that there had been no objections from education, Councillor Rice said this would answer Councillor Little’s earlier point regarding education. He wished to propose an alternative recommendation that departed from the Officer’s recommendation.
The Chair sought confirmation on the procedure of an alternative recommendation that departed from the Officer’s recommendation from the Democratic Services Officer, Wendy Le. It was confirmed that the alternative recommendation could be proposed with reasons and provided there was a seconder to the recommendation, the Committee could take a vote on the proposed recommendation. If the proposed recommendation was rejected, the Committee would then go on to vote on the Officer’s recommendation.
Councillor Rice proposed to depart from Officer’s recommendation for refusal and to approve the application for the following reasons:
1. Paragraph 145 (e) of the NPPF.
2. Thurrock did not have a 5 year housing supply to which the Officer had given significant weight to within his report.
3. Thurrock had the expanding port of DP World whose employees needed homes within the area.
Councillor Rice’s proposal was seconded by Councillor Lawrence so the vote on the alternative proposed recommendation for approval was undertaken.
(Councillors Mike Fletcher and Gary Byrne were unable to vote on this application as they had not been present when the item was first presented on 25 April 2019.)
For: (3) Councillors Angela Lawrence, David Potter and Gerard Rice.
Against: (4) Councillors Tom Kelly, Susan Little, Sue Sammons and Sue Shinnick.
The proposed recommendation was rejected. The Chair proposed the Officer’s recommendation for refusal and Councillor Little seconded this. Then the Committee moved on to the vote.
For: (4) Councillors Tom Kelly, Susan Little, Sue Sammons and Sue Shinnick.
Against: (2) Councillors David Potter and Gerard Rice.
Abstained: (1) Councillor Angela Lawrence.
Planning application 19/00267/FUL was refused planning permission.