Presented by the Principal Planner, Matthew Gallagher, the application had one update which was a consultation response from Education regarding the two catchment schools (William Edwards Secondary School and Bulphan Primary School) in the site area. The response was that the schools were full so had no available school placements and would be under pressure for placements. If the application was to be approved, a financial contribution would be required for nursery, primary and secondary school places.
The application sought planning permission with all matters reserved (apart from access) for development that would comprise of 116 residential units with associated amenity space and parking, three retail units, public house, strategic landscaping and a noise attenuation buffer. From Church Road in between numbers 4 and 5 Manor Cottages, a single access road into the development was proposed. The indicative masterplan suggested a layout incorporating detached, semi-detached and short terraces of dwellings that were two-storey or two-storey with roof space accommodation.
The Applicant had put forward a case of very special circumstances that relied on the following factors:
Therefore, the application conflicted with the NPPF and the Development Plan Policy. Officer’s recommendation was for refusal for the three reasons outlined on page 109 of the agenda:
1. That the proposals were considered to be inappropriate development with reference to policy and therefore cause harm to the Green Belt and its openness.
2. That the proposal, due to its remote location, would fail to meet the environmental dimension of sustainable development.
3. That the indicative masterplan suggested a significant effect on the character of the landscape.
The Chair opened the item up to the Committee for questions.
Regarding housing provision, Councillor Rice queried whether the Council would have nomination rights to the affordable homes if the application was granted planning permission. The Principal Planner answered that the housing officer had no objections to the application and if the scheme was supported by Committee, and not called-in by the Secretary of State following referral then the s106 agreement could include nomination rights. In short, the Council would have nomination rights.
Councillor Rice questioned why highways had recommended refusal of the application. Senior Highway Engineer, Julian Howes, answered that there was concern on the access paths regarding walking and cycling routes onto the site. The proximity of the proposed access road onto Brentwood Road was not acceptable because of its strategic nature and was too close to the A128 so there had been concerns on the interaction between the two junctions.
Regarding the traffic going onto the proposed access road that linked to the A128, Councillor Rice sought clarification on how traffic would join onto the A128. Julian Howes explained that this formed some of the concerns expressed from highways because at peak times, traffic would trail back along the current roads waiting to get onto the A128. With the proposed access road, this would cause more issues and concern on the interaction between the junctions due to its proximity. Councillor Rice asked whether a roundabout might be installed as a solution if the application was to be approved.
Julian Howes explained that Brentwood Road and the surrounding area consisted of a staggered crossroad and installing a roundabout would prove to be difficult in terms of size and the link up of the 5 arms of the roads. Church Road to Bulphan and the other end of Church Road would require a large plot of land to link these to the roundabout.
Adding on, the Principal Planner explained that the consultation response from highways was based on the Core Strategy policy PMD9 which was an objection in principle to the formation of new accesses onto this category of road. The Applicant’s transport assessment had been considered which provided some information on trip generation and analysis of junctions. If the application was to be refused planning permission based on the highways response, it had to be potentially defended if it went to appeal and Officers considered that there was not enough information to enable the planning authority to defend the refusal through policy PMD9.
Continuing on, the Principal Planner referred to an appeal case that went through public inquiry where the in principle policy PMD9 objection had been raised and the Planning Inspector had used a higher test from the NPPF (instead of policy PMD9) in which traffic impacts had to be ‘severe’ for an application to be refused on highways ground. Hence, the highways consultation response was not enough to form a reason for refusal but the response was covered in paragraph 6.45 of the report.
Mentioning the Council’s low 5 year housing supply, Councillor Rice asked whether the Planning Inspector would be mindful to approve the planning application (if it went to appeal following refusal of planning permission). Referring to the referenced Little Thurrock Marshes appeal within the report, the Principal Planner explained that the Planning Inspector had to balance a range of factors in an appeal. The 5 year housing supply on its own would not clearly outweigh the harm the proposed development would cause to the Green Belt. The added factors mentioned within the report were also not enough to outweigh the harm to the Green Belt.
Pointing out an open-sided building shown in the photos of the presentation, Councillor Little questioned whether this building counted as a footprint on the application. The Principal Planner answered that open-sided buildings did not usually create volume but that interpretation was open to debate. What had to be considered about the application was the potential harm the proposed development would cause to the Green Belt.
Stating that Brentwood Road was a known ‘black spot’ due to the number of accidents that happened there, Councillor Little said traffic would trail back to Church Road which was another ‘black spot’. With the proposed access road, she asked where traffic would disperse to then because the other roads were lanes. She explained that on Church Road, turning right would go onto the A128 and turning left would be entering small lanes. The Principal Planner replied that the majority of traffic would be expected to move right onto Church Road and then go north or south to go onto the A128.
Adding on, Julian Howes said traffic would most likely turn right to go onto the A128. He agreed that Brentwood Road and Church Road had a high accident rate and that the majority of traffic would stick to Brentwood Road.
On the potential instalment of a roundabout, Councillor Little commented that there would be no pavements to walk on. Regarding the proposal of a shop and a pub, she stated that the area already had a shop and the pub was currently under construction following planning permission. Referring to the extra housing for the community, she asked a rhetorical question of how many houses did a village need to be a village considering Bulphan was already called a village. She went on to say that the proposed development was on the boundary of Bulphan and the proposed development would be building on the Green Belt.
Councillor Byrne questioned whether the proposals would affect the village hall and if there was a history of building pubs on the Green Belt. The Principal Planner said that the site was adjacent to the village hall but would not be affected by construction. He was unable to provide a history of pubs built on the Green Belt. Councillor Rice pointed out that Chafford Hundred was once Green Belt and that there were now pubs on the site.
The Chair invited the registered speakers to address the Committee.
Janet McCheyne, a resident, presented her statement in objection to the application.
Ward Councillor, Councillor Johnson, presented his statement in objection to the application.
Kieron Lilley, an Agent representative on behalf of the Applicant, presented his statement in support of the application.
The Committee moved on to debate the application.
Moving back onto the proposed pub, Councillor Little reiterated the fact that Bulphan already had a pub and that the proposal of 116 dwellings was proposed on a site that was on the Green Belt. This would change the character of Bulphan and these types of proposed developments had been brought to Bulphan in the past where affordable housing had been proposed and developers had withdrawn proposals due to financial concerns. Councillor Little further expressed her concerns again on the proposed access road and current road structure of the area which was dangerous as there were issues of traffic moving onto the A128 safely. She stated that she would not be supporting the application.
Steve Taylor mentioned that he had been part of a speed watch programme which monitored the volume of traffic on the A128 and noted that traffic did have difficulty moving from other roads onto the A128 due to the speeds that vehicles travelled on the A128. The roads in the area were already busy and with the proposed development, traffic may eventually use the surrounding smaller lanes that would result in congestion.
Although the proposed scheme sounded good, Councillor Rice agreed that the issue was around the proposed access road and current road situation. On the affordable homes factor, the proposed 40% of affordable homes gave the application validity and Councillor Rice suggested a site visit to view the structure of the roads and area. He went on to say that the Applicant would need to improve the proposal on the access road as it was dangerous.
Councillor Lawrence mentioned that she had travelled along the A128 and surrounding roads on several occasions and highlighted the further dangers of the roads when it was dark. Although the affordable homes aspect of the application was appealing, the highways aspect was too dangerous so she would not be supporting the application.
Agreeing on the affordable homes aspect of the application, the Chair reminded the Committee of the NPPF regarding inappropriate development on the Green Belt. On the highways issue, the Chair said the introduction of a roundabout would likely result in congestion in the area. He went on to say that through the Local Plan, applications could go through the site allocations process where it would be assessed which Green Belt sites could be released. The Chair then went on to refer to the past proposed development within Little Thurrock Marshes as mentioned earlier and said that the proposal had been rejected by Committee and later when it had gone to appeal; it had also been rejected on Green Belt grounds. The Chair stated that he would not be supporting the application.
Going back to the suggestion of a site visit, Councillor Rice proposed this and was seconded by Councillor Shinnick. The Committee moved onto the vote for a site visit.
For: (2) Councillors Gerard Rice and Sue Shinnick.
Against: (5) Councillors Gary Byrne, Tom Kelly, Susan Little, David Potter and Sue Sammons.
Abstained: (2) Councillors Mike Fletcher and Angela Lawrence.
The site visit was rejected.
The Chair proposed the Officer’s recommendation for refusal of the application and was seconded by the Vice-Chair. The Committee then moved onto the vote on the application.
For: (9) Councillors Gary Byrne, Mike Fletcher, Tom Kelly, Angela Lawrence, Susan Little, David Potter, Gerard Rice, Sue Sammons and Sue Shinnick.
Planning application 18/01830/OUT was refused planning permission.
(The meeting was adjourned for a short break at 19.59 and reconvened at 20.02.)