Recommended for Approval
The Head of Planning and Building Control recommended that in respect of application 3/19/2626/FUL, planning permission be granted subject to the conditions detailed in the report now submitted.
It was also recommended that delegated authority be given to the Head of Planning and Building Control to finalise conditions and the legal agreement and to append any informatives to the application that might be required.
The Principal Planning Officer, on behalf of the Head of Planning and Building Control, said that it was his pleasure to be able to present this application to Members. He referred to the vagaries of the commercial property market and the overriding need for the proposed development.
The Principal Planning Officer explained that this was the first of two Neighbourhood Centres. He said that another neighbourhood centre was due to be brought forward for the eastern neighbourhood. He also explained that the main issues were summarised in the report and he would be focussing on these in his commentary to Members.
The Committee was reminded of the importance of policy compliance in terms of land uses and of the benefits of securing a vibrant local centre which would provide all of the relevant services. The Officer referred to urban design, layout and connectivity to the other areas of the Stortford Fields development and beyond in Bishop’s Stortford.
The Principal Planning Officer said that another key issue was neighbour amenity in terms of noise and general disturbance. He also drew Members’ attention to sustainable transport and the issue of climate change. He referred to the 2FE primary school site on the opposite side of Newlands Avenue and reminded Members that priority had been given to the new primary school site at Farnham Road to the east.
The Principal Planning Officer said that the site was surrounded by a dense urban area and would benefit from good access to green ways and to sports and play facilities. He said that a dense area of trees would screen the water tower and other utilities and this development would ultimately be well shielded by boundary landscaping.
The Principal Planning Officer said that a design code for the neighbourhood centre had been included in the original permission for Stortford Fields. This had covered the attributes that should be included to ensure that this development performed well as a neighbourhood centre. The document covered the design and architecture and the connectivity of the centre and much of the content had been incorporated into the application.
The Committee was advised that the proposed car parking was well hidden behind the buildings and there would be plenty of landscaping. Members were also advised of a slightly revised configuration due to the care home which took up a lot of footprint within the overall site. The Principal Planning Officer confirmed that the submitted design was the best fit in terms of balancing the needs of the various operators of this site as well as securing an attractive frontage and public space.
The Principal Planning Officer confirmed that the bus turning head would occupy a proportion of the plaza until the 311 bus was able to go on to the Eastern Neighbourhood, thus no longer requiring the turning area. He said that a sub-station would also reduce the size of the plaza. Members were advised that the key point was how the plaza was used and Officers expected a range of shops including a café and there should be plenty of pedestrian traffic due to the proposed South Street Surgery practice.
The Committee was advised that the 3 to 4 storey neighbourhood centre would include a variety of shops and services at ground floor level. Members were given a detailed breakdown of some of the key design features of the proposed development.
The Principal Planning Officer commented on District Plan policies and expectations as regards neighbourhood centres at Bishop’s Stortford North. He referred in particular to the policy requirements of policy BISH1 and the requirement for a range of local shops and services plus some employment space.
Members were advised that the 29 apartments were particularly welcome as these had not been included in the wider plan for 2,200 dwellings at Stortford Fields. The Officer stated that usually the tenure split was expected to be 84% affordable rent and 16% shared ownership. This application proposed 24% rented but it was100% affordable, so although not strictly policy compliant the apartments made a welcome contribution to meeting affordable housing needs.
The Principal Planning Officer said that although the care home did have a substantial footprint, this was meeting a significant local need due to a shortfall of care home places in the local catchment area. He said that the merits of this provision had to be considered in terms of the benefits to the local community and the care home would be a valuable part of the proposed development.
Members were advised that the nature of the use of a neighbourhood centre would result in some noise nuisance and conditions would be in place in respect of opening hours for the ground floor units. A noise mitigating fence was proposed along the eastern boundary of the day care centre.
Regarding the accessibility of the Centre, the Officer said that a lot of work had gone into the permeability of Stortford Fields in terms of cycleways and footpaths plus the 311 bus serving this locality.
The Committee was advised that parking was satisfactory and cycle parking would be available on site. Officers had also stipulated a requirement for electric vehicle charging points and the associated cabling infrastructure and power supply. He drew Members’ attention to paragraph 8.46 of the report regarding climate change mitigation and the exceeding of the minimum standards set down by building regulations in terms of energy and water consumption.
The Principal Planning Officer concluded that, on balance, the application was policy compliant and was recommended for approval. He said he had circulated a much revised list of conditions to Members since the report was publicised but he also stated that the Heads of Terms of the Section 106 legal agreement had not progressed much since the report was made public.
The Principal Planning Officer concluded that Officers would work with the applicant over the coming weeks on the Section 106 agreements should this application be approved. He said that this was a sustainable development that would bring great benefit to the local community.
Laura Grimason addressed the Committee in support of the application.
Councillor Page said that he was pleased that another piece of the jigsaw was close to becoming reality at Bishop’s Stortford North. He pointed out the 2 references that had been made to the impact of the care home and the turning head on the public square and he expressed his disappointment in respect of this impact. He also expressed concerns in respect of the responsibility being placed upon the developer to find occupiers for the commercial premises, all of which were unoccupied at present.
Councillor Page expressed a further concern that some of the commercial uses could blight an otherwise attractive neighbourhood centre. He said that he was also concerned in respect of the ratio of affordable rented apartments.
Councillor Jones praised the plans for a very well equipped neighbourhood centre. He referred to the disappointingly small plaza but was very pleased to see the amendment work that had taken place between Officers and the applicant on the original plans. He sought clarification regarding the tenure split and expressed concerns regarding the policy compliance of the tenure split.
Councillor Crystall said that the Bishop’s Stortford circular ride passed close by or near to this site. He sought clarification in terms of cycle linkages and whether there were specific cycle ways on or to this site. He said he was pleased to see the energy efficiency standard of the care home and the doctor’s surgery were well above building regulation standards.
The Principal Planning Officer said that the turning head was outside of the control of the developer and Officers as it was not within the application site. He said that he would continue to liaise with all the parties to secure a commitment to bringing the turning head into the scheme in due course.
He said that the policy regarding affordable housing ratios was very broad in the District Plan and developers had commercial considerations to take into account. Members were advised that affordable housing ratios even out across the District as developments such as the Bishop’s Stortford Goods Yard and rural developments evened each other out in terms of affordable housing. Officers felt that this proposal added value to the affordable housing mix in East Hertfordshire.
The Officer commented on the benefits of “meanwhile uses", likely to be small and discrete businesses in the neighbourhood centre. He said that the Section 106 legal agreement would have an obligation to cover meanwhile uses on this site.
The Principal Planning Officer said he anticipated a high standard of landscaping, lighting, tree planting and seating in the public plaza. He picked up on the point of Councillor Crystall by stating that the greenways and cycle links in the western neighbourhood would be very good. He said this would be a very green development in terms of open space and it would be a pleasant place to cycle or walk.
Councillor Kaye commented on the perceived demand for care homes for an ageing population. He said that it could be argued that this might not be the case as he believed there was an increasing trend for care solutions in the home meaning that demand for care homes was not as high.
Councillor Andrews sought some assurance that the turning head could be conditioned by Officers to ensure it was returned to the plaza in the future. He said that care should be taken to ensure it was not used for other uses.
Councillor Kemp said that he was pleased to see a neighbourhood centre coming forward promptly. He spoke favourably in respect of the care home, electric car charging points and the fact that this was an ideal local for a care home due to the proximity of a doctor’s surgery, shops and the amount of car parking nearby for visitors. He was disappointed that the affordable housing was almost completely for purchase.
The Principal Planning Officer confirmed that the success of the proposed public space was dependent on the quality of the plaza, footfall and the quality of the facilities on offer. He said the turning head could not be conditioned as it was not within the control of the applicant and they would need the cooperation of Hertfordshire Highways. He also said that he believed the care home would offer the very best of care and the high quality service would allow easy control of any disease outbreaks as wings could easily be isolated.
Councillor Beckett commented on the energy efficiency of the proposed flats and whether this could be looked at. He said that the amount of parking available could cause a problem in terms of whether airport parking would deny parking for the actual users of the centre.
Councillor Page commented on the conditions regarding construction traffic management and the fact that there was evidence that the management of flats by a construction management company had not worked well elsewhere in the western neighbourhood. He also commented on the lack of balance in the report in terms of the viability of the proposed residential development.
The Principal Planning Officer confirmed that he would seek some clarity regarding the energy efficiency of the apartment , block with the retail below. He said that the management of parking would be conditioned so that it was clear how the site could be made controllable in terms of motorists not exceeding the maximum permissible stay.
Councillor Stowe said that within elements of development such as schools and care homes, it was very important to secure the use of grey water systems for toilet systems in order to reduce water usage. The Principal Planning Officer explained that grey water sanitation systems were not an option for care homes, perhaps due to regulations or licensing laws.
Councillor Kemp said that if the apartment block met the fabric first standards then the apartments would not be expected to have poor levels of energy efficiency. He asked whether solar panels could be considered for inclusion on the roofing of this element of the proposed development.
Councillor Crystall said the he would like to see a car club as part of this scheme. The Principal Planning Officer said that Officers were eager to secure a car club or a branch of another car club at the Western Neighbourhood Centre as this would be a very appropriate place for such provision and the applicant was happy to explore this option with Officers.
The Principal Planning Officer confirmed that fabric first was the usual approach that was adopted today in order to achieve a good level of efficiency and he would pick up this point along with the matter of the solar panels on the roof.
Councillor Kemp said that the number of affordable housing units for rent should be increased slightly from 7 units to 9 or 10 units out of the 29, to match the usual East Herts criteria of 78% of 40% affordable units, equating to approximately 32% of the total units. He said that this proposal had merit and should be discussed further with the developers.
Councillor Page expressed a concern that leaving the matter of the legal agreement open for the Head of Planning and Building Control to finalise took the edge off the scrutiny powers of the Development Management Committee. The Legal Services Manager said that giving delegated authority to the Head of Planning and Building Control to fine tune the detail of the conditions and the legal agreement was a sound process.
Councillor Beckett proposed and Councillor Page seconded, a motion that application 3/19/2626/FUL be granted subject to a legal agreement and the conditions set out at the end of the report and delegated authority be given to the Head of Planning and Building Control to finalise conditions and the legal agreement and to append informatives to the application that might be required.
After being put to the meeting and a vote taken, this motion was declared CARRIED.
RESOLVED –that (A) planning permission be granted subject to a legal agreement and the conditions set out at the end of this report.
(B) delegated authority be given to the Head of Planning and Building Control to finalise conditions and the legal agreement and to append any informatives to the application that might be required.