WATTON: Thetford Road: Erection of 110 Dwellings with Associated Open Space: Applicant: Hopkins Homes: Reference: 3PL/2013/0510/F
Report of the Director of Commissioning.
Councillor Bowes declared that she jointly owned property on the opposite side of the road to the application site and would therefore not take part in the discussion. She made a short statement as Ward Representative on behalf of concerned residents and urged Members to consider road safety. The suggested roundabout had not been considered by the Developers but the land required for its development was owned by Norfolk County Council and therefore the cost would be reduced. She asked Members to give priority to the safety of Watton residents. She then left the room whilst the item was discussed.
The Officer gave a recap of the application which had been presented to Committee on 25 November 2013 and deferred for highway improvement discussions. Members had requested the consideration of a right hand turn filter lane into the main site entrance; an emergency access; an extension of the 30mph speed limit; and a reduction in the number of private drives accessing the Thetford Road. The Developers had provided an alternative scheme which met the first three requests, but did not reduce the number of accesses.
Councillor Wassell, Ward Representative was not able to attend the meeting. His written statement was read out. He acknowledged the offer of a right hand turn lane, but noted that with the provision of an emergency access there were now more accesses onto the Thetford Road. He was concerned that the entrance to the south of the site would increase the potential for accidents. The land was owned by Norfolk County Council and there should be a roundabout. He referred to a recent fatal accident on the road just south of that corner. Finally he noted that the provision of a right hand turn lane meant a reduction in the number of affordable houses; that number had already been reduced once and he did not think it should be reduced again to provide a safer entry to the site.
The Officer advised that the implications of the financial cost of the revised scheme meant a reduction in the amount of affordable housing from 28 to 24 (25% to 21%). It was up to Members which scheme they chose; both were acceptable to the Highways Authority and to Officers.
The Chairman noted that the fatal accident referred to had occurred away from the site and should have no bearing on the roundabout safety issue.
Councillor Rogers (representing Watton Town Council) had been involved in discussions about the development since 2008 when the previous owner had requested the land’s inclusion in the Local Development Framework (LDF) and had agreed to give six acres of land to the school for an alternative access from Thetford Road to avoid traffic using Merton Road. The Town Council was in support of the application, subject to conditions.
Mr Denempont (Objector) had been involved in correspondence with the Town Council and the Planning Department and had also attended the public meeting at the Queens Hall to discuss the development. At that meeting 54% of residents had not supported the development. An extension of the 30mph limit would provide some mitigation but a roundabout was essential for safety. He asked Members to consider the people of Watton and said there was very little justification for the development.
Mr Smith (Applicant) was in attendance to answer any questions.
Councillor North asked for clarification of what Members were being asked to consider; the original report or the amendment. She was advised that from an Officer’s perspective both proposals were acceptable. It was up to Members to choose bearing in mind that the upgraded highway safety measures would result in the loss of four affordable units.
Councillor Sharpe asked Councillor Rogers on behalf of the Town Council whether they would prefer the roundabout or the right hand turn and he advised that they would be happy with both.
Councillor Spencer was extremely concerned about the speed limit and thought it should be extended around the bends.
The Solicitor advised that that could not be conditioned, but the application could be deferred and Norfolk County Council could be asked to consider the extension.
Councillor Robinson asked if the Highways Authority supported the new access to the Academy and was advised that that was a separate application. He felt that it would impact on the development as the access was on a sharp bend and there were various other accesses and traffic lights in the vicinity and Highways needed to provide an overall view.
The Officer confirmed that Highways had no objections and had taken the impact of the school access into account.
Councillor Lamb was puzzled at the view of Watton Town Council as they had objected to similar proposals because they had enough houses and were concerned about the impact on services. He asked how many houses had been given permission in Watton compared to the number allocated in the LDF. The number was not known but the Director of Planning & Business Manager advised that the land supply situation was reviewed annually in the spring and then Officers would be able to give an up to date view. He also noted that Members had fully debated the principle of development at the November meeting and had deferred the application for highway improvements only.
Councillor Duigan thought it would be interesting to know which proposal the Highways Authority favoured. He wondered if there were any issues of highway congestion and whether a roundabout would improve traffic flows.
No Highways representative was present but the Planning Officer confirmed that they had no concerns.
Councillor Claussen thought that it was sensible to extend the 30mph limit but wanted to retain the full affordable housing allocation. It should be up to Norfolk County Council to determine if a right hand turn lane was needed.
The Solicitor pointed out that the first proposal did not include an extension of the speed limit and the implications of that would need to be known.
Mr Smith (Applicant) advised that there was an extension to the speed limit in both schemes. It would be up to NCC to determine where it was extended to and he would not object if they decided to extend it further.
Councillor Lamb asked whether there could be a speed warning light and was told that it would be up to the Town Council to provide that.
Members sought clarification of where the 30mph limit would start. It was pointed out on the map.
The Planning Manager explained that the speed limit would be negotiated between NCC and the developer and could not be a condition of the planning permission.
In response to a question by Councillor Lamb about a 20mph limit within the development the Chairman advised that such things were controlled by NCC. He reminded Members that the application had been deferred for four reasons and three of them were on offer, only the reduction in accesses was not available. It was up to Members to decide the way forward.
Councillor Claussen proposed that the original scheme be approved with a caveat that NCC be asked to extend the speed limit. The proposal was seconded by Councillor North.
The original proposal with 25% affordable housing was accepted: the application was Deferred and the officers authorised to approve it, as recommended, on completion of the S106 agreement. It was also resolved that NCC be requested to extend the 30mph speed limit.