Watton: Red Hill Park, Redhill Lane: Extension To Mobile Home Site: Applicant: Lifestyle Living Group: Reference: 3PL/2014/0672/F
Report of the Executive Director of Place.
Members had been advised that Highways objections had been the only reason for the previous refusal on the site and that was not the case. All the reasons were set out on page 20 of the Agenda and the report set out the Officers’ views on how those objections had been overcome.
Members were given a brief recap of the application. At the meeting in December Members had asked for clarification of off-site highway works and the details were set out in the Agenda. Mr Shaw (NCC) Highways Officer was in attendance to answer any questions.
There were two additional updates. 1) The affordable housing contribution would be £60,000; the £40,000 contribution referred to Open Space and 2) the Time Limit for commencement would be two years. In conclusion it was considered that subject to a legal agreement the development would be acceptable.
Mr Lincoln (Objector) had lived on Town Green Road for 30 years and used it six to eight times a day. His main concern was the congestion at either end of the road. He showed photographs of parked vehicles which caused problems, and of the blind corner by the Church. The lane was regularly used by pedestrians. The road was not good enough to support additional traffic. The density of the proposal was also a concern as the development appeared cluttered.
Mr Laister and Mr Stacey (Agents) had provided additional information about the improvements which would all be on Highway land and would make the road safer for all users and provide a footpath for almost the whole length of the lane with five passing places. The lane would be widened where possible.
Councillor Gilbert (Ward Representative) noted that the objectors had a good understanding of the road conditions. There would still be no footpath for part of the lane and the corner by the Church would still be a problem as two cars could not pass there. The site was currently tidy and attractive but the proposal would be over-development. There was an issue with land ownership; one passing bay appeared to be in the entrance to the cemetery which was land owned by the Town Council. Even if the width of the road could be doubled there would be problems at each end.
Councillor Wassell (Ward Representative) listed reasons that Members could refuse the application including: unsustainable development; lack of a satisfactory contribution to affordable housing; and inadequate roads. The applicants maintained that the proposal was for caravans or mobile homes – not dwellings. They were using that as a reason for not providing a meaningful contribution to affordable housing, yet the legal definition of a dwelling included mobile homes. The issue of land ownership had not been addressed and a clearer map of the road improvements had not been provided. He urged Members to refuse the application.
Councillor Sharpe noted that the Highways objection had been removed based on information submitted by the applicants. He asked if that information had been verified.
Mr Shaw explained that applicants had been asked to provide evidence and they had done so. It consisted of an automated traffic count and a video camera survey and he had seen the full results. They indicated that the site only produced about half of the expected traffic movements and that there was a lot of pedestrian activity. The reason they were now supporting the application was that the improvements would overcome the pedestrian safety issue. It was a fact that the road was narrow and visibility was poor but the extra traffic generated was balanced by the footway provision.
Councillor Chapman-Allen asked the Agents to explain how they would widen the road when there were narrow banks and ditches to each side. It was clarified that a 1.5m footway would be provided from the site access to the bend. There would be a couple of 1.2m pinch points but the path would still be wide enough for wheelchair/pushchair use.
Some time was spent discussing the road improvements and whether the road would be widened. Clarification was sought about the provision of the footpath and whether it would have to be placed over the ditch and if so, whether the ditch would be piped.
The Agents advised that the road width would be improved where the passing bays were provided and those bays would all be on land within the adopted Highway boundary. The footway would be inserted on the verge and the ditch would remain on one side of the road and the passing places would be provided on the other side of the road.
Mr Shaw clarified that the land might not all belong to the Highways Authority but they had rights to carry out works on it. He also pointed out that the proposals provided more improvements than had been asked for and would widen the road to safety standard without encroaching on other people’s land.
Councillor Duigan thought that the affordable housing issue raised by Councillor Wassell needed to be addressed.
Councillor Bowes asked where the Public Open Space contribution would be spent and was concerned that the development would have an urbanising effect on an attractive lane.
Councillor Spencer proposed another deferral and asked Officers to provide clearer plans.
The Chairman agreed that it was difficult to make a decision without all the details.
Councillor Robinson proposed that the application should be refused and that proposal was seconded by Councillors Sharpe and Bowes.
RESOLVED that the application be refused on grounds of unsustainable development as the benefits were outweighed by environmental harm; insufficient provision of affordable housing; insufficient details of highway improvements; and increased flood risk.