This was one of two Local Service Centre Villages in the south-west area of the Breckland District. The village was not identified for a positive allocation of growth but the range of services needed to be protected and where possible extended. Five minor amendments to the existing settlement boundary were proposed.
Mr. Eyles of Mundford Parish Council expressed concern that there had been insufficient time for him to consult with the members of the Parish Council.
Mr. Eyles asked whether the proposed removal of the settlement boundary at neighbouring Ickburgh would mean that there could be no further development or extensions to houses in future. The Senior Planning Policy Officer replied that the removal of the settlement boundary would mean the area would be treated as open countryside for planning purposes but that it would not impact on applications for regular domestic housing extensions or conservatories.
The Ward Member added her concern about the length of time available to parishes to consider the proposals and further clarification was sought. She asked how affected individuals would be consulted.
The Principal Planning Policy Officer replied that it was not intended to write to individual property owners but consultation would be notified in the normal way, through statutory and other press notices and in Voice magazine etc. in accordance with Regulations.
The Ward Member asked how Parish Meetings without a Parish Chairman would be consulted. It was replied that the assistance of the Ward Member would be sought in such instances.
A further question related to whether a six week consultation period was sufficient, bearing in mind Christmas holidays etc.
The Principal Planning Policy Officer replied that the material for the next meeting was due for completion by 22 December and that the next meeting was being put back to 19 January 2010.
Furthermore, the letter to parish councils explained that where there was a known strong view from the last consultation in 2008, parishes were invited to bring them forward through this process but there would be a formal six week consultation process in April 2010 for parishes to respond.
The Ward Member responded that the letter to parish councils did not make clear that the nature of the discussion was in relation to settlement boundaries.
A member referred to the proposed amendment MUN.3, which he felt was inconsistent with the approach taken on a similar site considered at the last meeting where the boundary had been extended. He queried whether the amendment was necessary in this case, as there appeared to be no access to enable any development behind the existing property.
The Senior Planning Policy Officer acknowledged that the proposal appeared different to the approach taken at the last meeting. However, the Special Protection Area on this side of Mundford related to the Woodlark and Nightjar species (not the Stone Curlew). In addition, the rear garden areas in this case were larger than in the previous case, so the intention was to tighten the boundary.
Referring back to the issue of the consultation process, the Member Development and Scrutiny Officer read out an extract from the letter to parish councils sent on 30 November, which stated that representatives would have the opportunity to make informal representations from the floor and that the Task and Finish Group would scrutinise details of individual sites and make recommendations as appropriate. A final version of the document would be subject to public consultation in April, so that there would be an opportunity for parish councils to meet during that time to consider the document. The Council was trying to make the process as open and inclusive as possible.
In answer to a further question from a member, it was explained that there should be no problem in giving early information to parishes as the areas to be discussed at the next two meetings of the Task and Finish Group were known.
Mr. Eyles stated that there was only one meeting of his parish council scheduled within the consultation period, which would be the only chance for the matter to be discussed.
A member made the point that it was open to parish councils to call special meetings and he encouraged such an approach for this purpose.
Mr. Cowen then spoke in his capacity as Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission and severely criticised the current consultation process. He felt that contrary to what had been said earlier, it appeared that there was little opportunity to influence the content of the document. He firmly stated that nothing should be determined in advance of the Cabinet decision.
Mr. Cowen also criticised that there was nothing in the document to explain the coloured areas on the maps. He felt this was a fundamental flaw and felt that the quality of information needed to be better.
So far as the proposed amendment at MUN.2 was concerned, he noted the reason for this included the flood risk. He felt this was inconsistent with the area to the east.
He stated he would have no hesitation in calling-in this item and felt the meeting should be halted.
The Chairman replied that this meeting would be completed.
Mrs. Steward commended the work of the officers in consulting the public and parishes over the years the LDF had been in progress. She wondered, however, whether the opportunity should be taken to slow down the process slightly to give more time for the public and landowners and the parishes to feel more a part of the process.
Referring to the proposed amendment MUN.2, a member felt that for consistency, the boundary should be moved away from the flood plain.
The Senior Planning Policy Officer explained that the reason the other site had not been excluded was because it had already been developed with residential housing. This was not the case with regard to site MUN.2 and the intention here was to limit any harm from flooding risk. It was not desirable to exclude every existing dwelling in a flood plain. The other site in question was already built-up, with no room for further in-fill.
No further representations were made.
There was no existing settlement boundary in this case and no change to this was proposed.
The Ward Member pointed out that Cranwich was a parish meeting without a Chairman.
A member asked whether there was any scope for some development in the village. The Principal Planning Policy Officer explained that the only development existing was a small string of houses along the main road. It was not considered feasible to put in a settlement boundary.
No representations were made.
The proposal was to delete the existing settlement boundary in this case for the reasons given in the report.
The Ward Member advised that she had spoken with the Chairman of the Parish Council, who had not been aware that the settlement boundary was to be discussed today.
So far as village services were concerned, it was pointed out that the village did have a public house and a local landowner provided local employment for a number of people.
In reply to a question, it was explained that the blue cross-hatched area on the map represented the 1500m protection area buffer zone for the Stone Curlew.
The Principal Planning Policy Officer acknowledged the criticism about the lack of a colour key to the maps and this would be addressed for future meetings.
The other coloured areas on the maps were explained as follows:
- Orange areas – sites with existing planning permissions
- Dark green areas – public open space areas
A member asked whether the buffer zone prohibited all development, including affordable or social housing.
The Principal Planning Policy Officer replied that it did not prohibit or rule out all development. Criteria applied to shield the area from encroachment from existing development. It was also possible to consider applications for the reuse of existing rural buildings, e.g. barns. Affordable housing at the edge of the village was felt unlikely to meet the criteria.
The proposal was to delete the settlement boundary in this case on the grounds that the village lay within the protection buffer zone and has no services or facilities.
On the issue of village services, the Ward Member referred to the fact that until recently there was a large factory in operation. While it was currently empty, she hoped that it would start up again in the future. There was also a garage operating in the village.
Mr. Stasiak added that the factory was up for sale and previously provided for significant employment. It was hoped it would return to similar operation. In the meantime, he felt that to remove the existing settlement boundary was not to look forward.
The Principal Planning Policy Officer advised that a reasonable alternative for members to consider was to retain the existing settlement boundary.
Most opportunities for further development within the settlement boundary had already been taken. Further opportunities would be limited due to the buffer zone.
Existing planning policies supported the reuse of the factory for employment purposes.
Mr. Stasiak felt that the removal of the existing boundary meant there would be no hope at all of future development.
The Principal Planning Policy Officer responded that the new LDF policies gave more flexibility than previously and did allow for rural exceptions to be made.
Mr. Stasiak felt that was contrary to advice given previously.
No other representations were made.
Stanford, Sturston and Tottington
There were no settlement boundaries in these three areas and no changes were proposed.
No representations were made.
CONCLUSIONS - CONIFER WARD
Cranwich – Support no change as recommended
(i.e. no settlement boundary).
Didlington - Support no change
as recommended (i.e. no settlement boundary).
Hilborough - Support deletion of existing settlement boundary
Ickburgh - Proposed to retain the existing settlement boundary as a reasonable alternative, contrary to the recommendation.
Mundford - Support the five amendments (MUN.1 – MUN.5) as recommended.
- Support no
change as recommended (i.e. no settlement boundary).
Sturston - Support no change as
recommended (i.e. no settlement boundary).
Tottington - Support no change as recommended (i.e. no settlement boundary).