Stephen Otterwell (SO), Director of Planning and Building Control, Capita, explained that Ashill had been discussed at the informal Local Plan Working Group on 11 July 2016. The initial element of the meeting looked at the Locational Strategy PD03.
Originally 22 Local Service Centres (LSC) had been proposed, but following previous consultation and Member steer it was now proposed that only those villages which met the qualifying criteria (listed at paragraph 1.6 of the report) should be designated as a LSC.
The consequence of that re-assessment was that Ashill had been elevated to become a LSC as it fulfilled the necessary criteria.
Mr Leighton, from Ashill Parish Council, referred to the audit documentation at Appendix 1 of the Local Strategy, Level and Location of Growth and Rural Areas report, copies of which had been made available at the meeting. He wanted to know where the 22 businesses were as he could only find five or six that actually employed people and the school was at maximum capacity. He had no qualms about having small scale development in the village but the three sites already planned would mean an 18% increase in population. He felt that Ashill would be swamped and he had grave concerns about the main road through the village not being able to cope with all the extra vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The sewer regularly backed up (once a fortnight in fact) and there was no Doctors surgery within six miles. Big numbers were not sustainable and he implored the Councillors that if all this development went ahead that any S106 monies came to Ashill for extra facilities, play equipment etc.
SO advised that the information on employment figures had been gathered from the Inter-Departmental Business Register; however, this meeting provided an ideal opportunity for Members to receive the highest quality information as only genuine employment opportunities applied.
The Vice-Chairman of Ashill Parish Council pointed out that the largest employer in the village which employed 90% of the workforce was likely to be moving as it could not expand. The houses already being built would only add to the sewage/drainage problem as it was up to maximum capacity and Anglian Water did not know when the sewers would be upgraded. The Chairman advised that Anglian Water was carrying out a huge rollout of major improvement works to the sewer systems in East Anglia. The same comments had been echoed across all communities.
Councillor Frank Sharpe, the Ward Member for Ashill, said that his idea of a Local Service Centre was that it allowed for an increase in development in the area on sustainability grounds. According to Appendix 2 of the report mentioned above, Ashill had a total allocation of 90 dwellings until 2036; there were two applications in at the moment totalling 68 dwellings therefore, in his opinion, Ashill had already exceeded and gone beyond its allocation plus development would have already commenced before this Local Plan had even started and felt that it must be treated with a degree of suspicion. School children would have to be bused elsewhere as the school was already at capacity and the Konect Bus was messing around with its service and some routes had been stopped. It was doubtful that the service between Swaffham and Watton would continue and he asked if Ashill’s Service Centre status could be put on hold until the bus route had been sorted out. This would be a drastic increase in development and if it all went ahead the infrastructure would have to increase with it.
SO stated that those applications with planning permissions would have already been taken into account; therefore, Ashill would have a good case for no further development. Through the Local Plan process the evidence of this development could be demonstrated to the Planning Inspectorate. Representatives from Ashill Parish Council were invited to liaise with Planning Policy Officers in relation to updating them with latest information on the school, transportation and employment issues.
SO explained how the preferred site and alternative sites had been assessed. The full site information would be reported as part of the six week consultation starting in September 2016. Eight sites had been put forward but had been narrowed down to three reasonable alternatives. The preferred site would be subject to 50 dwellings. Known constraints and photographs were shown of the area. The alternatives highlighted at site no. 004 and 005 had not featured in the calculations as were considered to be less suitable. It was noted that the pending application in Ashill had not been put forward so had not formed part of the assessment process but would have to be reflected in the numbers of subsequently granted planning permission.
Councillor Sharpe referred to the preferred site 008 which had an application on it for 46 dwellings but was concerned that the complete left hand side of that site was not being developed. He pointed out that the whole site was capable of incorporating 80 dwellings; therefore, the alternatives sites should be removed. SO said that it was in the Local Plan Working Group’s gift to reduce the size of the proposed allocation site. A Parish Council representative asked if brownfield sites had been included in the total number as there was a possibility of 20 dwellings being put forward on such land. It was noted that these would have been factored in if already in the planning process but brownfield sites would be considered.
Councillor Sharpe asked for it to be noted that site no. 008 should be cut to the boundary of the proposed development.
The Chairman reminded everyone that all comments would be duly noted and the proposals would be moved. He asked all concerned to raise any issues at the Planning Committee meetings where the preferred site would be discussed.
Agreed, that the preferred site be endorsed, with a revised boundary to reflect the pending planning application site. It was further agreed that representatives from Ashill Parish Council liaise with Planning Policy Officers in relation to updating them with latest information on the school, transportation and employment issues.