Agenda item

Development Control Policies

Minutes:

DC1 Amenity

 

This policy was aimed at ensuring developments did not have a detrimental effect on the amenity of an area.

 

In answer to questions, the following points were noted:

 

  • This policy would apply to all new developments.  If a site with planning permission was sold on before development, the site remained subject to the existing planning permission.  However, if the new owner submitted a fresh planning application for the site, then it could be reconsidered and the policy would apply.

  • Similarly, an existing use giving rise to problems, such as odour nuisance, would continue to be dealt with under its existing permissions and conditions, with any enforcement or control issues being dealt with through other means, for example Environmental Health.

  • Members were strongly of the opinion that enforcement was a critical issue which needed to go hand in hand with planning policy and should be well resourced, both in terms of funding and staff.  A member also raised a question about how the Council monitored enforcement by other agencies to ensure compliance with development conditions.  In response to the latter point, it was explained that there were separate processes governing enforcement of development outside the Council’s control but that there was close liaison with relevant agencies to ensure a concerted approach was taken.

  • Another member highlighted the problems of noise nuisance that could occur with employment in the countryside from changes of use from agricultural to light industrial and felt that caution was needed when dealing with such applications.

 

DC2 Principles of New Housing

 

It was explained that new guidance permitted lower densities than the national average of 30 dwellings per hectare.

 

This policy defined high density developments as 40 dwellings per hectare and lower density developments as 22 to 30 dwellings per hectare (8 or 9 houses per acre) which could be applied to rural locations.

 

The policy also defined the parameters that would apply to the mix and type of housing.

 

The following issues were discussed:

 

  • Options that could be used to determine site specific densities, although evidence would be needed to justify any prescription.  The policy should be read in conjunction with the various other related policies, e.g. design principles, amenity etc.

  • Design and character of an area were key issues to the determination of density of developments.

  • It was suggested that it would be more prudent for the policy to refer to lower density developments as “up to 30 dwellings per hectare”, rather than the more specific “22 to 30 dwellings”, since anything less than 22 could be challenged at appeal.

  • So far as mixed use development in town centres was concerned, it was recognised that this could be an issue but the aim was to achieve a balance between need and character of the area, etc.

 

  • A member was concerned over the detrimental impact that could be caused to an area from unsympathetic annex developments in gardens.  He considered that the creation of separate annexes in gardens should not be permitted to split gardens.  The point was acknowledged but it was explained that where conversion was sought for an existing separate building, it should be considered.

 

DC3 Replacement Dwellings

 

The purpose of this policy was to ensure that the development of replacement dwellings did not involve the loss of traditional dwellings and the loss of small dwellings in the countryside.

 

It was noted that the policy provided for there to be no net increase in the total number of units than the existing.

 

Members strongly supported replacing policy (iii) – “that the size of the replacement is no greater in volume than the existing dwelling together with permitted development rights” - with the alternative option: Allow for design to be the determinant factor for replacement dwellings rather than size related to housing need.

 

Members felt that the alternative option provided for design-led solutions to meet need and better use of land and would help to reduce the potential for properties remaining vacant and becoming derelict.

 

DC4 Affordable Housing Principles

 

The purpose of this policy was to ensure a level of affordable housing was provided through developments to meet the housing needs of the District’s population.

 

A number of members were strongly concerned at the proposed requirement for 40% of the total number of housing units to be provided and maintained as affordable housing within all new residential development on sites.  It was felt that this was overly prescriptive on small developments of, say, three or four dwellings, which could deter development, especially in the villages, and encourage developers to sit on a land bank.   It was also thought that such a policy increased house prices; however, it was explained that evidence indicated that on current values, development of sites of three, four or five dwellings did support the affordable housing percentage.  In this regard, the initial land value was relevant and this had been backed up at appeal.

 

In conclusion, members asked that it be noted that a number of them were opposed to the application of the 40% affordable housing percentage on new developments in villages, particularly on sites as small as three dwellings, but that, if the policy was approved, then housing priority should be given to local people.

 

DC5 Affordable Housing on Exception Sites

 

The purpose of this policy was to ensure the need for affordable housing in the rural areas was provided for.

 

It was explained that large developments on rural exception sites would be governed by evidence of need.  It was unlikely that such evidence of need could be related to incorporate surrounding villages and scale in relation to the area would be a determining issue.

 

A member considered that there was a need to protect green areas in the rural villages and that empty land in a village should not preclude consideration being given to an exception site.

 

DC6 Protected Employment Sites

 

The purpose of this policy was to ensure adequate provision of appropriately located land for employment use development.

 

The question of promoting employment in the villages was covered within the following policy.

 

DC7 Employment Development outside Protected Sites

 

The purpose of this policy was to ensure that there was scope for development of employment uses in exceptional circumstances outside General Employment Areas to ensure a prosperous local economy.

 

It was noted that this policy would allow for developments with an equestrian use, which was also supported by Planning Policy Statement 7.

 

Members were referred to policy DC25 regarding issues of diversification and conversion of existing sites.

 

DC8 Tourism Related Development

 

The purpose of this policy was to support tourism-related development and to ensure it was located in sustainable locations.

 

Members were concerned to see more flexibility for tourism related development, for example in relation to country house hotels, holiday cottages in rural areas.

 

It was noted that applications for static caravan site developments would be treated as new build and would be subject to evidence of need criteria.

 

DC9 Proposals for Town Centre Uses

 

This policy aimed to ensure the viability and vitality of town centres.

 

In answer to a question regarding primary frontages (policy sub-paragraph (v)), for example in relation to the riverside frontages at Thetford, it was explained that proposals for redevelopment involving demolition and rebuilding would not be precluded under this policy.

 

DC10 Telecommunications

 

This policy sought to set out the conditions where new telecommunications apparatus would be permitted.  The policy sought to ensure that the Council could utilise its powers to influence an appropriate design and location where applicable.

 

A member welcomed the opportunity to introduce some controls that this policy offered, although it was noted that not all developments required planning consent.  However, it did set out the criteria under which developments would be considered.  It was also noted that there was an obligation to consult with schools in regard to the location of developments in their area.

 

DC11 Green Infrastructure

 

This policy set out the Council’s approach towards the protection and enhancement of green infrastructure across the District.  The policy was broad ranging and designed to be applied in combination with policies DC8, DC11, DC12, DC16 and DC18.  It set the framework by which all elements would be considered.

 

There was concern that some hard surfaced footpaths and cycle paths were being created unnecessarily across green areas and that when such proposals were submitted, more account should be taken of local views (the example of a SUSTRANS route in Thetford was cited).  It was explained that the policy did not prescribe a particular approach but would be considered on their merits through the range of policies to protect existing routes and to minimise any intrusion from new proposals.

 

The question of how the need for more/expanded cemetery sites was raised and it was noted that this policy did not address that issue specifically but rather flagged it up from the environmental aspect.  In terms of green burial sites, any proposal would be assessed on its merits but would fall into the general definition of green infrastructure.  So far as Thetford was concerned, the Growth Point programme would need to consider the question of need for cemetery provision to meet future growth plans.

 

DC12 Existing Open Space, Sport and Recreational Facilities

 

This policy aimed to protect and enhance the provision of open space in the District.

 

In response to questions, the following points were noted:

 

  • The Council’s standards on play areas were closely allied to national criteria.

  • Evidence from the recent survey on open space provision showed that, compared nationally, Breckland was under-provided for on open space and sports playing fields.

  • The Council was moving towards the management of open space and play areas being taken on by Town and Parish Councils, with maintenance contributions payable to them.

  • Open space provision in developments was specific to that locality and could not be used to offset a deficit elsewhere in a town.  However, there would be opportunities at the site specifics stage to look at individual sites.

  • A member suggested closer control of maintenance of open space sites was needed other than the developer.  It was explained that this issue would depend on how applications were managed as they came forward under the planning process.  The LDF should help in the management process from the fact that required standards would be known at the outset, with terms clearly specified in Section 106 Agreements.  In this way, it was felt that the LDF would offer the best means of managing new sites to overcome the problems of the past.

DC13 Trees and Landscape

 

This policy set out the Council’s aim to preserve the District’s trees, hedgerows and other natural features.  The policy was closely related to policies DC8 and DC9.

 

The following points were noted in response to questions:

 

  • The policy was designed to ensure replacement trees and hedges were mature specimens.

  • So far as trees on development sites were concerned, if no Tree Preservation Order existed, then there was no control on trees removed before planning consent was given for development.

DC14 Flood Risk

 

This policy was aimed at minimising flood risks to new development and protecting existing development from an increased flood risk resulting from new development.

 

Baseline evidence indicated there was not a general problem with flooding in the District but that there were some individual problem areas. 

 

In answer to a question as to how the policy related to brownfield sites, it was explained that the designation of a site as brownfield did not mean it was necessarily an ideal site for development.  If new development proposals for such a site would give rise to an increased risk of flooding, then it might be appropriate to refuse planning consent.  Equally, a proposal that lessened the risk could be viewed as beneficial.

 

The need to address existing localised flood issues was highlighted.  In this connection, a member referred to the exacerbation of existing problems (for example in Toftwood, Dereham) from increased installation of paved and brick-weave drives, gardens, hard-standings etc. and asked whether it was possible to restrict such works.  It was explained that hard-standings were permitted developments and although restrictions could be imposed on a planning permission, there would need to be good reasons.  A national review of permitted development rights was currently under way and would cover this point.

 

Further to this point, it was asked whether the Environment Agency or other appropriate body took into account the influence of hard-standings when defining the baseline assessment on flood risk of a development area, or whether it was based on the basic footprint of a development.

 

Although it was expected that some risk analysis would be undertaken, whether that included a worst-case scenario or not was unknown.  Members felt that this was something that should be clarified.

 

So far as development on flood plains was concerned, it was explained that a sequential test approach was used.

 

It was noted that Breckland used Environment Agency maps to determine flood plain areas.  A member thought that these were not in standard use and perhaps should be.  Other maps in use elsewhere gave conflicting information.

 

DC15 Energy Efficiency

 

This policy aimed to reduce the use of non-renewable forms of energy associated with carbon dioxide emissions in new developments.

 

The following views were expressed by members:

 

  • There should be a greater obligation on developers to produce energy solutions under the design principles.

  • The requirement for 10% of the energy supply through on-site renewable sources on residential developments should be higher.

  • There should be more encouragement for grey water solutions.

 

At this point the number of members present fell below the quorum and the meeting was accordingly adjourned.