Swaffham: Land to the East of Brandon Road: Full application for 135 dwellings, access & associated works and outline for residential development and associated works: Reference: 3PL/2007/1436/H (Agenda item 11)
Report of the Development Services Manager.
The Principal Planning Officer (Major Projects) presented the report which concerned proposals for a residential development of approximately 400 dwellings on 10.7 hectares of former commercial land at Brandon Road, Swaffham. It was recommended that permission be granted, subjects to conditions and a S106 Agreement.
The fact that the current proposal made no provision for any continuation of previous commercial uses was not considered to be objectionable given the current figures for housing and employment land supply across the District.
An application for outline planning permission to develop the site for part residential and part commercial (roughly 60:40 split) had been submitted in September 2000. Committee approval of the application had been given in October 2004, subject to the completion of a section 106 agreement. This application was currently being held in abeyance, pending the outcome of the latest proposals.
The application had been split into two parts. The hybrid application sought planning permission for 135 dwellings on 4.38 hectares, and an outline permission was sought for approximately 265 houses on the remaining 6.32 hectares of the site.
A new roundabout was proposed on Brandon Road (A1065) to provide access to the development, together with a new footway/cycleway. Affordable housing, public open space, sustainable construction standards, and contributions towards education, library, transport services and public art, were proposed as part of the development, and would be secured through a S106 Agreement.
The application was supported by a number of technical reports, including a Design & Access Statement, a Transport Assessment/Travel Plan, a Flood Risk Assessment, an Open Space & Recreation Strategy, an Arboricultural Implications Assessment, a Landscape Strategy Report, an Archaeological Evaluation Brief, a Wildlife Habitat Survey and an Acoustic Report. A draft S106 Agreement had also been submitted.
In order that the development had a sense of identity, a Design Code had been drawn up which divided the development into distinct character zones. Within these zones, the design, street spaces, building types and external materials would be varied to create visual interest and a sense of place. It was explained that the Home Zone Areas was a relatively new idea, the roads and the paths had been designed to limit vehicle traffic and encourage much more comfortable areas for children and pedestrians.
Densities would vary across the site with the site frontage being principally 25 to the hectare.
The S106 Agreement would require the dwellings to be built to Code Level 3. The Principal Planning Officer (Major Projects) explained that there were currently six codes; codes five and six contained zero environmental factors. Code Level 3; however, was considered to be of a good standard of environmental design and was 25% better than the current building regulations standards.
Swaffham Town Council were now happy with the elements of the detailed design but had still raised concerns about the traffic implications of the proposed development.
The Highway Authority had concluded that it was satisfied with the location of the proposed roundabout and had withdrawn its concerns.
As far as accessibility issues were concerned, the application included a number of proposals to promote more sustainable modes of transport bearing in mind the rather peripheral location of the site. A financial contribution of £60,000 had been offered to fund a demand response bus service to the town centre, whilst a further £40,000 would be used to fund the extension of an existing footway/cycleway on Brandon Road up to the site. This footway/cycleway would be continued into the site. Links would also be created from the development to an existing public footpath which would run along the northern site boundary. The new roundabout would have the additional benefit of reducing traffic speeds and providing a turning facility for local traffic.
As far as the S106 Agreement was concerned, various discussions were still on-going with the applicants. The applicants were now offering a slightly different affordable housing package. The package would now include an element of private/shared equity ownership dwellings as well as dwellings being socially rented. The Principal Planning Officer felt that this would be a positive element and one that should be supported subject to further discussions.
Mrs McNab, the Applicant’s Agent, advised that she had worked very closely with Swaffham Town Council and the public which had resulted in a number of changes to the scheme including amended designs to a number of the dwellings and an increase in parking spaces. The increased population in Swaffham would help support local shops and businesses. The contamination had been removed from the site and a number of packages and benefits would arrive from this proposal. Norfolk County Council had requested a contribution of £60,000 to provide an on demand bus service. Following this request, it had been decided that when the bus was not required it could be utilised for Swaffham Community Services. Mrs McNab felt that this sustainable development would be a positive benefit for Swaffham.
Mr Sharpe, the Ward Member for Swaffham, congratulated the architect and the developers on the scheme and for their co-operation with Swaffham Town Council. He felt that there was only one topic of contention and that was the increase of traffic on the A1065. The initial 135 dwellings would not have much of an impact but on completion Mr Sharpe felt that the development would have to house approximately 600 cars on the site and the impact during the rush hours and at weekends would cause bottlenecks at various junctions. He urged Norfolk County Council to investigate these problems and resolve these issues before the site was completed. In support of Mr Sharpe’s comments, the Development Services Manager said that the Officers would send a letter directly to Norfolk County Council on this matter.
Mr Wilkin, a neighbouring Ward Member, was surprised at Mr Sharpe’s comments as he felt that he could be in danger of asking for a north/south bypass which would be like signing a death certificate for the town. Mr Wilkin reminded the Committee that if Members were mindful not to approve the application, the site could end up with a mixed industrial/housing development. He felt that a lot of care and thought had been put into this application and should be supported and, in his opinion, was a much better application than the previous one.
A Member asked whether the location of the roundabout had been amended and whether a zoned soft play area would be installed for the young children. In response, the Principal Planning Officer (Major Projects) advised that the roundabout location had been moved which had eliminated the Highway Authority’s previous concerns. As far as the zoned play area was concerned, it was explained that the Home Zone would be extended to pick up the area of the play equipment area in the middle of the site. Breckland Council’s Senior Leisure Manager had been very supportive of this approach. In response to a concern about the capacity of the schools in the area, the Committee was advised that Norfolk County Council had advised that there was sufficient capacity at the moment and the commuted sum towards local education would be retained for Swaffham’s future needs.
Another Member had concerns about giving up industrial land and also had concerns with regard to the infill area between the site and the town itself. He requested that if this application was approved the land to the north of the site should be increased and that enough space should be left for a vehicular access. The Member suggested that a development of this size should be able to accommodate and support a local shop and a village hall. The Principal Planning Officer (Major Projects) explained that if the infill piece of land did come forward as a separate application it should not cause any particular problems to the land situated at the north of the site. Additionally, if a vehicular access was installed it would generate a great deal more traffic movement to the site and would well exceed the current traffic numbers for one development. With regard to the latter, Mrs McNab, the Applicant’s Agent explained that following lengthy discussions with officers a decision had been taken that a village hall or a shop would not be appropriate.
RESOLVED that the application be deferred, however, the Development Services Manager be authorised to grant permission subject to:
1) a Section 106 Agreement requiring:
i) the financial contributions towards off-site sports facilities, a local bus service, a footway/cycleway link, the provision of public art and local education and library services;
ii) the provision of the affordable dwellings, the public open spaces and the sustainable construction standards (Code Level 3);
2) the existing extant permission not to be implemented; and
3) the officers to write to Norfolk County Council on the issue of possible traffic problems.
The Chairman congratulated both the applicants/developers and Mr Moys on such a well designed development.