Agenda item

Shipdham: Land off Church Close: Residential Development for Abel Homes Ltd (reference 3PL/2007/1234/F) (Agenda item 8a)

This item was deferred from the Development Control Committee meeting held on 5th November 2007 to enable a site visit to take place.


This report concerned a proposal for a residential development in the village of Shipdham.  The application had been considered at the Development Control Committee meeting held on 5th November 2007 where it had been deferred to enable a site visit to be carried out on 23rd November 2007.


The Principal Planning Officer (Major Projects) explained the details of the relevant planning policies and the assessment of the application, covering the issues of local character, recreation provision, trees/ecology, highway safety and flooding. The application had been supported by a number of technical reports, including a Design & Access Statement, a Flood Risk Assessment, a Tree Survey, an Archaeological Report and an Ecological Report.  Detailed amendments had been made to the proposals in the light of responses from consultees.  One of the changes included an amended design to one of the affordable housing units which had been dropped in height and set further back from the remaining affordable dwellings. 


A number of concerns had been raised with regard to flooding on the site as the land was low lying and a ditch had been allowed to be filled in.  The Principal Planning Officer admitted that the site was quite soggy underfoot; however, the Environment Agency was quite satisfied with the Flood Risk Assessment that had been submitted in support of the application.


As far as the traffic issues were concerned, the Highway Authority had concluded that it was satisfied with the application and had stated that no traffic calming measures in that area were required.  The applicant; however, had offered to improve facilities if requested.


Mr Willeard, Norfolk County Council’s Assistant Engineer for Estate Development was present to answer questions.


Mr Hill, for the Parish Council was concerned about the flooding issues and the proposed access from the A1075.  He urged the Committee to support some form of pedestrian crossing in that area. He also had concerns with regard to the on-going and future development in the village which he felt could lead to Shipdham having to accommodate in the region of 100 homes over the next five years. 


Mr Bird, the Applicant, was in attendance and put his views forward.  He stated that the density proposed would, at around 20 dwellings per hectare, be lower than that generally sought by PPS3.  Mr Bird advised that the drainage on the site had been neglected over the years and the new drainage system that would be installed would eliminate existing problems.  The Flood Risk Assessment had been carried out by the applicant’s own professional advisors. On the issue of highway safety, a 20 metre extension of footpath would be installed to allow buses to stop away from the access/entrance.  Mr Bird felt that he had met and exceeded all requirements and urged Members to support the Officers’ recommendation.


Mr Jordan, a neighbouring Ward Member, acting on behalf of the Ward Representative, had attended the site visit and was impressed with the proposed engineering solutions to the existing flooding problems.  However, he felt that there was one matter that the applicant could not change and that was the land itself.  The land was spring fed and would never dry out no matter what innovative solution was installed and therefore should not be built on.  He also felt that the affect on the village if this development went ahead would be horrendous.  Shipdham was a small village and did not have the infrastructure to accommodate all these extra dwellings. Mr Jordan felt appalled that Norfolk County Council had not agreed to install any traffic calming measures.  He felt that common sense should prevail and that there should be some form of traffic calming measures installed particularly for parents and children looking for a safe route to the local school.  Although he was against the application in the village of Shipdham Mr Jordan felt that the developers should be congratulated on such a well thought out scheme.


Another Member advised that the main reasons for him not being able to support the application were the flooding issues and the increased traffic implications.  Following the site visit that he had attended, he had been most distressed with the amount of traffic passing through the village on the A1075, particularly with the amount of HGVs.  He felt that the access was not good and the visibility splay was limited by the number of trees being retained.  The Member agreed with Mr Jordan’s comments on the flooding issues.  The land was classed as a fen and therefore was attenuation in its own right.  If Members were mindful to approve the application, the developers would be covering more than half the site in concrete and, in his opinion, would not help to dispose of the spring water that already existed.  The slab levels would have to be raised dramatically to avoid any future flooding problems.  He could not support this application.


A Member felt that the Committee was being caught up with issues that would not be of concern to the people living there.   Not to develop the site just because of the lack of any highway measures would be slightly tenuous; however, he did agree that some form of traffic calming measure should be installed.


A Member asked, if this development was approved, who would be responsible for the costs if flooding occurred onto other neighbouring properties.  In response, the Solicitor advised that it was impossible to provide an answer; however, the costs would not fall to Breckland Council.


Another Member asked Mr Willeard how Norfolk County Council had come to the conclusion that traffic restraints were not required.  In response, Mr Willeard explained that the access onto the A1075 had only been agreed because of the speed survey that had been undertaken by the applicant.  As far as footpaths were concerned, he felt that the main demand would be to the north-west of the site.  The existing residents to the south-west might have a desire to cross the estate but, in his opinion, there would not be a sufficient demand for a pedestrian crossing. 

The Member was astounded that Norfolk County Council could be content with 40 plus houses being built without installing any appropriate footpaths.  In his defence, Mr Willeard reminded Members that the applicant was intending to extend the existing footpath and that Norfolk County Council would be installing dropped kerbs.


Referring to the flooding issues, the Principal Planning Officer (Major Projects) understood the concerns and agreed that part of the site was very wet.  However, a detailed Flood Risk Assessment had been submitted and the Environment Agency had stated very clearly that the scheme was acceptable and would not increase the flooding elsewhere.  He advised that it would be very difficult to provide technical evidence against the proposal.


With regard to traffic issues, the Principal Planning Officer (Major Projects) pointed out that no-one could expect the developer to address any existing traffic problems; however, it might be possible to develop and improve pedestrian facilities by making representations to Norfolk County Council to install a safety scheme along this end of the village.  Mr Jordan, who was also a County Member, agreed to take forward all the above concerns and suggestions to Norfolk County Council.


Other concerns related to the commuted sums, and who it was payable to, archaeology and site working times.


The Committee was informed that the law for commuted sums was that it had to be directly related to the proposed development, there was not any policy in the Council’s Local Plan or in any national policy to pay a commuted sum direct to a community.  However, the public open space contribution of £50,000 that had been offered by the applicant would most likely be paid to the Parish Council to improve existing recreational facilities in the village.


As far as archaeology was concerned, it was explained that some archaeological investigations had already been undertaken.  A further condition would be required to record and monitor any finds during development and would be evaluated as development progressed.


General conditions would be attached to the permission on site working times.  Members were informed that Abel Homes had its own Neighbour Charter and therefore was certainly conscious of its responsibilities.  The conditions would include deliveries, parking and keeping the site clean and tidy.


The Development Services Manager advised that this application should be considered on its own merits.  Members should not make a decision on what might or might not be built in the village in the future.


A vote to approve the application was lost.  However, after seeking reasons for the new proposal, it was proposed and seconded that the application be approved subject to suitable highway improvements being agreed.




(1)         the application be deferred and the officers, in consultation with the Chairman, be asked to negotiate traffic/highway improvements with Norfolk County Council, and if these negotiations are successful, the Development Services Manager be authorised to grant permission subject to:


(i)            the detailed matters relating to materials, landscaping, tree protection, ecology, boundary treatments, slab levels, archaeology, access, parking and drainage being agreed in order to secure a satisfactory development;


(ii)          completion of a Section 106 Agreement to secure the affordable housing provision and the contributions relating to recreation facilities, schools and library services;


(2)     if the negotiations with Norfolk County Council failed to provide suitable traffic/highway improvements, the application be referred back to Committee.


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