Agenda item

Wretham: Stonebridge Camp: Proposed Residential Development: Application Reference 3PL/2007/1569/F (Agenda item 9)

Report of the Development Services Manager.


The Principal Planning Officer (Major Projects) presented the report which concerned a planning application for the residential development of a former military camp on the edge of Wretham.  It was recommended that the application be approved.


The development proposed would comprise of 27 dwellings, a new access and estate road, and an area of open space.  The application had been supported by a number of technical reports, including a Planning Statement, Sustainability Statement, Consultation Statement, Design and Access Statement, Ecological Survey, Flood Risk Assessment, Transport Assessment and Site Investigation Desk Study.


The 1.6 hectare site was located just outside the Settlement Boundary on the southern edge of Stonebridge, East Wretham.


A draft Section 106 Agreement was currently under preparation and would include the following obligations:


  • the provision of 8 affordable dwellings;
  • provision of public open space and play area; and
  • financial contributions towards schools and library services, traffic management proposals, improved bus stop facilities and improvements to the Village Hall.


There would be a range of properties proposed and all dwellings would be constructed to a high environmental standard (Sustainable Home Code Level 4).  There were currently six codes: codes five and six contained zero carbon environmental factors.  Code Level 4 was considered to be of an excellent standard of environmental design and was above the energy performance standard of Code Level 3. 


The principal issues raised by the application were: i) the extent to which the development would accord with relevant planning policy relating to housing development in rural areas, and ii) the impact of the development on the character of the area.


The Principal Planning Policy Officer explained that the current proposal for 27 dwellings exceeded what could reasonably be considered to be a small scale development in the context of the existing settlement.  To this extent, the proposal would conflict with national policy.  However, in support of the application, it was argued that a smaller scheme would not be viable, given the costs associated with redeveloping a brownfield site of this sort and the community benefits being offered. National Policy, as set out in PPS3, prioritised the re-use of brownfield sites, particularly those that contained vacant or derelict buildings that had previously been publicly owned.  The site, although outside the defined development boundary, was well related physically to the built up form of the village.  The site had previously been identified for commercial uses; however, no such uses had been forthcoming despite efforts by the applicants to market the land for such purposes.


There had been strong local support for the development from local residents and the Parish Council.  Prior to the submission of the application, the views of the Parish Council and local residents had been sought at a series of public meetings.  The general response had been positive except for the one issue of parking.  The applicant had taken on board their concerns and had amended the scheme slightly by increasing the parking spaces belonging to the affordable units to two each.  A further change incorporated had been an increase to the amount of visitor parking by the form of lay-bys around the public open space.  All the parking areas on the site had been well located and were well overlooked for security purposes.


Natural England had asked that further information be provided in relation to bats.  The Principal Planning Officer (Major Projects) explained that bats had been found residing in several existing buildings; therefore, the applicant had offered to build a bat structure to provide a roosting space.  Natural England had been happy with this proposal.


Mr Kitson, the Parish Council Representative, had appreciated the amount of consultation that had taken place as this would be the biggest single development to ever take place in the village.  The applicants had listened and had doubled the amount of car parking spaces for the residents as well as increasing the visitor spaces to ten; however, the Parish Council was still unhappy with the parking arrangements for plot no. 8 as future residents would have to park in the front garden.


Mr Williams, the Applicant’s Agent, was in attendance for this item.  He provided Members with a brief history of the site when the camp had been in operation.  He was pleased with the results from the number of community events that had been held and indicated that he would take on board any other minor amendments suggested to satisfy the Parish Council.  Mr Williams was in no doubt that this development would help to enhance the vitality of the village and believed that it could be held as a beacon to the community.


Mr Cowen, the Ward Representative, felt that this was an unusual application and very significant for this Committee particularly when the Officers were approving a development outside the Settlement Boundary.  The scale and density of the development was appropriate and the designers deserved a pat on the back; however, there was a little work still to be done.  For example, he would encourage the Officers to approve the application subject to them looking again at plots 9 to 14 as according to the site layout, the parking areas were not quite apparent.  Mr Cowen felt that the properties should be ‘tweaked’ to alleviate more space in that area.  In response, the Principal Planning Officer (Major Projects) clarified that a number of those buildings in that area were in fact garages.


A Member was aware that the parking situation on any new development caused constant problems.  He urged the applicant’s to provide more visitor parking around the back of the site as, in his opinion, to install lay-bys around a fabulous piece of public open space would be very unfortunate.


Another Member believed that the most important matter that should be considered was the Council’s policy.  The policy clearly stated that estates in villages should not be built, and certainly not the ones that were outside the guidelines.  Policies should be upheld, if not; Breckland Council would be pilloried as an authority if it allowed this development to go ahead.  The Member felt that if the Committee was mindful to approve this application it could set a precedent for other dis-used camps to be built on in the future.


The Principal Planning Officer (Major Projects) agreed with the aforementioned concern but assured Members that careful consideration had been given to both national and local policies.  A Member concurred with the Officer’s response and pointed out that if the Council abided strictly to policy the Development Control Committee would be superfluous.  The reason why this Committee was held was to discuss matters such as these and to allow a certain amount of flexibility.  Although in support of the application, the Member still had doubts about sustainability items in the village and accessibility concerns.  Mr Kitson pointed out that Wretham had a public house, a Village Hall and a part-time post office.  He urged the Committee to support the application as this development would help sustain the village and encourage young people to move in.


Another concern highlighted related to whether there would be any traffic calming measures installed along the main road.  Members were informed that there was a financial contribution being offered to the Highway Authority which would include traffic management measures on the A1075 and public transport facilities.


A Member was pleased that new life was being breathed into the village and wholeheartedly supported the application.


Given the level of local support for the development, it was considered that the balance of arguments fell in favour of the development.  Whilst there was some risk of a precedent being set for other developments outside allocated areas, it was considered the combination of factors here present were unlikely to be repeated.


RESOLVED that the application be deferred; however, the Development Services Manager be authorised to grant permission subject to:


i).            conditions relating to external materials, access and parking, landscaping and boundary treatment, archaeology, drainage, site investigation and wildlife mitigation; and


ii)            the completion of a S106 Agreement to secure the affordable housing, public open space, sustainable construction, and financial contributions towards schools, libraries, transport initiatives and improvements to the Village Hall.


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