3PL/2009/0681/F: Watton: Beechwood House, High Street: Erection of residential care home for Jetspark (Agenda Item 9)
Report of the Deputy Chief Executive.
The Principal Planning Officer (Major Developments) introduced this item and explained that the application for a residential care home in Watton town centre did not necessarily mean it would be a home for the elderly. The C2 use class covered all forms of residential care homes.
The care home would provide 40 resident rooms and ancillary facilities, accommodated within a series of interconnected 2-storey blocks. The existing residential property, Beechwood House, would be retained for use in connection with the proposed care home.
The footprint was large but the building had been designed to reduce its bulk and volume. Views of the building from the surrounding area would be screened by trees except to the south.
A new access had been designed to avoid harm to the protected beech tree at the front of the site. The access would be set back and the existing boundary wall would be lowered to improve visibility for vehicles and pedestrians. A cobbled strip would warn drivers that they were crossing a footway. The Town Council and the Highways Authority both objected to the access on safety grounds.
Mr Worsfold, NCC Highways representative, explained that the site was currently a single dwelling with an expected trip-generation of eight to ten movements per day. A C2 use was likely to generate a significant increase in vehicle movements. The High Street was a busy shopping centre with a large number of pedestrian movements. The new access would be directly adjacent Beechwood Avenue and was likely to increase traffic conflict, detrimental to highway safety.
He concluded by saying that bin and cycle storage facilities on site were inadequate and that, in its current state, the application was unacceptable.
Mr Rudling, for the Town Council, strongly recommended refusal. The High Street was very congested and even gridlocked at times. There was a taxi rank immediately outside the site and a bus stop opposite. Beechwood Avenue was a popular area for parking and the car parks in the town were already full without additional cars from this development. He was concerned at the lack of recreational facilities on the site, with nowhere for residents to sit outside. He also felt that if the home was for the elderly they might be disturbed by the town centre activity and noise.
Miss Osborne, Business Manager of Watton Medical Practice, objected on behalf of the doctors. She said they already had 12,200 patients with a growing population due to the large number of additional dwellings to be built in Watton. There were also already seven care homes in Watton; over 30% of the population was over 60 and there was double the national average of patients with diabetes, respiratory and heart disease. There was already enormous pressure on the doctors to do home visits and the surgery would be unable to cope with another care home.
Mr Pettifer, Agent, said that C2 uses did not generate much traffic and the lack of on-site parking would encourage the use of public transport. He thought that the existing use, with its highly unsuitable access, generated more movements. He concluded by saying the care home would provide valuable employment for the area.
Mr Gilbert, Ward Representative, objected to the application. He said the access to Beechwood Avenue was already dangerous and that the new access adjacent to it would make it even worse. The limited parking on-site would generate extra movements, with visitors entering and having to leave again to park elsewhere. The building was too big; it filled the site and had very little garden space. There would be no outside area for residents to enjoy. Finally he referred to NCC’s comments regarding care aspirations and said that higher standards should be required.
The Principal Planning Officer (Major Projects) clarified a couple of points raised. He explained that the NCC comments had referred to their preferred model for elderly care which was assisted living units. The building was capable of meeting the required standards but this was not an issue required to be addressed by planning policy.
The same was true of the effect on the medical practice. This was a very difficult issue. The doctors were saying that the development would impose an undue burden on their practice, but there was noting in planning policy to address this or to require a financial contribution to medical services.
Members discussed the following:
· potential uses of the care home – with the agent being unable to give them any ‘end-user’ information;
· access – could this be controlled to avoid unnecessary entrances and exits; did it provide sufficient space for deliveries, etc;
· parking – insufficient space provided; unrealistic to say staff could use ‘other means’ of transport;
· insufficient amenity space for residents;
· loss of trees; and
· effect on the area.
The recommendation for approval was not supported.
RESOLVED to refuse the application due to the lack of adequate parking provided; overdevelopment of the site; highway safety issues with the access and egress; and the loss of trees.