Outline planning application for 220 Self-Build and Custom-Build dwellings, including 67 Affordable dwellings, with accesses off London Road.
There were no declarations of interest for this application.
The Committee was informed that this application had been referred to it at the request of the Acting Director of Planning.
Members were advised that the application site comprised two parcels of land, of approximately 10.6 hectares (combined), which were situated immediately to the south and west of the B1441 London Road, on the northern edge of Clacton-on-Sea. The land parcels were subdivided by a farm track which provided access to an arable field to the south which was within separate ownership. The A133 lay adjacent to the western boundary of parcel 1.
Overall, the site consisted of two former horticultural nurseries (including a dwelling at Langford Nursery); a dwelling known as Little Ditches within the north eastern corner of the site; woodland, orchard, grassland and scrub land that had regenerated naturally over time; as well as a redundant builder’s yard towards the eastern side of the site. The land in question was predominantly green and essentially rural in its nature, with a mix of uses within the area typical of its urban fringe location, but provided an important role in keeping Clacton separate from the village of Little Clacton.
It was reported that this was an outline planning application, with access and layout to be determined at this stage. All other matters (appearance, scale and landscaping) were reserved for future determination.
The Committee was reminded that the application had originally been submitted for 220 Dwellings, including 20 Affordable Homes and 21 Self-Build Plots. This had been revised in spring 2020, and had removed the Montana Nurseries site from the northern end of the site, with associated amendments to its access, and changed the description of the proposed development to entirely self-build and custom homes, including 67 affordable homes.
Members were informed that there would be two access points into the development site, one for each parcel, and the layout as identified on the submitted plans showed a series of loop roads and cul-de-sacs proposed, with building forms being mainly detached.
It was noted that the existing trees and vegetation to the perimeter of the parcels would largely be retained, along with a number of trees within the development zones. An ecological buffer adjacent to Picker’s Ditch would be maintained, denoted as an ‘Enhanced Ecology Zone’ on the layout drawing, along with two woodland areas.
The Committee was advised that, as set out within Paragraph 47 of the NPPF, planning law required that applications for planning permission be determined in accordance with the Development Plan, unless material considerations indicated otherwise. In this case the application site was located outside of a designated settlement development boundary. The site fell within the area of countryside which separated Clacton from Little Clacton, and was designated as Green Gap. Adopted Local Plan Policy PPL6 stated that Strategic Green Gaps, as shown on the Policies Maps and Local Maps, would be protected in order to retain the separate identity and prevent coalescence of settlements. Any development permitted must be consistent with other policies in the plan and must not (individually or cumulatively) lead to the coalescence of settlements.
It was felt by Officers that the existing green gap would be greatly diminished by virtue of the introduction of a substantial built form into largely open countryside of a fairly undeveloped nature; and the introduction of 220 new homes on the application site would amount to a detrimental effect upon the local landscape, eroding the existing spaciousness found along the southern and western sides of London Road, whilst also bringing the settlements of Clacton and Little Clacton much closer together.
Officers informed Members that, whilst the evidence submitted demonstrated that there was a potential need for self-build and custom build units, the application was partly speculative, in that the proposed occupiers were unknown. Furthermore, whilst there was no exact definition of small scale, it was not considered that 220 dwellings (153 market dwellings) could be considered small scale in this instance.
The Committee was made aware that this application was in outline form with layout being included as part of this application, therefore the layout of the development would be fixed. This meant that potential owners would have less flexibility regarding the size and position of the proposed dwellings.
Members of the Committee were advised that it was accepted by Officers that the proposal could have provided for those on the Council’s self/custom build housing register, and that the scheme would have also enabled the construction of 67 Affordable homes for the benefit of those within the District who were in housing need, if permitted. Short-term the application would have also facilitated the provision of construction related jobs, and would have benefitted local supply chains for building materials, trades etc.
However, when considering the planning balance Officers had concluded that the adverse impacts of the development significantly and demonstrably outweighed the benefits, when assessed against the policies set out within the NPPF taken as a whole.
The Committee had before it the published Officer report containing the key planning issues, relevant planning policies, planning history, any response from consultees, written representations received and a recommendation of refusal.
At the meeting, an oral presentation was made by the Council’s Planning Team Leader (SC-E) in respect of the application.
An update sheet had been circulated to the Committee prior to the meeting containing details following receipt of a letter from Councillor G V Guglielmi in support of the application and further information in relation to the application submitted from the applicant.
Laura Hamlyn, a representative acting on behalf of the applicant, spoke in support of the application.
Councillor Bray, the Member for the adjacent Little Clacton Ward, spoke against the application.
Matters raised by Members of the Committee:-
Officer’s response thereto:-
A member of the Committee asked what was the land mass of the site?
The Planning Officer advised that the site was predominately a dis-used builders yard and scrubland.
Would the area have to be deforested to achieve the proposed plots?
The perimeter trees would have been retained, a number of trees within the site had been proposed to be removed. The majority of vegetation would be removed as shown in the application plans.
Another member of the Committee raised concerns regarding well-established trees. Where is the designation of Pickers Ditch?
The Planning Officer advised that Pickers Ditch ran alongside the boundary.
Had the objections been addressed? Would PPL5 be a suitable reason for refusal?
The comments had not yet been addressed, PPL5 was a suitable ground for refusal of the application.
Following discussion by the Committee, it was moved by Councillor Harris, seconded by Councillor Alexander and unanimously RESOLVED that the Assistant Director for Planning be authorised to REFUSE planning permission for the development for the reasons set out in paragraph 8.2 of the Officer report and as set out below:-
Reasons for Refusal:-
1. The proposed development is located outside of a designated settlement development boundary and as such is on land designated as open countryside and which is defined as a part of the Strategic Green Gap in the Tendring District Local Plan (Section 2) 2022, under Policy PPL6. This policy states that Strategic Green Gaps will be protected in order to retain the separate identity and prevent coalescence of settlements. Any development permitted must be consistent with other policies in the plan and must not (individually or cumulatively) lead to the coalescence of settlements’.
The existing Strategic Green Gap would be greatly diminished by virtue of the introduction of substantial built form into a largely rural area. Consequently, the introduction of 220 new homes on the application site would amount to a clear and very real detrimental effect upon the local landscape, eroding the existing spaciousness found along the southern and western sides of London Road, and giving rise to an unnatural incursion into the Strategic Green Gap, whilst also bringing the settlements of Clacton-on-Sea and Little Clacton much closer together, which would be harmful to the character and appearance of the area.
The proposal is therefore contrary to the above policies and paragraph 174 b) of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which requires the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside to be recognised.
2. The NPPF defines self-building and custom housing as ‘housing built by an individual, a group of individuals, or persons working with them or for them, to be occupied by that individual’. It also states that ‘such housing can be either market or affordable housing’. A legal definition is also provided within the Self-building and Custom Housebuilding Act 2016 which states that ‘self-build and custom building means the building or completion by individuals, associations of individuals, or persons working with or for individuals or associations of individuals, of houses to be occupied as homes by those individuals. But it does not include the building of a house on a plot acquired from a person who builds the house wholly or mainly to plans or specifications decided or offered by that person’.
Policy LP7 of the Tendring District Local Plan states that ‘the Council will consider, on their merits, proposals for small developments of new self-build and custom built homes on land outside of, but within a reasonable proximity to, settlement development boundaries, where they will still support a sustainable pattern of growth in the District and are brought forward by individuals or associates of individuals who will occupy those homes’.
It is therefore considered that the proposal is contrary to the above mentioned policies in that the proposal is not a small development and that there is insufficient information to demonstrate that the proposal meets the criteria of self-build and custom build housing as the development is partially speculative and layout is included as part of the application which gives less flexibility to potential owners.
3. The NPPF states Local Planning Authorities should consider whether otherwise unacceptable development could be made acceptable through the use of conditions or planning obligations. Planning obligations should only be sought where they meet all of the following tests: necessary to make the development acceptable in planning terms; directly related to the development; and fairly and reasonable related in scale and kind to the development.
The proposed development would trigger the requirement for the following:
Affordable Housing - 30% delivery of the total amount of dwellings proposed;
Ecology - RAMS payment of £137.71 per dwelling i.e. £30,158.49;
Education - Early Years & Childcare - £265,868 index linked to April 2020;
Secondary Education - £809,473 index linked to April 2020;
School Transport - £385,548 Index Linked to April 2020;
Healthcare - Additional Primary Healthcare provision (floorspace) to mitigate impacts arising from the development - £128,511.68;
Highways - Upgrading of the 4 nearest bus stops in the vicinity of the site, as appropriate, to current Essex County Council specification and a Residential Travel Plan, including an annual monitoring fee.
Public Open Space - Delivery of Public Open Space and Play Areas, with arrangements for future ownership and management.
These requirements would need to be secured through planning obligations pursuant to S106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. At the time of issuing this decision neither a S106 Agreement or Unilateral Undertaking had been completed. As such the proposal is contrary to Local Plan Policies HP1, HP5, LP5, PP12, PPL4, CP1 and CP2, as well as NPPF paragraphs 63, 93, 95, 98, 104 and 182 and Regulation 63 of the Conservation of Habitat and Species Regulations 2017.
4. The proposed development fails to demonstrate that adequate provision/details for foul water sewage discharge could be achieved without detriment to the local water environment given the current availability and capability of local infrastructure. On this basis, the proposal was considered contrary to PPL5, SP6 Part E, and DI1.