Minutes of the Planning Committee Meeting of the 29th November 2012
Birdham Parish Council
Minutes of the Planning Committee of Birdham Parish Council
held on Thursday 29th November 2012
at 7pm in Birdham Village Hall
Present: Cllr Tilbury (Chairman), Cllr Barker, Cllr Grafham, Cllr Cobbold (Vice Chairman), Cllr Parks.
Ex-Officio: Cllr Finch (Chairman of Council)
Apologies: There were none.
In attendance: The Clerk, Cllr P Montyn (WSCC & CDC), Cllr R Marshall (CDC) and approximately 150 residents.
Prior to the commencement of the meeting Cllr Tilbury as Chairman of the Planning Committee explained how the system of planning and planning applications operated. He also laid down the basic ground rules and procedures for members of the public who wished to comment on the applications to be discussed. He said that he would allow members of the public to comment on the application prior to Councillors comments.
P8-12 Declarations of Interests:
There were no declarations of interest
P9-12 Planning Applications:
i) Applications to be decided.
BI/12/04147/OUT Tawny Nursery, Bell Lane, Birdham.
Concern was raised at the apparent large applications nibbling away at the parish without thought to the overcrowding, the impact on the roads and the inability of the sewage system to cope with what we have already.
Considerable concern was raised about the flooding that took place in June with many families unable to spend Christmas in their own homes as a result. More housing invariably means more of a flooding risk.
Piling and the raising of the ground level may mean that the new homes might be protected but it would certainly not protect the lower lying homes.
The culverts that are currently in place would not cope with additional water run-off which would occur from a new development.
The numbers quoted would be front loading the housing requirement noted by CDC.
No flood risk assessments had been carried out therefore no development should take place until an FRA was in place and quoted from paragraph 100 of the NPPF.
The school is incapable of taking any more children.
Traffic considerations were laughable, when experience clearly showed that 2+ hour traffic jams were not uncommon.
Cllr Parks – A lot has been said that we would all probably agree with concerning flooding and the traffic situation.
Cllr Finch – It was already extremely difficult to cross to the village hub. There is a known flooding issue in that area. The developers appear to be saying we have a field and we will get as many house as possible onto that field creating a crammed appearance. The developers claim they have created a village street when in reality in Birdham we have lanes not streets. The developers claim to have spoken to the community which is wholly inaccurate.
Cllr Barker – Nothing more to add to that which has already been said.
Cllr Cobbold – The flooding issue has been dealt with but have concerns on economic grounds and social cohesion neither of which appears to be have been taken into consideration. A development in that area would be bad for the village, children are not going to be able to walk to school unless traffic issue are dealt with. The village is a harbour village within the AONB.
Cllr Grafham – Nothing much more to add but could find nothing within the application of credit. There are flooding issues which the scale of the development in that area would not help.
Cllr Tilbury then read out a prepared statement which he felt covered the concerns of the residents and of the Parish Council.
This appears to be an Outline application to build up to thirty dwellings, including a new access road, parking and associated garaging, open space and a play area, including twelve affordable dwellings. Birdham Parish Council’s understanding of an outline application is that establishes whether the scale and nature of the proposed development would be acceptable before a detailed application is put forward seeking approval of reserved matters. Only after this latter approval of layout, access, scale and appearance can work start. This application appears to be a hybrid in that some parts of it provide more detail than we would normally expect at this stage. The Council wishes to make it clear that this present response is without prejudice to any subsequent full application and that it reserves the right to respond to any such application.
The site for the proposed development is on Bell Lane, Birdham. It lies outside the Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and outside the Birdham Settlement Policy Area under the Local Plan 1999, the borders of which follow the southern and eastern boundaries of the telephone exchange site. This means that more than fifty per cent of the site is not contiguous with the SPA which contravenes criterion 1 of the Chichester District Council Statement on Housing – Facilitating Appropriate Development as revised up to 9th October 2012 (hereinafter FAD).
The character of this part of the village is transitional. The Parish Council’s strict defence of the SPA over the years has meant that the streetscape changes at this point from 1950s ribbon, residential development to small scale nurseries affording views across open land and making a clear distinction between the settlement of Birdham and the hamlet of Somerley (a conservation area). Birdham has thus remained a compact village. The effect of this development would be to change the shape of the village, worsen the ribbon development (especially with the building line advanced to the roadside on Bell Lane) and threaten coalescence with Somerley. This would contravene criteria 2 and 7 of the FAD.
The Yeakell and Gardner map of 1788 shows that the line of what is now Bell Lane was at that time further to the east. There is also the line of a presumed Roman road forty or so metres to the west. Investigation of these would be necessary under criterion 3 of the FAD.
We understand that the pre-application advice drew attention to the visual impact of this development at this location, where the small nurseries help to contain the village while conserving the open character of the landscape, which is a main attraction of the area. We agree with the views expressed by the Chichester Harbour Conservancy on the faulty Ecology Survey. The development would also lie within the Conservancy’s seven kilometre zone and the mitigation area set out by the District Council in its “Statement on the Disturbance of Birds in Chichester and Langstone Harbour”. The token space offered for dog-walking is not a serious alternative.
The Economic Assessment which accompanies this application is detailed but shows that it was prepared in Milton Keynes. Its main argument is that home owners will contribute to the local economy as much – or more – than the holiday makers staying in the caravans presently occupying the site. It cites the economic benefits of the development to sales of building materials and the use of architectural, legal and insurance services. This argument is rather undermined by the fact that the application’s transport assessment was prepared in London, the agricultural assessment in Hayward’s Heath, the ecological assessment in Tunbridge Wells, the economic assessment itself in Milton Keynes and the flooding assessment in Belper. Tourism is a major economic driver in this area and the statistics on the small percentage of camping and caravanning opportunities represented by this site ignore the qualitative impact on the very reason why people choose to spend their time here: to enjoy the open countryside where contained residential areas conserve and enhance that attractiveness. The statistics in the survey refer generally to “Chichester”. It is not clear whether this means Chichester City or Chichester District and this must cast doubts on their validity for Birdham. Other statistics for this part of the Peninsula show a high proportion of people not in economic activity and a continuing trend towards inward migration by people who have retired. This macro-economic analysis does not reflect the micro-economics of the village of Birdham as we know it or the aspirations for their community of its residents. As the Council said in its response to the Draft Core Strategy of the Local Plan in September 2011: the philosophy of building houses to aid economic competitiveness and development applies more to areas of economic deprivation away from the south-east of England.
The Transport Assessment is, as usual, based on what we regard as a flawed methodology in that it is too close-focussed on Bell Lane. Bell Lane carries traffic not only from Birdham but from Bracklesham and East Wittering, where large scale development has been proposed. A few hundred metres north of the Tawny Nursery site Bell Lane merges with traffic from West Wittering and West Itchenor. All of this traffic then uses a single road, the A 286, to access Chichester and the A27 trunk road. The applicant conducted a traffic count on Bell Lane alone from either the 11th to the 18th July or the 14th to the 20th July (the report is self-contradictory here). This was (fortuitously?) immediately before the holiday season and during a period when the temperatures were below the historic average. Nonetheless they showed two way movements of 7393 vehicles a day on Bell Lane alone. The hourly figures were remarkably even throughout the day. The claim is that there will be 11 to 14 traffic movements during peak hours from the 31 houses on the site and that the daily movement will be 123 plus those from the caravan site, and this will be imperceptible to existing road users. We continue to dismiss this argument as it takes no account of the cumulative strain on the road infrastructure of the area. And in this particular case the statistics do not show the near standstills for four to five hours on any sunny day in the holiday season and particularly at weekends on the A286 through Birdham. The figures shown for alternative transport fail to reveal that buses are trapped in these standstills (for example on July 24th this year, when two hour delays were experienced). Neither do they show the problems encountered by blue-light vehicles. The optimistic isochrones for cycling and walking are laughable to anyone who knows the dangers of any of the roads as they are at present. In terms of access to and from the site there is no mention that residents of any new development here, including schoolchildren, will have to cross the A286 with its 40mph speed limit in order to get to virtually all of the village amenities. For many years there have been calls for a controlled crossing on the A286.
The Flood Risk Report is very much a preliminary assessment, as it acknowledges, but is crucial to the whole principle of development on this site. The writer did not have the benefit of the information from the incidents in the summer of 2012. The development at Longmeadow on Birdham Straight about 800 metres from the application site, has shown the enormous problems of surface water drainage in this area. The Flood Risk 1 status accorded by the Environment Agency, although seductive to developers, is entirely irrelevant here since it only signifies low probability of river or sea flooding. The Environment Agency has now publicly acknowledged the problems of surface water flooding in West Sussex. West Sussex County Council has recently been made the lead authority on drainage and is trying to work out its relationship with Chichester District Council. In the meantime, as the report says, “uncertainty reigns” surrounding the adoption of foul water sewers, “draft standards on the design and construction of surface water sewers have not been published”, the new approval and arrangement bodies for Sustainable Drainage Systems have not yet come into force and may be phased in. The applicant’s advisers can only state the options and give no conclusions. They do say “Management of surface water run-off (pluvial flood risk) is a significant design item for the site and is considered the most significant residual risk”. This would certainly not pass a full application and creates sufficient uncertainty to merit refusal of any outline permission. Soakaways will not work in this geology; discharge into the public sewer network is not possible. All that is left is disposal into an off-site watercourse. The Birdham ditch network is notoriously ill-maintained and subject to dispute over ownership. For example, the ditch on the north side of the site (Pinks Lane) is disclaimed by everyone. The ditch 95 metres to the east, to which it is suggested that the run off might go, is part of the main line of flow from the west end of Alandale Road via culverts under the agricultural land south of Birdham Straight, Whitestone Farm and Briery Cottage to the rear of Carthgena Farm and thence to the Earnley Rife – for which the Environment Agency is responsible. The capacity of this system and its feeder systems to carry the extra load has been cruelly exposed this year and a number of people in Bell Lane have been flooded out of their houses, some of which are still uninhabitable. Studies by West Sussex, the National Flood Forum and others are still being undertaken but their modelling has already demonstrated the points above. The geology of the area is of extremely low permeability and the groundwater levels are high, particularly, but not exclusively, in wet winters. The suggestion is for a balancing pond with a 30% margin for climate change and a 4l/s run off. Without a protracted and radical approach to the entire drainage infrastructure in this area, people who have been made homeless ad have had to find thousands of pounds for repairs will not be convinced.
We would also recommend a closer analysis of the sewage disposal problems on Bell Lane. Since the Pipers Mead development was built in the 1990s there have been repeated problems for houses on Bell Lane because the Pipers Mead houses are on ground which has been raised. The plan to raise the ground levels at Tawny Nursery could exacerbate these problems and/or create new ones. Sewage from Birdham goes to the Sidlesham WWTW which is already, we understand, at capacity.
In conclusion we wish to state again that there are many other matters on which we would wish to comment: design, landscaping, mix of housing, and allocation of affordable housing are some of these. We have assumed that these may be reserved matters for an FUL application. Meanwhile, because we feel that this outline application is unacceptable for reasons of scale, siting, economic harm, traffic, access and flood risk, and because, in our opinion, this application does not satisfy criteria 1, 2, 6, 7, 8 10, 12, 13, 15, 17 and 18 of the FAD Statement, Birdham Parish Council OBJECTS to this application.
The statement and its comments formed the proposal to the Council which was voted upon with the result that Birdham Parish Council resolved to object to the application.
BI/12/4179/FUL Land at Tawny Nurseries, Bell Lane Birdham
This is an application to demolish a greenhouse and to provide visitor car parking and a turning area to compensate for the loss of parking on the other side of the access road. It is evidently connected with application BI/12/04147/OUT.
The Council has some concerns about run off from the scalpings to be used to surface the car park and would also like it to be a condition that the former car park be returned to green field land, without prejudice to the planning application under consideration for that land.
On the assumption that these comments will be given attention the Council has NO OBJECTION to this application.
It was resolved to raise no objection to this application.
BI/12/04141/OUT Land at Church Lane, Birdham
There is nothing to suggest that the development should go ahead as it flies in the face of the FAD in terms of numbers.
Suggestions that the FAD would be ignored by developers and if their application was refused it would just go to appeal and probably be granted.
It was hoped that the photographs would be pointed out which quite clearly showed the narrowness of Church Lane.
The AONB is covered by legislation that is robust
46 houses in that area is a disgrace. Can previous applications and refusals be taken into consideration as it should not be possible to continue to refuse a smaller application and then grant a much larger one? A holding tank is only good until it is full!
Major concerns about flooding. Essentially the proposed site is a water meadow. If the area continues to flood what insurance cover will be available to owners. The site is currently grade 2 agricultural land.
How can the application be argued against when the Old Common Close application was agreed? (Not by Birdham Parish Council).
There are concerns about the affordable housing in terms of numbers and the availability to Birdham people and the length of time that the housing would be classified as ‘affordable’.
There were additional concerns about the proximity of the Salterns Way and a potential conflict with users and the development.
When would the application be heard and would residents be able to attend the decision making process?
Cllr Grafham said that everything that had been said about the Tawny application applied equally to this application. It also felt that it was totally out of keeping for this site and in this area.
Cllr Cobbold said that she had real concerns about the very real potential of flooding on this site which was in essence a water meadow. She went on to say that the developer had been much more professional in consulting with both the Council and the Village, however she felt that no development should take place on low lying ground and was therefore opposed to the application.
Cllr Barton said that everything that needed to be said had been, and that she had nothing further to add.
Cllr Finch said that whilst the site was in the ‘hub’ of the village it the development was not right for the village.
Cllr Parks said that the land was grade 2 agricultural land so how could it be considered as the right place for development.
Cllr Tilbury then read out a prepared statement which he felt covered the concerns of the residents and of the Parish Council.
This appears to be an Outline application to build forty-six dwellings, with ancillary parking, landscaping and open space. Birdham Parish Council’s understanding of an outline application is that establishes whether the scale and nature of the proposed development would be acceptable before a detailed application is put forward seeking approval of reserved matters. Only after this latter approval of layout, access, scale and appearance can work start. This application appears to be a hybrid in that some parts of it provide more detail than we would normally expect at this stage but it refers to reserved matters too. The Council wishes to make it clear that this present response is without prejudice to any subsequent full application and that it reserves the right to respond to any such application.
Part of this site was the subject of a planning application twelve years ago (BI/00/0058/OUT) to which this Council objected and which was then refused by the Local Planning Authority. It was taken to appeal and the Inspector’s Report is APP/L3815/A/00/10500393. It referred to a single dwelling, not 46.The Inspector concluded the character of the west side of Church Lane was of “houses divided by wide gardens, paddocks and extensions of the open field which lies to the rear. Roadside hedges partially obstruct clear views of these open areas. Nonetheless, there is a clear sense of space between and to the rear of the buildings which gives this area a clearly distinct character which is transitional between the main body of the settlement and the open countryside.” The Inspector went on to say that development here would mean that “the gradual progression from settlement to countryside would be replaced by a blunter, more clear-cut boundary” and concluded that “it would only be in compelling circumstances that development which would cause such harm would be acceptable in the AONB.” The sustainability arguments in terms of proximity to the remainder of the settlement and facilities such as public transport were similarly dismissed as he did not consider “that these benefits in terms of sustainability would outweigh other disbenefits, such as the development of a greenfield site, and the harm to the character and appearance of the area”. We would contend that nothing has changed since that opinion.
Much play is made in the application with contemporary planning statements. Notwithstanding these comments, the proposed development would lie fully within the AONB and rural area and no justification has been put forward for developing this site over other sites in a less sensitive location (e.g. outside the AONB and further from designated sites). The proposed housing development would create an intrusion into the countryside, within the AONB, which would be clearly visible from various public viewpoints and it would therefore fail to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the landscape as required by national, regional and local planning policies. Whilst the National Planning Policy Framework advocates a presumption in favour of sustainable development, it does state (at paragraph 14, especially note 9) that this should apply unless specific policies in the framework, such as those relating to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, indicate that development should be restricted. It also highlights at paragraph 115 the great weight that should be given to conserving landscape and scenic beauty in AONBs and that, along with National Parks and the Broads, AONBs have the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty. Ad paragraph 116 lays down strict criteria. No amount of artificial landscaping would be sufficient to overcome the inevitable harmful impacts of new development on the rural landscape of the AONB in this location. Criterion 2 of the FAD Interim Statement of Chichester District Council applies here.This is also Grade 2 agricultural land. This development would also set a precedent for further development in the AONB.
An estate of this size also poses problems of light pollution and noise in the AONB.
Birdham knows more about its drainage problems than any other local Parish. The geology here is brick earth on top of London clay, both of which are only very slowly permeable. Groundwater levels are high. This leads to problems of surface water flooding which have at long last been acknowledged by the Environment Agency. Natural attenuation is afforded by open areas of, effectively, water meadows, where the water can drain and lie while it slowly permeates the surface. The Church Lane site is one of those areas. The Flood Risk Statement mentions that there was water lying on the surface at the time of the inspection. There have been very serious problems of flooding in Church Lane and Cherry Lane in 2012 with some dwelling being made uninhabitable. The drainage system, installed for agriculture, cannot take the loads imposed on it by residential development. The system proposed in the Statement is to collect water from around the site and then pipe it to the ditch in Church Lane adjacent to the Cricket Ground. This is in order to avoid the flood problems at the junction of Crooked Lane and Church Lane. One survey of this area has highlighted the fact that the average fall in the landscape is 1 in 1000 or less and this promotes back flow. By-passing Crooked Lane will have the same back flow effect as already that which causes problems on the north and south sides of this site. If the egress from this site fills the ditch in Church Lane the water is just as likely to flow back to the Crooked Lane flood area as to do as it’s told and flow towards the Church. Similar problems would be experienced if the large bore egress pipe becomes full and the outlet valve does not operate because the ditch is full and the valve is under water – as would happen, judging from the amount of water lying on the surface of the site at the time of our visit. As has been shown on a neighbouring site, soakaways are an unsuitable method to use in this topography. And the use of the public sewage system is also impractical since there have been several occasions over the past ten years when the sewers in Church Lane have been overwhelmed by surface water, sewage has come up through the manholes and been spread around the neighbouring roads by traffic, and the sewage pump at the end of Court Barn Lane has failed, leaving residents with no sewage disposal for days at a time.
The Transport Planning Statement which accompanies the application is very thorough. It acknowledges that its survey of traffic movements was carried out in the school holidyas and assumes a worst case increase of 50% in term time producing 1407 traffic movements between 7am and 7pm. To this would be added 309 from the proposed development. If we look further in the statement we find the flows on the A286, which show 13,120 traffic movements over the same time frame, described as “relatively high”. The reference to national modelling such as TRIC, RFC and PICADY have to be measured against the experience of the people who live here. The modelling and statistics do not show the near standstills for four to five hours on any sunny day in the holiday season and particularly at weekends on the A286 through Birdham or that buses are trapped in these standstills (for example on July 24th this year, when two hour delays were experienced). Neither do they show the problems encountered by blue-light vehicles. The Parishes on the Peninsula are unanimous in saying that until the problems of the road infrastructure are solved any additional traffic will only make an extremely bad situation worse. The methodology of these surveys rarely pays regard to the cumulative effect of development along the single road which serves the whole of the western side of the Peninsula; this one at least attempts to do so but actually proves the point that another 1407 movements from this development would be yet another straw for the camel’s back. The Highways Agency may say that the effect of this on the A27 would be negligible but for those of us who sit at Stockbridge for up to forty minutes every morning waiting to negotiate the A27 roundabout it is a reality – and a reality which will be made worse by further development on the west side of the Peninsula and hints that traffic may be encouraged to divert in future from the east side to join the A286 at Wophams Lane, Birdham.
The site is also close to the Salterns Way Path for walkers, cyclists and wheelchair users, from Chichester to West Wittering, and we have concerns that the increased traffic on Church Lane will cause conflicts between vehicles and those using the Path or accessing it from the bus stop at the junction of Church Lane and Main Road.
We are confused about the numbers of houses proposed for this development. On the one hand – and presumably in order to conform with criterion 17 of the Facilitating Appropriate Development statement of Chichester District Council – the developer proposed 25 homes, but was then advised that this would be an underuse of the site and encouraged to apply for 46. Criterion 17 of the FAD is quite clear that in settlements the size of Birdham up to about 25 is the recommendation. Not to use the site to its capacity would be profligate with a rare opportunity (criterion 10); but to do so will break the FAD wide open, create an horrendous precedent for the AONB and irredeemably change the character of the village. Criterion 17 of the FAD says that unimplemented permissions will be taken into account in deciding whether the scale is appropriate: in Birdham there are applications including this one) awaiting permission totalling 81 dwellings and 33 dwellings currently under construction, a total of 114 added to a village with 687 dwellings at present – a 16.6% increase at one go. The social implications of this may place great strains on Birdham village as a coherent community and its educational and medical facilities. Criterion 18 may be breached here too, as CDC’s consultation on housing numbers in Birdham to 2029 gave a provisional figure (which we have contested) of 50 to 100 dwellings.
This site is of historic interest. Birdham’s history can be traced back to at least 683. A coin of the Emperor Constantine was found just to north of the site as well as a large quantity of roof tiles. A small assemblage of Roman pottery, thought to represent a cremation burial, was also found during the 2000 and 2002 surveys at the Walwyn Close as well as signs of early Bronze Age occupation. We would ask that a full archaeological survey be conducted.
The site lies within the one kilometre zone of the CDC “Statement on the Disturbance of Birds in Chichester and Langstone Harbour” and must be measured against criterion 15 of the FAD in this respect. The manicured SANG is not likely to be the experience that people used to using this field for exercise are looking for.
In conclusion we wish to state again that there are many other matters on which we would wish to comment: design, landscaping, mix of housing, and allocation of affordable housing are some of these. We have assumed that these may be reserved matters for an FUL application. Meanwhile, because we feel that this outline application is unacceptable for reasons of scale, siting, traffic, access and flood risk, and probably in breach of criteria 2, 6, 8, 13, 15, 17 and 18 of the Interim Statement, Birdham Parish Council OBJECTS to this application.
It was resolved to authorise the Clerk to inform DC Planning of the decisions made.
P10-12 Decisions – To be noted.
BI/12/02374/FUL Mr P Lansdale Lansdale Marine Birdham Road
Construction of replacement outbuilding for use as classic car showroom with associated office and storage facility. PERMIT
BI/12/03507/DOM Mr & Mrs Kevin Hood The Barn Crooked Lane Birdham
Single storey rear extension. PERMIT
BI/12/03763/TPA Mr Robert Borthwick Rowan Nursery Bell Lane Birdham
Reduce east stem to below cavity and reduce west stem to corresponding length and trim to shape on 1 no. Oak tree within Group, G2 subject to BI/83/00023/TPO. PERMIT
It was resolved to note the delegated decisions made by DC Planning
P11-12 Date of next meeting.
To be advised
There being no further business to discuss the meeting closed at 8.45pm
Signed ___________________________ Dated ____________________