Agenda item

20190252 - Land behind Tesco Express, Whitehill Parade, Whitehill Lane, Gravesend DA12 5LS

Decision:

Resolved that application 20190858 be REFUSED on the grounds of loss of amenity greenspace contrary to local and national planning policy, harm to the character of the area, overdevelopment and the height, mass and form of the development being inappropriate and due to the unneighbourly impact and potential overlooking particularly of/to properties adjoining the site at the rear in Ivy Close.

 

Minutes:

Cllr John Burden left the Council Chamber during discussion and voting on this application.

The Board considered an application reference 20190252 which proposed the construction of a 3 storey building to the rear and side of the existing Tesco Express (formerly Whitehill Tavern Public House) to provide 12 flats comprising 10 x two bedroom and 2 x three bedroom units; provision of play/amenity areas and private amenity space; provision of bin store/bike store including replacement bin store for Tesco Express and relocation of retail store plant to the rear flat roof of the store; a change of use of part of the Whitehill Lane Open Space to a car park for commercial and residential purposes involving the construction of 27 car parking spaces with vehicle turning area and with vehicular access from Whitehill Parade and the removal of the existing layby parking.

The application was referred for consideration by the Regulatory Board (Planning) at the request to Cllr Brian Sangha to (i) allow the Board to assess the scale and nature of the development and whether or not it was consistent with the character and appearance of the area; (ii) to allow Members to consider whether or not on balance, the loss of amenity space was acceptable; and (iii) to consider the acceptability and layout of the design, including the adequacy of living and storage space standards for future occupants; and noting that the development scheme was finely balance and somewhat complex.

The Principal Planner advised that the application site comprised two separate areas (i) the customer car park and servicing area on the west side of the existing Tesco Express supermarket, and a grassed garden area at the rear and (ii) the southern part of the existing Whitehill Lane open space, which had not been classed as surplus to requirements, and was a grassed amenity area. The Board noted that planning permission had been refused on 6 November 2018 under officer delegated powers for an application (ref 20180867) submitted by the same applicant but was just for the change of use of part of Whitehill Lane Open Space to a car park involving the construction of 27 car parking spaces with vehicle turning area and with vehicular access from Whitehill Parade including removal of the existing lay by parking. The application had not included any associated residential development. The officer further advised that an appeal against the decision of the Borough Council to refuse permission for a proposed car park on the Whitehill Lane open space had been dismissed by the Planning Inspectorate in May 2019 with the appointed Planning Inspector agreed with the Borough Council that the proposed loss of designated amenity greenspace would have a materially harmful impact on the supply and provision of greenspace in the locality in conflict with local and national planning policies. The Board noted that the Whitehill Lane open space was part owned by the applicant and part owned by the Council who had, for a number of years, maintained the whole of the area. More recently a picket fence had been erected by the applicant on the ownership boundary and the layby had been closed for use with the aid of concrete blocks.

Members were advised that in response to the publicity given to the application there had been a considerable number of neighbour objections from local residents principally from properties at the rear on the south side of the site in Ivy Close and which were clearly the most affected by the development. The objections were in relation to impact on local amenity, significant traffic generation, congestion and inadequacy of parking, impact on the character of the area, the scale and design being inappropriate and to the loss of open space and ecology on the site. A number of letters of support for the application had also been received.

The following points were made during discussion on this application:

·         The Principal Planner confirmed that nothing had changed in relation to the open space since the decision of the Planning Inspectorate had been made.

·         Following a question from the Board, the officer outlined the reasons for the difference between the Whitehill open space and the one detailed in the St Patrick’s Gardens application. The reasons included that the proposal would impact living conditions of neighbouring properties, the design was not complimentary to the character of the site or the area and no mitigation had been proposed to balance the loss of the open space. Also, there were very few other alternative open spaces in the locality and the development at St Patrick’s Gardens resulted in fully affordable housing and not affordable housing provision was being made in respect of the Tesco Express development as it fell under the threshold.

·         Concern was voiced with regard to the height and bulk of the proposed building and that it would dwarf the parade of shops it would be built around making the design overbearing.

·         The increase in traffic in the area as a result of the proposed residences was also considered to be an issue together with increased pressure on parking.

·         Following a question about the Appeal decision, Members were advised that they must consider each application on its merits. However, the Appeal decision was a material consideration.

·         The Board was advised that the distance between the amenity space balconies at the rear of the proposed development, facing Ivy Close, measured 5 metres. It was noted that the applicant had sought to mitigate the impact on the amenity of neighbouring properties by introducing angled windows and screening on the balconies. However, whilst the scheme complied with the 25 degree rule but would still overshadow neighbouring properties.

·         Following a question from a Member, the Principal Planner confirmed that the letters of objections had all been received from local residents and that some of the letters of support had been received from people who did not live in the local area. The officer advised that this was not unusual and could work both ways.

·         Cllr Leslie Hoskins, a Ward Member, highlighted residents’ concerns that the proposal would increase the existing parking issues in Whitehill Road which the closure of the layby had already made worse and the construction of the building would cause further chaos. The Member politely requested that the open space be returned to its previous condition and placed into the ownership of the Council.

·         Cllr Rana, another Ward Member, stated that he felt the size of the proposed building to be overbearing and coupled with the loss of amenity made the proposal unacceptable.

·         The agent made the point that he considered that the ‘Open Space’ use had effectively ceased when the land had been taken back into private ownership. He further explained that as the general public no longer had the right to use it and as such the issue over it being public open space was academic, he considered that it was now private land and not for use by the general public.

·         The Board noted that there was no objection to the principle of the development of this site but considered this application to be unacceptable for the reasons set out in the report.

·         The possibility of a decision for deferral was raised to allow possibility for the applicant to address the Board’s concerns.

Resolved that application 20190252 be REFUSED on the grounds of loss of amenity greenspace contrary to local and national planning policy, harm to the character of the area, overdevelopment and the height, mass and form of the development being inappropriate and due to the unneighbourly impact and potential overlooking particularly of properties adjoining the site at the rear of Ivy Close.

Note:   (a)        Mr Darren Bland (Agent)(a supporter) addressed the Board.
            (b)        Mr Singh (a supporter) addressed the Board.
            (c)        Cllr Leslie Hoskins spoke with the permission of the Chair.
            (d)        Cllr Tony Rana spoke with the permission of the Chair.

Supporting documents: