Agenda item

20181155 - Installation of Polytunnels at Land West of Northfleet Green, Gravesend

Decision:

Resolved that application 20181155 be DEFERRED for a site visit for in order to assess the impact of the polytunnels and in particular:

·                The impact of the application on the amenity of neighbouring residences in terms of the bulk of and glare from the polytunnels.

·                To inspect the siting and screening quality of the existing hedging with a view to reducing the visual impact of the application.

·                The siting of the wellness facilities for workers in relation to the polytunnels and the neighbouring residences.

Minutes:

The Board considered an application in relation to the land west of Northfleet Green, Gravesend for the installation of 5 blocks of polytunnels on an agricultural field located to the north and west of Northfleet Green Road, Northfleet Green. The site contained a public right of way that extends diagonally from the southwest corner to the northeast corner. There were also a number of electricity pylons across the site. To the west was a field that already contained polytunnels that had been approved by Dartford Borough Council in 2016.

 

During consideration of the application the following points were raised:

·                     The officer clarified that the proposals did not jeopardise the Right of Way.

·                     Concern was expressed about the efficiency of the existing screening on New Barn Road, provided as part of the polytunnel development in Dartford, and the future efficiency of the proposed screening for this application. A strengthened condition for the use of semi-mature shrubs and trees was requested. Concern was also expressed about the future maintenance of the screening although it was noted that the existing screening was irrigated at the same time as the polytunnels.

·                     It was noted that the proposed polytunnels would be 0.46 metres higher and have a larger bore than those already on the side of the farm within the Dartford Borough Council area. Officers were requested to seek answers on why the larger polytunnels were required for this application.

·                     The Development Manager (Development Planning) confirmed that the application would have come under the remit of permitted development but required planning permission as the supports for the polytunnels would be buried.

·                     A comment was made that raspberry bushes tended to grow to a height of 1.5 metres and the polytunnels were 4.6 metres high. The Board was advised that the applicant wanted to maximise the use of the polytunnels and intended to have four rows of canes at the sides and space to allow the access of a tractor.

·                     The issue of glare during the 9 months of the year that the polytunnels would be covered in plastic was raised. Whilst research had been undertaken at Brogdale Research Station in an effort to reduce glare from the plastic, it was recognised that this would not be completely avoided.

·                     Further to the glare issue, it was noted that because of the proposed layout of the polytunnels, the sunrise and sunset and any sun during the day would cause glare to nearby residences.

·                     The Board was advised, by an objector, that the current development in Dartford was not complying with a number of planning conditions. This included that:

o   the location of the existing wellness facilities (toilets etc) for the workers were in plain sight of the public highway and nearby residences. They were also a long walk from the existing polytunnels and the workers had been seen using “open air toileting”.

o   There was unsecured storage of toxic chemicals on the site.

·                     The Board noted that the planning breaches in evidence at the site had been reported to Dartford Borough Council by residents.

·                     A question regarding the consultation of relevant organisations such as CPRE Kent and AONB would be useful. The Board was advised that the site was not within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

·                     It was noted that other areas of the country has to alternate sites with polytunnels be without them year on year.

In conclusion the direct impact of the proposal on residential amenity was noted together with the need to balance this with the agricultural needs of the farmer.

Resolved that application 20181155 be DEFERRED for a site visit for in order to assess the impact of the polytunnels and in particular:

·           The impact of the application on the amenity of neighbouring residences in terms of the bulk of and glare from the polytunnels.

·           To inspect the siting and screening quality of the existing hedging with a view to reducing the visual impact of the application.

·           The siting of the wellness facilities for workers in relation to the polytunnels and the neighbouring residences.

Note:   (a)     Mr Graham Simpkins (agent for the applicant) (a supporter) addressed the Board.

            (b)     Mr Glen Hodgkiss (an objector) addressed the Board.

            (c)     Mrs Karen Brown (an objector) addressed the Board.

            (d)     Mr Andy Rodriguez (an objector) addressed the Board.

            (e)     Cllr John Knight spoke with the leave of the Chair

Supporting documents: