Stocks Farm Planning Application – Meeting minutes – 7th February 2021

BRAMLEY PARISH COUNCIL

 

Minutes of the Emergency Meeting of the Council

Date:

Monday 7th February 2022

Time:                                    7.30pm

Place:

Main Hall, Bramley Village Hall

 

Present:

Cllr Tony Durrant (Chair)

Cllr Keith Oborn

 

Cllr Steve Day

Cllr Chris Tomblin

 

Cllr Malcolm Bell

Cllr Colin Shimell

 

Cllr Liz Capel

 

In attendance:

70 members of the public

Cllr Chris Tomblin (Borough)

 

Cllr Simon Mahaffey (Borough)

Cllr Nick Robinson (Borough)

Apologies:

Cllr Bruce Ansell

Cllr Chris Flooks

 

Maxta Thomas (Clerk)

 

 

 

Action

1

Apologies for Absence

 

 

As listed above.

 

2

Declarations of Interest

 

 

Cllr Tomblin noted his position on the BDBC Development Control Committee, and took no part in the decision on the planning application.

 

3

Open Forum

 

 

Cllr Durrant introduced the planning application for Stocks Farm, and handed over to Cllr Bell, who outlined the application in more detail, paying particular attention to how it sits against the existing Local Plan and Neighbourhood Plan, and why Bramley is particularly vulnerable to planning applications such as this.  He noted that the developer has particularly noted the ‘sustainability’ of Bramley for such development with its existing infrastructure – school, Drs surgery, railway station, bus links, etc.  Bramley PC has already responded to infrastructure issues as part of the Local Plan Update (LPU) process, noting that Bramley infrastructure is already struggling, and further development will exacerbate this.  Of particular note is the sewage problems in Bramley, which Thames Water are only now just beginning to look at addressing.

 

Cllr Durrant invited comments from the public about the proposed plans for Stocks Farm.  The following comments were made:

·         What more can residents do to communicate to BDBC about the surgery and school being full?  Cllr Durrant replied that at this point residents should be commenting on this in their response via the planning portal.

·         Cllr Mahaffey, BDBC ward councillor for the Bramley ward noted that he would be objecting to the Stocks Farm planning application.  He further noted that BDBC are pushing back to Government about the number of houses that need to be built in the Borough, and that he believes that the number allocated to Bramley in the LPU may well change from the current number of 55.  He also gave some background on the LPU and where the Borough Council are with that at the moment.  He noted that BDBC residents will get a chance to comment on the draft plan when it goes out for consultation.  Any Bramley resident who has concerns about the Bramley housing allocation and the lack of infrastructure to support it will get a chance to state their case at that time, and the more residents that respond the better.  He also noted that the more people that respond to planning consultation, the more notice is likely to be taken by BDBC.

·         Why is there such a disconnect between what Borough Cllrs are saying and what Borough officers are doing?  Cllrs have acknowledged the issues that Bramley faces, but officers appear to be encouraging further development in the parish.  Cllr Durrant responded that officers are tasked with carrying out Government policy, whereas Cllrs are trying to work on behalf of their communities.  He noted that Bramley Parish Councillors do regularly attend Borough Council meetings to state the case on behalf of residents in the Parish, which is backed up by various independent infrastructure surveys. 

·         Cllr Robinson, BDBC ward councillor for the Bramley ward and Chair of the BDBC Development Control Committee (DCC) further noted that officers have a statutory duty to work with applicants to ensure that planning applications are as viable as possible for the applicant. 

·         Cllr Robinson encouraged residents to ensure that read through planning applications that they are interested in, and if they wish to respond, they need to ensure that any remarks are in line with what are legally considered to be material planning considerations, and in line with BDBCs Local Plan, which is available on the BDBC website.  Of particular note are policies EM10, EM11, and SS6.

·         How many resident comments make it enough to be heard and taken note of by BDBC officers and Councillors?  Cllr Durrant stated that the more comments there are, the better.  He also noted that members of the public have the right to speak at DCC meetings (this needs to be pre-arranged with BDBC officers, and a total of 4 minutes is allowed for all members of the public), and the Bramley PC representatives regularly speak at such meetings on big planning applications.  That said, even if the public doesn’t speak at such meetings, just attending is noted by members of the Committee. 

·         It was noted by a resident that even if DCC refuse planning permission, the applicant is likely to appeal.  This will be heard by the Planning Inspectorate, who work to Government guidelines.  The current state of the LPU and the fact that BDBC cannot currently demonstrate a 5 year land supply is leading to this situation across the Borough.  Cllr Mahaffey noted that the only power that BDBC Cllrs have is to grant planning permission – they do not have the power to insist that developers start developing existing permissions.  Developers have 3 years to build before the permission expires.  Unfortunately, permissions that have been given that are not being built do not contribute to the 5 year land supply number. 

·         Cllr Mahaffey further noted that there is some debate about when the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) should be paid.  He believes that it should be paid by developers at the beginning of the process once planning permission is granted, which would then encourage developers to begin building much sooner and prevent ‘land banking’. 

·         Cllr Mahaffey stated that the Planning Inspectorate do give weight to a Local Plan even when a 5 year land supply cannot be demonstrated.  However, at that point it is given less weight than would otherwise be the case. 

·         A resident noted that there are only two possible access points to the site; via the track by the side of the Village Hall (owned by the Village Hall), and via land currently occupied by the house ‘Selworthy’, which is planned to be demolished to make way for the access point.  He noted that Highways have stated that it is difficult to make a safe access point at that site, and that this therefore makes a valid objection point.  Cllr Durrant supported this statement, and stated that the transport plan for this application is typical of transport plans he has seen in recent years, in that it underestimates the number of traffic movements that the development would create. 

·         Cllr Robinson stated that planning law states that any development that puts less than 10% extra traffic onto the main road in busy periods is deemed to be acceptable.  This does not allow for the cumulative effect of several independent developments. 

·         Cllr Mahaffey noted that he felt that objections surrounding the transport plan are relatively weak, since Highways can always put in ‘hard engineering’ to address any issues.  Stronger objections would include items such as the Drs surgery being full, the school being close to full, the shop have no further capacity for extra parking, the sewage network is inadequate for existing needs – ‘Bramley is full’.

·         A resident enquired where all the charges and levies had gone from previous development – have they been used to improve existing infrastructure?  If not, why is BDBC not using them?  Cllr Durrant noted that all developments above a certain size have a s.106 agreement between the development and the Borough Council.  S.106 contributions are very constrained, and are allocated to specific projects.  Some of those projects are in the immediate area (eg, recent improvements to the Drs surgery), and others are in the wider Borough.  Because the s.106 agreement is a legal document, it is very difficult for BDBC to then change the parameters and divert unused funds to different projects.  Cllr Durrant also pointed out that there will be CIL money due on this development should it go through, and because the Parish Council has a Neighbourhood Plan it will receive 25% of that levy to spend locally.  Unfortunately, the sum that will be paid will be very difficult to use due to the infrastructure constraints in Bramley, which will take millions to address rather than the thousands that the Parish Council might receive.  Bramley also does not have a lot of spare land which would help with the infrastructure issues.  He noted that the only way to pay for improved infrastructure would be to have more significant development. 

·         A resident enquired how Bramley compares to the other category 3 villages in terms of the projected housing numbers it will have to take.  Cllr Durrant responded that Bramley’s figure is much lower, due the houses it has already taken.  The current Local Plan states that Bramley should take ‘at least’ 200 houses – there have been 354 built, which BDBC officers have taken into account when calculating the number for Bramley in the LPU.  Cllr Bell confirmed this statement, stating that he felt that Bramley should not be in the same category as settlements such as Old Basing, Oakley, and Kingsclere (small local service centre) but should be in the same category as Sherfield (large village). 

·         A resident asked why builders are allowed to put in aggressive planning applications when communities have already taken their share of the new homes required.  Cllr Durrant replied that the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) contributes to this, as does the BDBC lack of 5 year land supply. 

·         Cllr Robinson further clarified that there are two types of application that come in – one is where there is an identified site in the Local Plan for development, and the other is where an opportunistic application is put in for a site outside of that.  Stocks Farm is not a BDBC promoted site – this is an opportunistic application.  BDBC has a statutory duty to consider and process all planning applications.  Cllr Robinson summarised the planning process. 

·         A resident asked Borough Cllrs what is being done to secure a 5 year land supply.  Cllr Tomblin stated that the 5 year land supply issue is dictated by the Government, who have committed to building a large number of houses across the country over the next few years.  He pointed out that the Local Plan has to be reviewed every 5 years (a new requirement).  He re-iterated the point that once planning permission is given, BDBC cannot dictate how quickly the developers then build those houses.  Therefore, if the developers are not delivering houses as per planning consents given, a shortfall will develop.  The LPU will go some way to addressing this shortfall.  In the meantime, the Borough area is vulnerable to opportunistic planning applications that the developers state will address the 5 year land supply shortfall. 

·         A resident pointed out that a number of people filled out the forms circulated by the developer in late 2021 as part of the developer’s community engagement exercise.  Some of those people will now think that they have formally responded to the planning application by doing this, which is not the case.  How can the PC get across that the planning consultation is another step in the process?  Cllr Mahaffey pointed out that communicating this fact via social media would be useful, and that talking to neighbours would also help get this point across. 

·         A resident asked how they would find out about when DCC meetings are held.  Cllr Durrant stated that Bramley PC will communicate these dates and relevant information via the PC website and social media.  All BDBC meeting dates are published on the BDBC website, as are the agendas and pre-meeting reports.  He further noted that the Parish magazine carries contact details for the Parish Council, so residents can always get in touch with the PC if they wish. 

·         Cllr Durrant further stated that the minutes of this meeting would appear on the Parish Council website in due course, as would the formal response to the Stocks Farm planning application.  This will be shared via the PC social media and out to the Bramley Community FB page. 

·         A resident requested a show of hands for those who were objecting to the Stocks Farm planning application, to inform the Parish Council of the residents opinion before it makes its decision.  The overwhelming majority was against development at Stocks Farm.    

 

4

To discuss and agree the Parish Council response to 21/03758/OUT – Land At Stocks Farm The Street Bramley – Outline planning permission (with all matters reserved except for access) for the demolition of one dwelling and erection of up to 140 dwellings and a community building of up to 250sqm under Use Class E, together with sports and leisure facilities.

 

After the public session closed, Cllrs discussed the Parish Council response to the above planning application.  The following points were made:

·         The Doctors surgery is at capacity, despite the recent expansion, and there is now no further way of expanding again.

·         Some statutory consultees give a standard response because they are obliged to do so, eg Thames Water have a legal obligation to provide sewage services.  However, than can attach planning conditions to this.

·         There are capacity issues at the school, which will be exacerbated if there is more housing in the Parish. 

·         Highways and transport problems will be an issue, but may not be a strong point to object on.  However, it should be included with any other objection the Parish Council might make.  It should be noted that extra traffic will cause further air quality issues at the level crossing.  Extra traffic will also increase the already long queues (at certain times) at the level crossing.

·         Sewage issues are a major concern.  Thames Water has stated that it will take them some time to put in measures to address the existing issues that Bramley has, and this will mean a possible gap between the houses being built and the sewage network being upgraded to cope.  This in turn may mean a public health issue.

·         Sustainability needs to be a major point.  The application makes various claims about the sustainability of the site, many of which can be thrown into doubt the independent infrastructure surveys that the PC has commissioned in recent years. 

·         This public meeting and the public response to the application should be noted in any response made to BDBC.

·         Some of the factual discrepancies should be noted in any response; however, this in itself would not be a material planning consideration. 

Cllr Shimell proposed that Bramley Parish Council object to planning application 21/03758/OUT on three main grounds; that of capacity at the Doctors surgery, capacity at the school, and sewage capacity.  Other issues to be included as outlined above.  Cllr Capel seconded the motion.  Unanimously agreed.   Cllr Durrant and Clerk to formulate the PC response and circulate to all Councillors prior to submission to BDBC. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Cllr Durrant/ Clerk

 

 

 

 

 

The meeting closed at 9.30pm