Change of use and conversion of building from golf driving range to place of religious worship (D1 use), formation of new vehicular access and extension of car park (amended description) and (additional structural support information and amended Arboricultural Impact Assessment and Tree Protection Plan received by the Local Planning Authority on 14 September 2018)
The Planning Officer introduced the application. She gave a history of the site and development noting that the site was located within the local gap between Grayshott and Headley Down. She displayed location maps, existing and proposed site plans, elevations, the proposed floor plan and photos of the site, proposed entrance and proposed car park and then explained the key issues in the determination of the application.
The recommendation was for conditional planning permission.
The committee was addressed by the following deputees:
(1) Mr Childs spoke on behalf of objectors.
As set out in Appendix 1 attached to these minutes.
(2) Mr Cobbald as the agent for the application.
He thanked officers for their report. He was grateful for the comments and openness of the previous speaker. An independent road safety audit had been commissioned by the applicants. This audit had been fair and underpinned the application. Reference had been made to a fatal accident, but this had not been caused by the road itself.
In respect of the building itself it required very little work and did not expand beyond the existing curtilage. The Joint Core Strategy (JCS) was supportive of community uses.
The Chairman invited Cllr Cowper to open the debate as the local councillor.
He thanked officers for an excellent report, he had been disappointed by some of the comments received about the applicants, who were very supportive of the community and advised that the applicant was not relevant to the determination of the application.
His issues with the application centred on built development and more crucially highway issues. The issues in respect of the highway had been the fault of the highways authority,
He expanded on two concerns in more detail. The site was a golf driving range that as well as being within the local gap was also outside of the Settlement Policy Boundary. He believed that the development contravened Policy CP19 of the East Hampshire District Local Plan: Joint Core Strategy. He was also concerned about the construction of a long supporting wall and the requisite underpinning required. He referred to an appeal circulated by the objectors which had been dismissed in respect of an application for a change of use in the Green Belt in Cheshire. He was unsure whether this principle within the Green Belt was directly applicable to East Hampshire Countryside.
In respect of highway issues, HCC highways had produced three reports on this site. He explained that following the issue of the first report Cllr Williams, County Cllr Mitchell and himself had met with highway officers to discuss it as it had been full of inaccuracies. He felt that the third report appended to the Supplementary Matters sheet was still unacceptable.
He explained to the Committee that Headley Road was very narrow, and when a footpath had been built along Headley Road the junction at Hammer Lane had had to be totally redesigned to enable turning into/out of the lane. There had also been a fatality on Headley Road in 2014.
He questioned the figures quoted on the number of vehicles that would be accessing and egressing the sites and considered that it would be a five fold increase in vehicle movements on the road.
He expressed concern about the visibility splay and the comments from the highway officers, who said it was not achievable to the right. This should trigger refusal; however, the Local Highways Authority went on to advise that the since traffic speed surveys showed the average speed was 38.4 mph a reduction on the splay was acceptable. He asked what about those above the average speed, those driving in excess was 21.4%, this made it unsafe.
The Committee discussed the application.
Councillors raised a number of concerns including:
· The existing interior, the proposed meeting room would be claustrophobic as it would have a low ceiling;
· The proposed structural supports for the new wall;
· The access required lighting;
· Speeds and number of cars on Headley Road;
· Highway Authority reports;
· Proposed car park, it’s location and proposed surfacing and size;
· It was a development outside of the Settlement Policy Boundary and in a Local Gap and these were important to maintain;
· A development in the countryside;
· The proposed visibility splays;
· Sustainability of the site
· Drainage from the site;
· Could future development on the site be restricted; and
· Its location close to Wealden Heath and habitat concerns.
Officers addressed a number of the concerns raised. In respect of the planning appeal this had referred to a new development within the green belt of a larger scale where different polices to East Hampshire applied. They advised that no weight should be attached to this appeal decision.
Officers advised that a change of use was a development, Policy CP6 of the East Hampshire District Local Plan: Joint Core Strategy allowed for the conversions of rural building and therefore the application was acceptable. In addition, places of worship were specifically listed as an example of a community facility within Policy CP16.
Officers advised that the site was sustainable, there was footpath along Headley Road and a new development of 80 houses was directly adjacent to the site.
In respect of drainage, conditions would be applied and were contained within the report. In respect of concerns about increasing the size in the future this would be subject to consideration of any future planning application. Permitted development rights restricting size were generally only removed in relation to residential extension.
Officers indicated that the committee’s concerns appeared to be centred around the impact of traffic on the local roads and network. The car parking area and its urbanisation and impact of the local gap. Impact of the development on the area.
Cllr Cowper thanked councillors for the interesting discussion and focused on the key issues. His concerns centred on the three conflicting highway reports and data not referred to in the third report.
Cllr Cowper proposed the following reasons for refusal:
1. The proposed development, by virtue of the new vehicular access and traffic generation from the use of the building as a place of worship, would have an adverse impact on the local highway network, to the detriment of the safety for highway users. In consequence, the development is contrary to Policy CP31 (Transport) of the East Hampshire District Local Plan: Joint Core Strategy and Government advice in paragraphs 108 and 109 of the National Planning Policy Framework.
2. The proposed extension to the car parking area, by virtue of the expansion of hard surfacing in combination with the parking of vehicles, would result in a harsh urban feature, which would be out of keeping with the rural character and appearance of the area. In consequence, the development is contrary to Policy CP20 (Landscape) and CP29 (Design) of the East Hampshire District Local Plan: Joint Core Strategy and Government advice in paragraph 127 of the National Planning Policy Framework.
This motion was seconded by Cllr Williams.
Following the vote, the motion was declared CARRIED, 10 Councillors voting FOR the motion, 3 Councillors voting AGAINST the motion, and no Councillor ABSTAINING from voting.
It was therefore RESOLVED that permission be refused for the reasons proposed by Cllr Cowper.