Agenda item

20533/059/FUL/SaH - Forest Lodge Garden Centre, Farnham Road, Holt Pound, Farnham, GU10 4LD

Denys E Head Limited


Partial redevelopment of Birdworld and Forest Lodge Garden Centre (as amended by plans received 09/03/17, 13/03/17, 14/03/17, 22/05/17, 13/06/17, 24/07/17, and 30/08/2017)


Partial redevelopment of Birdworld and Forest Lodge Garden Centre (as amended by plans received 09/03/17, 13/03/17, 14/03/17, 22/05/17, 13/06/17, 24/07/17, and 30/08/2017)


The Principal Planning Officer introduced the application and displayed an aerial photograph of the site, along with photographs of and from within the site, the access, streetscene and plans of the existing site, the previously approved proposal and the current proposal.  Elevations of the proposed Birdworld Visitor Centre and Forest Lodge Garden Centre were also displayed.


The Retail Assessment had concluded that the proposal would be unlikely to compete with town centres, although it would provide competition with other local garden centres. 


The nearest neighbour was Holt Grange, which also had an on-site business.  With this latest application the proposed enabling development and Birdworld Visitor Centre had been relocated further away from Holt Grange and the parking area nearer.  There had been no Environmental Health objections to this and there would be an acoustic barrier and screening.


With regard to access, Phase 1 would retain the existing access, while Phase 2 would require dual access.  Highways had not objected to the application.


The recommendation was for permission.


The Democratic Services Officer read aloud a deputation provided by Cllr Carter, the local ward councillor.


First I would like to compliment the case officer for the quality of the committee report,  the level of detail it contains and the explanation of the phasing aspects of the overall plan.


Second, I support this application for the following reasons.  Considering the level of detail provided by the case officer’s report, I will restrict my reasoning and comments to focus on the key aspects,  issues, and highlights of the application.


1  Principle of Development


This application has been ‘called in to committee’ due to its being a departure from the Development Plan.  However the concept of redevelopment is supported by a number of previously approved  applications therefore, the principle of redevelopment on this site is well established.  Previous applications have been supported and there is no reason why this application should be judged differently.


2  Houses and Funding


The application includes permission to build 6 detached houses on the site.  The intention is to sell these houses on the open market to provide funding for the redevelopment of Forest Lodge and Birdworld.  While these houses are outside the Settlement Policy Boundary the inevitable question – “what harm does it do?” – arises.  The answer is -  “very little - if any”.  Therefore, I don’t object to the houses and approve of the approach to funding.


3   Highways Issues


Both Forest Lodge and Birdworld currently have separate accesses located on a fast stretch of the A325 .  Entering or leaving either site  needs great care -  more so at peak times.  This application reconfigures access to a shared single point.   I am pleased to note that Highways issues have been addressed to cope with the increase in traffic movements resulting from  combined access.   Traffic control signals coupled with pedestrian and cyclist needs will be provided and existing bus stops will be re-sited for easier and safe access.


4   Employment


Birdworld and Forest Lodge are important employers  in an area where rural jobs are difficult to find.  Currently the business employs around 200 staff many of whom are young.  It is projected by the applicant that the workforce will rise to over 330 as a result of the changes proposed by redevelopment of Birdworld and Forest Lodge  While many jobs go to younger people both Birldworld and Forest Lodge also employ a number of more mature and experienced staff who serve to provide a degree of balance in the workforce.


Finally,  I support this application and the officers’  recommendation for permission and I urge members to give it serious consideration.”


The committee discussed the application and in response to questions the Principal Planning Officer confirmed that both Birdworld and the Forest Lodge Garden Centre were in the same ownership and the Viability Assessment, which had been validated by external consultants, had demonstrated the need for the six dwellings as enabling development.


In reply to a question regarding highway improvements to the A325, it was confirmed that in addition to the improvements proposed within the application, a CIL payment to Hampshire County Council would be made that could be put towards further improvements.  Officers felt that the proposal for traffic lights at the entrance to the site would act as a traffic calming measure.


The committee was supportive of the application, although a concern was raised about the construction of six new dwellings outside of the Settlement Policy Boundary to support a commercial business.


The committee voted on the officer’s recommendation for permission.


Following the vote, the recommendation was declared CARRIED, 13 Councillors voting FOR permission, 1 Councillor voting AGAINST permission and 1 Councillor ABSTAINING from voting.

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