Cheltenham Borough Council
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Agenda item

The Pre-Submission Cheltenham Plan 2011-2031

Report of the Cabinet Member Development and Safety

Minutes:

Councillor McKinlay introduced the report. He advised that all local authorities were under a statutory obligation to prepare a development plan. The council had chosen to do this through the preparation of two documents the JCS and the Cheltenham Plan which together provided a planning framework for the borough until 2031.

 

The Plan included a number of key proposals. These included provision of 1300 new homes in the borough the allocation of 7 ha of new employment land and 86 Local Green Space designations across the borough.

 

There were two particular issues to mention which would require further work, namely the West of Cheltenham Development and the request from GCC that the plan includes an allocation for a new secondary school on the Leckhampton Fields site earmarked for housing. During the JCS process GCC had insisted that there was no need for a new school and their change of mind was only communicated by a letter on 12 November 2017, hence the proposal had not been included in the JCS process. Although this was unsatisfactory there was little doubt that the new school was needed. The inclusion in the plan meant that the proposal for the school at this site would now be subject to full examination via the pre-submission consultation and the examination in public. The timescales were set out in the report.

 

He highlighted a few of the key changes in the new Cheltenham Plan which were detailed in the report. He concluded that the Cheltenham Plan provided a sound and up-to-date planning framework which would allow the borough to successfully face the challenges of the future.

 

The Cabinet Member gave the following responses to questions assisted by officers in any technical details:

·         Asked why the site at Oakhurst Rise no longer satisfied the criteria for nomination as local green space, the Cabinet Member advised that all sites were judged against a set of criteria.
The officer added that in all assessments there was a balance between development and other needs. Oakhurst Rise was a constrained site and its heritage sensitivity and landscaped sensitivity were recognized and that was why the original plans for 90-100 units had been reduced to 25. The member working group had been consulted on the proposals.

·         The Cabinet Member confirmed that there was an allocation for housing on the Priors Farm playing field.
The officer confirmed that the master plan for this site was currently being produced by developers and any housing would be accommodated in a large area thereby maintaining green space and allowing for flood alleviation work.

·         A Member welcomed the statement in 13.6 but he asked what situation might arise to change this situation and allow building on the green belt.
The Cabinet Member couldn’t say but he could confirm that there was no anticipated demand at this current time and no part of the green belt had been affected by the Local Plan.

·         He confirmed that that there would be a 8 week period of public consultation in the second phase which would include public events. There were set rules about who can speak at the public examination but the inspector would look at the results of all public representation and decide who they wanted to call in to the examination.
The officer added that there would be a series of public events during the consultation, a commitment was made to include West Cheltenham, Leckhampton and town centre as location for events. which would include the town centre and both parished and non-parished areas. They would also write to local groups and people who had responded to the first stage of consultation as well as using social media and press releases.

·         Regarding houses of multiple occupation, the Cabinet Member reminded members that an Article 4 direction could be made at any time but dealing with this through the Local Plan was designed to give it more weight.
The officer clarified that the local plan sets out what conditions should be used to determine whether permission for an HMO should be granted which should assist the Planning Committee in making a decision on any application.

 

 

 

Amendment 1.

Councillor Nelson proposed the following amendment which was seconded by Councillor Mason

 

To add additional wording to recommendation 1 in the report so it reads:  

 

  1. That the Cheltenham Plan 2011-2031 (pre-submission version) set out in Appendix 2, be approved for publication under regulation 19 of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning)(England) Regulations 2012, with the amendment that Site 3 (the A46 Up Hatherley Way roundabout - east) for the new school in the South of Cheltenham (Policy MD5) is further examined with TBC and the Neighbourhood Planning Team from the Leckhampton with Warden Hill Parish Council, in addition to the site off Kidnappers Lane (Sites 1 and 2).  Furthermore, after the 2 month consultation period, the selection of a preferred site location should come back to Council for a decision (reducing the risk that the Plan as it stands could be found unsound), before onwards transmission to the Inspector.

 

In proposing the amendment Councillor Nelson accepted the need for a new school but felt it must be in the right place. He was concerned that the selection of a preferred site in the South of Cheltenham had taken place without reference to a key stakeholder, Leckhampton with Warden Hill parish council and its’ Neighbourhood Planning Team.

The parish council had concerns about the traffic impact on the preferred site of Kidnappers Lane where the school run traffic would be equivalent to the traffic from 700 houses on the same site. This would create the severe traffic congestion that was one of the grounds on which the Borough Council and the Secretary of State at appeal rejected the development of 650 houses on the Leckhampton Fields by Bovis Miller. There was little scope to allow any further increase in morning peak traffic on the  A46 unless the plans for 250 new dwellings on Leckhampton fields adjacent to the A46 were abandoned.

The third site (the A46 Up Hatherley Way roundabout – East), near Brizen Farm had much to commend it and needed further analysis. He acknowledged that the site was in the green belt however the “very special circumstances” required by the NPPF exist when meeting an urgent school requirement. This site provided a much more acceptable access from the roundabout and it should be much cheaper to acquire than the 2 hectares of land needed for the school buildings at the Kidnappers Lane site. He concluded that having two options for the site would strengthen the council’s negotiating position and improve the chances of Cheltenham of getting a new school within the next two years.

Before moving to debate the amendment, the Mayor asked the officer to give some advice to Members.

The Development Manager-Strategy  advised that the council had been requested by the county council to look at potential sites for an additional school in South Cheltenham.  They had applied the Cheltenham Plan spatial strategy looking at brown field sites, green field sites within the urban area and sites outside the urban area which had been identified in the JCS process which were not designated as green belt or AONBs. The site in the Northern Fields in Leckhampton where 370 houses had been planned could accommodate a school and approximately 250 houses and was deemed to be a suitable location. Transport work as detailed in the papers had been carried out and it had been concluded that traffic impact could be mitigated. Two alternative options had been considered which were detailed in the report.

An officer from GCC’s Education department was in attendance and he was asked to advise members on the background and rationale for the decision made by the GCC Cabinet on this location.

The officer advised that figures show that there would be a shortage of 120 Year 7 places in South Cheltenham by 2019 which would increase to 180 in 2021. With the growing birth rate a review in 2011 had indicated that 900+ more primary school places would be needed. A change in the timeframe for the North West development meant that the county would not be in a position to deliver the additional secondary places needed therefore they needed to pursue a different route and must move quickly to establish an alternative site. They understood the concerns of the local community regarding traffic and the county was committed to allocating resources and had made budgetary provision for any mitigating traffic measures that may be necessary.

A member felt that the county needed to carry out more detailed traffic modelling particularly based on the number of school runs rather than numbers of houses and in particular the impact on commuter traffic of school run traffic coming in from the south needed to be assessed.

Several Members were concerned that GCC had not identified a need for additional secondary school places during JCS preparation and the whole process seemed rushed and shambolic.

Whilst accepting the need for a school, some Members felt the amendment was unhelpful and the alternative site suggested could make traffic problems in the area worse.

In his summing up Councillor Nelson disagreed that the traffic problems were liveable with and his preferred solution would help keep traffic off the Shurdington Road. He referred to a letter he had received from a concerned parent who although they would benefit from a local school, for safety reasons preferred the alternative site. He also suggested that the developers may refuse to sell the land in which case the school would not be delivered within the two year timescale when it was urgently needed.

 

In responding to the amendment, Councillor McKinlay, reminded members that there would be a two month consultation period on the Cheltenham Local plan. The amendment was wholly impracticable, with the alternative site suggested within Tewkesbury Borough Council’s area so there would be further delays in its consideration of such a proposal.. He accepted there were traffic issues in the area but he did feel that in trading some houses for a school, they had picked the least worst option. At this stage the only option was to support the proposals and progress to the next stage of consultation and that later down the line further transport analysis would be carried out.

 

Upon a vote the amendment was LOST

Voting: For 2, Against 30, Abstentions 2

 

The debate now returned to the substantive motion.

 

The Mayor advised Members that Council had been in session for 4 hours and Members voted to continue.

 

Amendment 2

Councillor Bickerton proposed the following amendment which was seconded by Councillor Jeffries:
      

Council agrees that:

The traffic impacts of the new school should continue to be assessed as the masterplan for its implementation is developed. This should further assess the impacts on existing or planned nearby junctions, especially on the A46 and in the wider area, and a comprehensive mitigation package developed which meets the objectives above. CBC officers are directed to continue to work with both County Education and Highways departments to develop their masterplan for the school and ensure that further high quality transport work using a Paramics model is produced alongside the Examination of the Cheltenham Plan and in support of any forthcoming application.

 

In proposing the amendment, Councillor Bickerton referred to the introduction which had been circulated with his amendment:

Policy MD5 covers the Leckhampton Northern Fields, an allocation of 250 dwellings and a new Cheltenham Secondary School.  This is Gloucestershire County Council’s preferred location for a new Secondary School for the South of Cheltenham it having looked at the six possible locations for a new school.  Phase 1 transport work has been undertaken by ARUP in respect of the Cheltenham Plan (including policy MD5) which has considered the highways impact of mixing the large volume of commuter traffic with schools traffic in the morning rush hour on the Shurdington Road using SATURN modelling.   It is the opinion of the Neighbourhood Planning Team of Leckhampton with Warden Hill Parish Council that Gloucestershire County Council’s decision has been rushed through to meet the Cheltenham Plan timetable and it would be to the public interest to look at the business case together with the landscape aspects and more importantly the highway issues as stated in the current MD5 policy in more detail as soon as possible.  Alternative locations are not being promoted but, the Parish Council’s neighbourhood planning team seek solutions whereby a good separation of school and commuter traffic to the benefit of parents and children, an improved link to the cycle network, reduce the impact of air pollution at the school and on the transport to/from the school (ref. MP Report on Air Pollution, Dec 2014, http://www.parliament.uk/report-air-quality) and from an aesthetic point of view attempt to set the school in the landscape rather than crammed into a housing development can be achieved. 

 

Councillor McKinlay as proposer of the main motion indicated that the points made by Councillor Bickerton were valid. He confirmed that after carefully considering the wording and taking advice from officers in One Legal, he didn’t believe there was any risk of delaying the examination of the Cheltenham Plan if Members supported this amendment. He was happy to add this as an additional resolution to the recommendations in the report.  

 

Amendment 3

Councillor Babbage proposed the following amendment which was seconded by Councillor Mason:

 

To remove policy HD4 – land at Oakhurst Rise

 

To add land at Oakhurst Rise to the list of Local Green Space sites (section 16.12)

 

In proposing the amendment, Councillor Babbage indicated that locally this was a very contentious site and he was not convinced that it should be designated for housing rather than local green space. The site was used by St Edwards School for recreational purposes and the site was a significant heritage area with significant   landscape concerns and was a haven for wildlife.

 

The Mayor asked the officer to provide some professional advice.

 

The officer confirmed that the heritage and landscape significance had been recognized and heritage consultants had advised that any development should be located away from the heritage assets. 25 houses were proposed behind the hedge line which would effectively screen the site but the precise location had not yet been determined. What was clear was that the small number of houses proposed still left a large area. There must be sufficient sites in the local plan for the plan to go forward for examination but there would be the opportunity during the consultation and public examination to put forward any concerns about this particular site. English Heritage would also be consulted during the second phase of consultation.

 

The Cabinet Member confirmed that all such sites have gone through a consistent process and it would undermine the plan to change the designation at this stage. Residents would have the opportunity to put forward a case during public consultation.

 

In seconding the motion Councillor Mason thought it was important for the Council to agree now that the site should be designated as local green space as hereafter they would lose control to the inspector.

 

Councillor Babbage considered it was important that he registered the concerns of his residents at this stage. 

 

Upon a vote the amendment was LOST

 

Voting: For 3, Against 28, Abstentions 6

 

In the debate on the substantive motion that followed a Member raised concerns that the local plan did not recognize the distinctiveness of Cheltenham as a town. Other points raised were that there were other ways of improving healthy outcomes beyond promoting active travel and the council also wanted to attract talent and businesses to the town as well as tourists.

 

The officer advised that the JCS had recognized these strategic outcomes for Cheltenham so they were not duplicated in the local plan.

 

In his summing up Councillor McKinlay recognized that there were a number of controversial issues in the local plan but he urged members to support the recommendations.

 

Upon a vote the recommendations as amended were CARRIED with 3 abstentions

 

Resolved that:

 

  1. The Cheltenham Plan 2011-2031 (pre-submission version) set out in Appendix 2, be approved for publication under regulation 19 of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning)(England) Regulations 2012
  2. Council delegates authority to the Director of Planning, in consultation with the Cabinet Member Development and Safety to make any minor amendments to the document prior to publication of the Pre-Submission Cheltenham Plan;
  3. Following publication, the Pre-Submission Cheltenham Plan be formally submitted to the Secretary of State (as the submission plan) along with all representations received as a result of the pre-submission publication exercise.
  4. The traffic impacts of the new school should continue to be assessed as the masterplan for its implementation is developed. This should further assess the impacts on existing or planned nearby junctions, especially on the A46 and in the wider area, and a comprehensive mitigation package developed which meets the objectives above. CBC officers are directed to continue to work with both County Education and Highways departments to develop their masterplan for the school and ensure that further high quality transport work using a Paramics model is produced alongside the Examination of the Cheltenham Plan and in support of any forthcoming application.

 

Supporting documents: