1 Loweswater Road, Cheltenham 21/00505/COU
The Planning Officer presented the report relating to a change of use of land at the rear of the property at 1 Loweswater Road to extend the garden land and subsequent residential curtilage. The application was at committee at the request of Cllr Oliver due to the impact on the wider locality and any potential future development. The Officer’s recommendation was to permit.
The Chair invited public speaker, Mr Rowe, who spoke in opposition to the application. Mr Rowe stated that the site had been designated as a green open space and maintained by the local authority for the past 50 years and quoted National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) 97 that no existing open space should be built on. He continued that in 2019 Ubico stripped the hedgerow around the perimeter of the site and local residents found out the site had been sold. In 2020 the mature tree on the site was felled and Mr Rowe cited the Forestry Commission saying that mature trees generally required a felling licence and questioned if the authority had requested seeing this. He also quoted Defra Hedgerows regulations in that hedgerows are worthy of protection if they are of wildlife value and he said dormice and slow worms occupied this site and that a biodiversity survey should have been carried out. He pointed out the benefit of urban green spaces, not least from an environmental aspect, and stated there were no planning reasons to support a change of use.
The Chair invited ward member, Councillor Iain Dobie, to speak against the application. Cllr Dobie reported that when the estate was developed small parcels of land were retained to create a pleasant visual buffer between the houses on Loweswater Road and Winton Road and to act as a habitat for wildlife. This was the case until the applicant purchased the land from the developer in 2019 and subsequently a large tree and much hedgerow and greenery were removed. Local residents had reported that the land had not been maintained to a reasonable level since it was purchased and that they very much wanted to retain their green spaces. They were further concerned that, if approved, this could set a precedent to allow other parcels of land to be purchased and developed resulting in further loss of amenity. Other factors opposing this application were the height of the summer house and fencing; the street light and telegraph pole located on the land which if removed would make for an unsafe environment for local residents; conversion of part of the land to a parking space which would pose a safety issue; and the site being a natural haven for wildlife. Cllr Dobie further pointed out that the applicant had previously submitted two unsuccessful planning applications for this site and that there had been previous enforcement issues. Residents were concerned that approval could facilitate a future application to turn the summer house space into a new property and Cllr Dobie requested that a suitablecondition be attached to prevent any future application for a new property being approved. He urged members to reject this application on grounds of unacceptable loss of amenity – SD14 of the JCS and D1 of the Cheltenham Plan.
In response to member questions the Officer confirmed that:
· The application was only for extending the garden land and not for permission for a summer house to be built and also clarified that the applicant owned the garden land and wanted to extend it with their existing garden or residential curtilage.
· The applicant needed permission as the land was not classed as residential curtilage and this was required to include it as part of their land on the Land Registry.
· It was normal to have a TPO on trees to prevent them being removed and confirmed that this tree did have a TPO until 2003 when it was revoked, but that the Officer was not entirely sure why this happened.
· The summer house was part of the application, but the applicant had not provided details of this or for the fencing, so permitted development rights were removed and included as part of the condition.
· The applicant could still install a fence up to 1m under permitted development rights, but larger than that would need planning permission.
· A member asked if people actually understood that he owned the land and what was the land actually used for now. The Officer replied that the applicant did own the land and bought it in 2019 and land registry documents confirmed this, and that whether the community and local residents could use it now could be a civil matter.
There being no further questions, the Chair moved to debate and the following comments were made by members:
· When the estate was built, the site was clearly a local amenity to provide screening and green space to local residents which they really valued. This was one of several pockets of land on the estate that the developers kept as green space and did not sell, until this applicant was allowed to buy this in 2019 and which has given rise to this unfortunate situation.
· Concerns were expressed that, if approved, this could lead to further development which could not be allowed in the future.
· Have had enforcement issues with the applicant in the past trying to maximise his development and removing part of a publicly owned hedge and not replacing it, as well as applications to build in this space.
· Want to retain this as open space for residents and a site visit had confirmed the importance of this land and why it was left as open space and use of amenity.
· Agreed residents could not actually go on this piece of land, but it offered space, nature, biodiversity and greenery within a tarmacked concrete environment.
· Strongly against this application and the report did not represent the policies of the Council nor the NPPF or JCS which want us to protect and respect open spaces. Strong policies in the NPPF oppose the application.
· Should not be removing things that were put into the development plan in the first place, when layout and landscaping were considered at that stage.
· It was a small landscape feature but it offered an oasis of greenery that supported biodiversity and had environment value and it should not be lost or have a fence put round it.
· Green infra structure in local estates highlighted in local plan plus the Council was spending money putting green spaces into the high street.
· Strongly oppose and move refusal.
· SD14 relevant to this application, trying to keep environment cleaner and greener, so is contrary to this. Support refusal.
· Need to consider other pockets of green space in housing estates owned by developers, so this did not open up the flood gates for further purchases by residents. Should consider acquiring ownership of these pockets of land to prevent this happening in future and a condition should be put on future green spaces within developments.
· In favour of refusal but concern expressed about the uncontrolled use of the land, in that if refused the applicant could still go ahead and put fencing around so local residents would still loose facility of green open space and amenity.
· Applicant could put up a fence up to 1m, so residents could still see the view, but clearly the applicant was not keen on wildlife as the plan was marked indicating astro-turf in that space.
· In reply to a further question the Officer confirmed that dormice and slow worm had not been recorded, as they may not have been seen on that day, and as such could not be taken into account.
A member proposed refusal on the grounds of NPPF 127b,d, re achieving well designed places; NPPF 97a,b,c, re preserving open spaces; Local Plan habitats 10-22, Local Plan green infra-structure 16.3; environmental values 16.6, 16.7; JCS INF 3 Green infra-structure 5.4.1, 5.4.3.
The Chair moved to the vote, in the first instance on the Officer’s recommendation to permit.
FOR : 0
AGAINST : 11
ABSTAIN : 0
The Chair referred to the refusal reasons already cited and moved to vote in favour of refusal of the application. The Officer would work with the Chair and Vice Chair on finalising the reasons for refusal.
FOR : 11
AGAINST : 0
ABSTAIN : 0
- 1 Loweswater Road - officer report, item 7. PDF 276 KB
- 1 Loweswater Road - representations, item 7. PDF 32 KB