Agenda item

21/02148/FUL Land East Leckhampton Reservoir, Leckhampton Hill, Cheltenham


The Planning Officer presented the report, which related to the erection of two dwellings on land east of Leckhampton Reservoir. It was at the committee at the request of Cllr. Horwood due to concerns about access and highway safety, and an objection from the Parish Council.

Speaking in support of the application on behalf of SF Planning Limited, Mrs Becky Brown highlighted that the site had planning permission in principle for three dwellings, with this application comprising two of them. She noted the concerns raised in the letters of objection but did not feel there was a justified planning reason to refuse it. It was a high quality design in keeping with the local style, and while some trees had been removed they were largely overhanging foliage. Considering the need for housing supply in the town, the committee should approve the application without delay.

Speaking in objection to the application as Ward Member, Cllr. Horwood highlighted that the traffic data used to justify the recommendation to permit only covered a 30-minute period, whereas his own traffic data covered several months and clearly showed motorists consistently exceeding the speed limit. The trees removed were not overhanging foliage, but rather the area had been levelled – he suggested that the committee should require them to be replanted should it permit the application. The application was in a dangerous area with repeated accidents, including one since it was submitted. The stopping distance for a cyclist would far exceed the size of the site, with potentially deadly consequences.

Speaking in objection to the application as Ward Member, Cllr. Nelson noted that it was a stretch of road long identified as a speeding hotspot, by the police and parish council, as cars descended at high speed or accelerated up the hill. The application would make this worse, especially since descending motorists’ interest would be drawn to the junctions on their right, so they might not even notice an exit on their left. The data referred to by Cllr. Horwood had been gathered using GCC-accredicted equipment in place for up to 3 months at a time, showing that 49% of drivers were exceeding the speed limit at the Old Bath Road junction. The road saw as many as 270 vehicles speeding per hour at peak times. For vehicles going down the hill, the data showed that 35% of drivers were speeding. She was disappointed by the Highways view that the application should be permitted, based on a 30-minute survey with a handheld speed gun. It would be irresponsible to permit this application considering the dangerous location, and access to the site must be via an alternative, safer route.

Speaking in objection to the application as a parish councillor, Mr Adrian Mears agreed that the site entrance would be extremely dangerous. A standard medium-sized car like a Focus would have to poke out by nearly a metre in order for the driver to see oncoming traffic, leading to a high risk of collisions. The trees lining the road would also make accidents more likely to be deadly as a car leaving the road would collide with them. In order to make the exit at all safe, the walls near the road would need to be moved back by at least a metre. He suggested that the 30mph zone should also be extended further up the hill to improve public safety. Even with these mitigations, the application would still be dangerous. He also shared the concern of the Civil Society that the design clashed with the area.

Member questions

One Member noted the claim that it would enhance biodiversity, and asked what the baseline of this was. The applicant had removed the trees, and they surely could not measure biodiversity from a point after they had levelled the site. The Planning Officer responded that this was not within the committee’s control. A number of trees were removed, but they were not protected in any way, and it was the applicant’s right to do this.

One Member asked how possible changes to the public right of way might affect the property. The Planning Officer responded this would run from east to west, and could run through the site if adopted. The applicant was aware of this and would be legally obligated to either abide by it or apply for a rediversion. It was not a material consideration for Members at this committee.

One Member asked how much data was usually gathered before officers made their recommendation. Stephen Hawley (Highways Officer, GCC) responded that it varied between applications, and stressed that data gathering such as the speed survey captured a snapshot in time. The data presented in the supplementary information largely aligned with the views of the Ward Members. Officers had considered extensive road and accident data to inform their decision and were satisfied in its robustness.

One Member asked what provision there would be for pedestrian access. The Highways Officer responded that there was no dedicated pedestrian access, so it would be shared with the vehicle access.

One Member asked how Highways responded to the public speaker’s point about the dangers of the sight line. The Highways Officer directed Members to the supplementary information, where it had been concluded that the available visibility exceeded requirements.

Member debate

One Member suggested that refusing the application on grounds ofsafety would put Members in a difficult position, since lawbreakers would have prevented a legitimate planning application. What they needed was proper enforcement of traffic laws to prevent speeding. The application complied with all relevant requirements, specifications and policies, and so they would be voting to permit.

One Member added that having driven down the hill many times themselves, it was not hard to see how many drivers failed to decelerate rapidly in time for the 30mph zone. The data provided by Highways was very limited compared to what the Ward Members had provided, and so they were inclined to vote to refuse.

One Member suggested that the data provided could have been better analysed. Average speed data was less useful than knowing the maximum speed, and it would have been helpful to plot it as a histogram. One Member echoed this and noted that the data did not include cyclists who may have been travelling at very high speeds.

One Member praised the diligent work undertaken by Ward Members and the parish council to demonstrate the dangers the application posed. The design of the property also had real issues, and it was hard to verify the applicant’s claim that it was ‘influenced by the context’.

One Member disagreed about the design, which they found to be rather good. In their view, the committee could not afford to turn it down, as the applicant would just appeal and the Highways officers would be unable to support the council.

One Member suggested that more speed enforcement cameras could alleviate the problem. Andy Robbins, Interim Head of Planning, clarified that this was not within the committee’s power to attach as a condition. He advised against deferring it in order to collect further data, since there was already enough technical data to determine whether access was dangerous. He echoed the previous Member’s comment that it would be a difficult refusal considering the position of the highway authority, and would likely incur significant costs for the council.

One Member noted that it was always tricky where two different sets of data were concerned, but the Ward Members’ data was clearly more comprehensive. The Interim Head of Planning reiterated that the general conclusions of both sets of data were relatively similar. The Highways Officer added that they had not relied on the speed-gun data, but it was rather one aspect of it covering a snapshot in time. The data was there to assist rather than determine the outcome on its own.

There being no further comments, the Chair moved to the vote on the officer recommendation to permit.

FOR: 5




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