Agenda item

20/01788/FUL Land at Shurdington Road


The case officer talked Members through the application, highlighting the key issues and considerations.


Public Speakers

A local resident, speaking in objection, said the nearest doctors’ surgery is full and outdated, the nearest supermarket is over a mile away, and the nearest indoor leisure facilities are at Pittville.  The NPPF Section 7 refers to the A46 as vital to Cheltenham’s economy, yet there is no sustainable transport plan. Congestion on the A46 is already severe, and will be made worse as traffic leaving the new estate will have priority over A46 traffic. The cycle paths and footpaths don’t necessarily connect to Cheltenham centre.  With 400 additional houses, 630 cars, and 1200 residents, the carbon footprint will be massive; the GCC transport report should be rejected, as it is at variance with policies in the local transport plan and agreements with the Inspector at the 2016 enquiry. There is a presumption in favour of sustainable development when assessed against all NPPF policies – this proposal does no address policies 6, 7, 8, 9, and 14.


A planning agent, on behalf of the applicant, said the scheme follows extensive engagement with officers, consultees and the community, and will provide multiple local benefits.  It is landscape led, with green infrastructure in excess of policy requirements, retaining and enhancing important features, and respectfully designed to protect wider views to and from the site, while optimising urban design principles.  Gloucestershire Highways consider the impact of the proposal on the highways network to be acceptable, with impacts fully mitigated by wide infrastructure improvements, as well as commitment to early delivery of improvements to the Moorend Park Road junction.   Recognising the council’s commitment to climate emergency, revised proposals include a reduction in CO2 emissions 20% beyond current building regs requirements, through a variety of techniques to ensure the scheme is viable. With the inclusion of 140 affordable homes, this is a well-designed, policy-compliant, deliverable scheme, striking the right balance between competing demands and concerns.  


A parish councillor, speaking in objection, said it was disappointing that the delay to resolve traffic problems had not resulted in any significant improvement.  Planning inspectors have refused previous schemes, and ruled that traffic mitigation on the A46 junction must be shown to work.  The proposed mitigation to lengthen the northbound, left-turning lane could improve traffic flow, but will only work if a strip of additional land can be acquired, as the proposed lanes are too narrow for buses and lorries, and could result in accidents.  The additional housing and new school will make the traffic situation worse than that considered by the Inspector in 2014, making Shurdington Road a solid, slow-moving queue at peak times.  Drivers are likely to use Leckhampton Lane as a rat run at peak times, bypassing two schools, and rejoining the A46 at the new Kidnappers Lane roundabout, thus further stifling traffic flow around the south of Cheltenham.  Contrary to the officer’s opinion, part of the site is valued landscape, including R2 and R3, which carries high planning weight.  The JCS concluded that development should be confined to the northern field only, in order to protect the  valued landscape, as well as the view from Leckhampton Hill.


Cllr Nelson commended Miller Homes for upgrading their plans to support sustainable and active traffic, and for their £86k contribution to improvements of the Moorend Park Road junction, but while she acknowledged the need for new homes, she could not support the application as it stands.  For the community, residents, and future prosperity of Cheltenham, the impact on A46 traffic cannot be ignored.  With hundreds of additional homes, the new school, and the impact of other developments further south on the A46, transport issues are a major concern for local residents.  Severe congestion on the A46 is a fundamental problem and a direct risk to Cheltenham’s economic recovery, and the authority cannot afford to permit a plan that does not include adequate mitigation for the impact on local traffic. The highways response refers to an already-agreed scheme, but this related to the 2016 Redrow application for 377 homes, and does not take into account the additional 350 homes or new school. Redrow is trying to resolve the conflict between cyclists and left-turning traffic at the Moorend Park Road junction, currently awaiting highways approval, and Miller Homes’ £86k contribution is welcome, but it is not known whether any of these works will go far enough to improve the congestion.  Planning committee members should use their judgement and defer.


Councillor Horwood felt that the scheme has some positive elements but also some serious shortcomings. Policy MD4 clearly states that any development on this site must take into account the landscape and highways impact. Even though there was no highways objection to the 2014 application, the committee refused the proposal, as did the Appeals Inspector. The Inspector said then that 650 additional homes would cause severe traffic congestion on Shurdington Road unless effective mitigation measures were taken, yet no evidence of this was given then or now, and the overall number of permitted or proposed houses has now risen to 761, in addition to the new school    The inclusion of R2 and R3 is against the JCS Inspector’s explicit recommendation – it is classed as ‘valued landscape’, and is therefore protected under the NPPF and should not be built upon.  Local policy protects views into and out of the AONB, and R2 and R3 are clearly visible from Leckhampton Hill.   The proposal fails to make the fullest contribution to the mitigation of climate change, as required by the NPPF and JCS Policy SO6.  Radical reduction in emissions is needed, with emerging local and national standards for zero carbon housing; although this proposal exceeds current building regulations standards by 20%, building homes such as these will be banned by 2025.    It makes no provision for community facilities, on or off site, contrary to JCS policy SD4 and NPPF 92.   For these reasons, the proposal should be rejected or deferred.


Member questions


In response to questions from Members, officers provided the following:


The case officer confirmed that:

-       the affordable housing element will be safeguarded through an S106 agreement – this is standard procedure, to ensure that they will remain affordable and not become investment opportunities, being situated in the primary catchment area of the new school;

-       suitable street trees are secure as part of the landscaping condition, and will be planted at a suitable time;

-       there is no legal or policy requirement that community facilities must be provided for a certain number of houses, and with a neighbourhood centre within one mile of the site, officers do not feel any special provision is required;  

-       the position and distribution of the solar panels is dictated by the energy and sustainability statement, but a condition to investigate any further potential can be attached if Members want.


The GCC floods officer confirmed that:

-       the balancing pond is intended to restrict rainfall leaving the site and ensure it isn’t at a higher rate than pre-development.  The volume of surface water entering Hatherley Brook will not be higher than at the moment.  The calculations have taken climate change into account, including future rainfall predictions;

-       it is recommended that a maintenance condition be applied to any approval, to ensure suitable maintenance arrangements are in place and any future issues can be sorted out by the management company.


The Highways officer confirmed that:

-       drawings will show the position of street trees and utilities in the prospective highways, to ensure there will be no conflict between the two;

-       regarding mitigation measures for the increase in traffic, the transport assessment is supported with a lot of information.  Micro-simulation modelling work, based on the 2016 data, has been carried out, taking in committed and future additions.  The modelling looked at a multitude of scenarios, including partial and full use of the new school, and this and future developments; this showed that, with mitigation in future years, the traffic situation would remain broadly neutral.  GCC Highways have analysed this work, which was conducted by the applicant, and fully audited, and is considered to be a detailed technical assessment, in line with government guidance – the highways recommendation is based on this;

-       regarding congestion at the Moorend Park Road junction, which was raised in the previous application, the mitigation work was included as a planning condition rather than an S106 agreement, and it is for Redrow Homes to say why this has not been brought forward in a timely manner.  GCC Highways is having ongoing discussions and working with Redrow:

-       the developer is promising £86k for mitigation work; this cannot be guaranteed, but is in the public arena at the appropriate time and will be looked at very carefully.  The world is evolving post-Covid, and there must be material benefits to any proposal rather than multiple disruption of on-going roadworks for minimum benefits;

-       a compulsory purchase order (CPO) would not be necessary for this development to ensure the proposed lanes are wide enough for buses and lorries, which is looking to utilise existing highways land, but could be an option for a wider scheme in the future;

-       narrow lanes are not uncommon, with large vehicles needing the straddle two lanes.  Modelling takes into account the competing demands of multiple users, and active traffic measures must be played off each other.  It is not a perfect science, but officers are satisfied the modelling has been done correctly and is as reliable as it can be.


The legal officer confirmed that:

-       regarding long-term affordable housing, the S106 agreement will include a standard clause which requires affordable housing to be transferred to a registered provider  whose job it is to provide and run affordable housing.  There are several layers of affordable housing – social rent, affordable rent, shared ownership- and the aim is to tie the values and properties to local values – local open market and local incomes – and rental levels to local housing needs allowance. There is a raft of different provisions to ensure the cost of the building, rental levels, and sale levels of shared ownership are regulated in relation to local market values of properties and income, but the right-to-buy system cannot be controlled as it is in place by government legislation – though a new 106 clause is to be introduced which requires profit from a right-to-buy sale is recirculated in the area of the affordable housing.


The Head of Planning confirmed that:

-       a Grampian condition could be attached, relating to land outside the red line of the application site and requiring highways improvements at the Moorend Park Road junction to be completed before the scheme is finished, or control could be tightened through an S106 agreement to ensure that the mitigating work is done in a timely manner.


Member debate

Members then moved into the debate, where the following points were made:

-       it is very disappointing that a high proportion of roofs face east-west rather than north-south, meaning that retro-fitting of effective solar panels would not be practical;

-       it is clear that officers have worked hard over a long period, and the scheme has a lot in its favour, but in the face of the ever-worsening climate emergency, it is appalling that all 350 houses are to be fitted with gas boilers – there is no excuse for this with new-build properties; retro-fitting is costly and difficult, a smaller developer has recently submitted a zero carbon scheme in this area, and this proposal gives the wrong message to other developers. While this is not a legitimate reason to turn the application down, but it does fail to comply with Strategic Objective 6 of the Joint Core Strategy;

-       the improvements to the Moorend Park Road junction are essential and should be guaranteed by condition rather than an S106 agreement, as these don’t always deliver;

-       residents of Warden Hill regret the loss of green land but accept the need for new houses.  The issue for most people remains the level of traffic on the A46, which is already horrendous; mitigation measures are essential;

-       it is inevitable that more houses will bring more traffic, but public transport, electric vehicles and hydrogen cell vehicles are all encouraged, and the Highways officer, who is the expert, must be believed when he says the overall impact will be neutral;

-       there is still concern about building on R2 and R3 – it was recognised by previous  inspectors that these two elements in the scheme are outstanding re. view, impact etc.  This land could remain protected in this development;

-       this is a mixed development – 350 houses are proposed, but no support to the local community – this is disappointing, not least because it will make residents more car-dependant, adding to contribution and pollution.   There should at least be a contribution towards community facilities in the neighbourhood;

-       the affordable homes are welcome, particularly as a comprehensive range is proposed, including four-bedroomed properties at affordable rent;

-       the streets are designed to reduce traffic speed to 20mph, which is also welcomed;

-       although the proposed development has much in its favour, there are several areas of concern but apparently no sound grounds on which to refuse – the only option is to approve or defer.


In response to Members’ concerns, officers responded as follows:

-       the key point to take into account is that this site has been allocated for housing development – the Inspector would have considered highways implications at the time of allocation, and found the plans to be sound;

-       the provision of 140 affordable homes is a strong material consideration, due to the housing shortfall in Cheltenham;

-       the scheme provides a good level of green infrastructure;

-       the scheme could be better re. the council’s climate agenda, but Building Regulations has the remit for dealing with carbon energy efficient of homes – planning doesn’t have a specific policy to deal with this;

-       the applicant looked at the feasibility of including an on-site shop, and carried out an assessment to establish whether there was any need for demand – it found there was not.  There is a neighbourhood centre within one mile, and no evidence to suggest a financial contribution is required for off-site provision;

-       the allocation specifically refers to a residential scheme and a secondary school; it does not include community infrastructure.  JCS Policy INF4 states that where a development creates or adds to need, this will be fully met through policy, but planners are confident that the proposal addresses some of the requirements – the school, open space etc.


Councillor Baker then moved to defer on the following grounds:

-       JCS Strategic Objection 6 – the scheme should make the fullest contribution possible to mitigation of climate change;

-       the community infrastructure contribution should be revisited;

-       a condition for traffic mitigation at the Moorend Park Road junction was needed.


He hoped these relatively minor elements could be dealt with, thus allowing the scheme to go ahead:


The Head of Planning advised Members that the developers were already proposing a scheme which went 20% beyond current building regulation requirements, and the community infrastructure contribution had been met.  A condition for highways mitigation could be included in the scheme today, which would have to come back to Committee to be discharged.  He advised against deferral.


The Chair invited Members to vote on Councillor Baker’s move to defer:


7 in support

1 in objection





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