Agenda item

20/01788/FUL Land at Shurdington Road


The Planning Officer, Michelle Payne, presented the report, which related to an application for residential development comprising 350 dwellings, open space, cycleways, footpaths, landscaping, access roads and other associated infrastructure. The application had been deferred from the 24th March meeting to ensure that the scheme made the fullest contribution possible to the mitigation of climate change, to allow for the lack of a contribution towards off-site communality facilities and services to be revisited, and to secure a condition in relation to the Moorend Park Road junction improvements. The applicant had submitted an updated statement, and officers were satisfied that the application was in accordance with all local and national planning policies, so the recommendation was to permit.

Speaking in support of the application on behalf of Miller Homes, Paul Hill emphasised the 31% reduction in carbon emissions that he was happy to attach as a condition. It was critical that the proposals remained both viable and deliverable, and he aimed to do this while addressing climate change issues. He stressed that members’ concerns from the previous meeting had been fully taken into account.

Speaking in objection to the application as a parish councillor, Adrian Mears suggested that the statement from Miller Homes did nothing to solve the traffic problem. The A46/Moorend Park Road scheme needed to work in order to satisfy the MD4 allocation target, but it could not be delivered because the road width was too narrow. Extra land could be acquired but that could require compulsory purchase. He suggested that GCC Highways were favouring a ‘suck-it-and-see’ approach of going forward without mitigation and hoping things would turn out OK. The congestion would deter people from commuting into Cheltenham, and the longer driving times on the A46 would cause rat running via Leckhampton Lane. The committee was being asked to override the findings of Inspector Burden on MD4 and to take a gamble that could easily go wrong.  

He suggested that Miller Homes were choosing not to provide zero net carbon housing, when they could use high performance heat pumps and high performance solar panels like those at the Newlands development nearby. By building on the valued landscape of areas R2 and R3, they would also compromise the landscape along the smallholding public footpath in the Local Green Space. The Leckhampton Fields were a memorable and feature-full landscape, offering one of the finest views in the country. Building on R2 and R3 would break through what was otherwise a good and sustainable urban edge with high trees and hedges. It was not necessary to allow development on R2 and R3 in order to meet the MD4 allocation target, which was for 350 new dwellings on the land north of Kidnappers Lane. The two smaller developments already had planning permission would provide 34, and the remaining 316 could with a very minimal adjustment fit on the Northern Fields.

Councillor Emma Nelson spoke in objection to the application as ward Member, noting that she had voiced concerns about severe traffic congestion on the A46 at the last meeting, as it was one of the key commuter routes into Cheltenham. There were still no approved plans in place for major works to the Moorend Park Road junction, which would be key to improving traffic flow. A condition in relation to the junction improvements had been one of the reasons for deferral, and yet it had not been addressed at all, and there were no technically agreed plans for the junction in place. The original plans for the junction did not take into account the cumulative impact of additional traffic from the school or the 350 new homes, and were no longer compliant with new cyclist-priority legislation.

She continued by noting that while Miller Homes had agreed to contribute £86k ‘towards potential further improvements’ over and above the consented Redrow plan, it was not clear exactly what this would cover and whether such works would solve the congestion issue. The town needed more homes, but this area could not support 350 of them. The JCS recommended around 250, mainly in recognition of the severe limitations of the existing traffic network. The fundamental problem of severe congestion on the A46 remained, and this application did not provide adequate mitigation for the impact the development would have on local traffic. She urged the committee to defer the application until such time that GCC Highways, Redrow and Miller Homes could agree a combined revised layout for the junction, incorporating the £86k contribution offered by Miller. This would enable a credible highways assessment to be approved for a critical commuter route into Cheltenham.

Councillor Martin Horwood also spoke in objection to the application as ward Member, emphasising that Miller Homes had made no real changes to any of the issues raised by the committee at the last meeting. Underneath the condition of reducing carbon emissions by 31.9%, they said ‘the proposed specification may change but will achieve a minimum of 19% reduction in carbon emissions’, meaning that the 31.9% was not guaranteed and would not even meet the regulations being enacted in June, let alone the Future Homes Standard that would ban such houses from 2025. The houses were still not zero carbon, still relied on gas and were still mostly without solar panels. The excuse for the lack of solar panels was that the houses faced the wrong way, but as the developer they could change this. There were also no air source heat pumps like at Newlands next door. He highlighted the Future Homes Standard advice that low carbon housing should anticipate UK electricity decarbonising. Fitted with electric air source heat pumps, the homes would become zero carbon, even without solar panels, once the UK grid had decarbonised. Fitted with gas, they would need to be retrofitted, at the expense of residents and taxpayers rather than Miller Homes.

He continued by highlighting that the JCS required ‘the fullest contribution possible to the mitigation of… climate change’. Considering the latest science, the Future Homes Standard on track and viable private sector zero carbon homes with 40% affordable housing right next door, in this location the ‘fullest contribution possible’ had to mean zero carbon. He did not believe that Miller Homes would stop building houses in profitable locations like this when the Future Homes Standard came in. He noted that the lack of mixed use development would pose issues for residents, and suggested that the argument that they were supporting local ministry by paying the church for the land would apply no matter who bought it. Finally, he emphasised that the impact on landscape as the strongest reason to reject or defer the application until fields R2 and E3 were excluded from it. They were green fields in the amber zone, which the JCS inspector had explicitly ruled out for development due to their higher landscape value, and the site was within a locally valued landscape protected by the NPPF. With that in mind, he urged the committee to reject or defer the application.

The Chair moved to Member questions:

  • One Member queried the £86k offered by Miller Homes for the Moorland Park Road junction. Stephen Hawley (GCC Highways) responded that this money would be used to improve the junction, and that while he hoped they would end up in a position where it would not be necessary, in any case the public would be protected from having to pay for it. He was conscious that all road works caused some level of destruction, but they would implement a mitigation scheme which the modelling work told them would not result in a severe impact.
  • One Member asked when the proposed improvements would be implemented after they were approved. The Highways Officer responded that while he did not have a specific date yet, productive discussions were taking place on this, and there was a mechanism in place to protect the public’s interests.
  • One Member asked whether fields R2 and R3 were in protected landscape or not. The Planning Officer responded that while they were was not statutorily protected or included in the local green space allocation, they had been identified as having a higher level of landscape value. She noted that the landscape had been significantly altered since the assessment due to the construction of the school. The harm caused would need to be weighed up in the overall planning balance, since to exclude this area would result in the loss of a large number of dwellings.
  • One Member asked whether the 31% carbon reduction figure would actually apply or whether the minimum figure of 19% would be permitted. The Planning Officer responded that in their update, the applicant had confirmed the 31% figure.
  • One Member asked whether the general rule still applied that traffic congestion issues were seen as pre-existing conditions and thus not for the applicant to solve. The Head of Planning confirmed that this was seen as a pre-existing condition, and it would not be reasonable to expect the applicant to deal with it.

There being no more questions, the Chair moved to debate, where Members made the following points:

  • The electric car charging points should be 32 kilowatts rather than 16, and they were concerned that neither revision to the energy and sustainability statement had addressed this. If the committee was minded to approve the application, they should attach a condition encouraging the developer to implement 32 kW charging points.
  • It was a difficult situation, since Cheltenham needed both homes and carbon neutrality. Miller Homes was clearly not concerned with carbon neutrality, with the solar panels being an afterthought. If they had been, the houses would have been orientated very differently. The use of gas was also contrary to CBC’s environmental policies. The lack of facilities was a major concern, since it would generate a huge amount of traffic going towards the shops, dentist, schools and so on, causing a significant danger to cyclists and pedestrians on Shurdington Road.
  • Miller Homes had responded in a very disappointing way to the discussions at the last meeting. Members had been very critical of the failure to adopt a zero carbon approach, and the applicant had failed to address this in any significant way. The JCS required the fullest contribution possible to tackling climate change, and there was no sense that they had done this. Retrofitting would be incredibly expensive, so they needed to be electric now. The development would not even come close to achieving their strategic objectives or sustainable development. The highways authority needed to step up and work with Miller Homes to present a proper application that addresses these things.
  • Housing needed infrastructure to support it, and nothing in this scheme bar the minor contribution to the junction did that. The NPPF social objectives required developments to support the community’s health, and there was no evidence of this either. CBC’s own Local Plan also referred to community wellbeing, which was not addressed. Affordable housing was sorely needed, but this delivered nothing else.

The Chair asked on what grounds the committee could refuse the application, taking into account the likelihood of appeal.

One Member cited sustainable development as a reason for refusal, considering the council’s declaration of a climate emergency and the failure of both local and national planning policies to catch up with this. The development next door at Newlands demonstrated that housing could be built in a sustainable and carbon zero way.

One Member asked about the possibility of adding a condition regarding the enhancement of local facilities. The Head of Planning clarified that this was not possible in this particular case.

One Member noted their uncertainty about policy MP4 with reference to areas R2 and R3, since officers had advised that the value of the two sites had been diminished by the construction of the school, but there were no images to illustrate this.

One Member suggested that they refuse the application on the grounds of NPPF sections 2, 8, 12 and 14. It was important to send a message that while new homes were needed, they still needed to be the right homes.

Another Member suggested that JCS Strategic Objective 6 and NPPF 4, paragraph 8c (achieving sustainable development), were more appropriate reasons. They suggested avoiding reasons regarding design and focusing on climate issues. The previous Member was happy with this and withdrew their proposed reasons for refusal.

There being no further comments, the Chair moved to the vote on the officer recommendation to permit (with the condition of charging points scheme ensuring consistency with national standards):

FOR: 1



The Chair moved to the vote on refusing the application on the grounds of JCS Strategic Objective 6 and NPP4, paragraph 8c (achieving sustainable development):

FOR: 8






Supporting documents: