Agenda item

WEST BECKHAM - PF/23/1065 - Erection of 5 dwellings (affordable homes) with associated access, parking, and landscaping at Land to the North of Church Road West Beckham.


The DMTL – DW introduced the Officers report and recommendation for approval. He advised, subsequent to the publication of the agenda, that a representation had been received addressed to all Committee and substitute Members which objected to the proposal on the grounds that it failed to comply with Policy HO3 as there would be two affordable housing sites within 1km of each other.


Further, amended plans had been received incorporating minor amendments relating to design and landscaping suggested by officers.  These included:


·         burnt red roof tiles across all plots;

·         additional segmental arches and string course, added to provide interest;

·         A hedge incorporated behind the meadow to provide a soft enclosure whilst retaining the transitional qualities of the meadow.

·         A plan had also been provided to show electric vehicle charging points and the location of the ASHP’s.


The DMTL-DW outlined the sites’ location and relationship with its immediate setting opposite St Helens and All Saints Church and to the west of the village play area and a row of dwellings.  


Officers considered that the proposed site plan reflected the existing pattern of development to the north of Church Road. The proposal would result in new access on to Church Road with an area of meadow and green space located at the front of the development along Church Road allowing views to and from the Church to be retained. Private gardens would be provided to the rear of the dwellings screened by 1.8 metres timber fencing between the properties. The Landscape Officer had raised no objections to the scheme, and it was considered that the proposed landscaping would aid in assimilating the development into its landscape setting. 


The DMTL-DW detailed the proposed elevations and floorplans for each of the dwellings. He highlighted minor changes to the elevation treatment of Plots 4 and 5, roofing material and; changes to openings on Plot 2 and 3 were requested by Officers.  Amended plans reflecting these amendments had now been received and were considered acceptable. 


In terms of materials, the scheme proposed a mix of facing brick, flint work and timber cladding including traditional detailing to give character to the individual dwellings. 


The DMTL-DW outlined the main issues for consideration and confirmed that the proposal accorded with Core Strategy policy SS2 and HO3. The proposal would help to meet a proven local housing need (as confirmed by the Council’s Strategic Housing Team). The affordable housing provided would assist local housing need at an affordable cost for the life of the property - this will be secured via S106 Obligation.


It was noted that the application was running in tandem with another affordable housing scheme in West Beckham, PF/23/1578 for 5 affordable single storey dwellings along Sheringham Road. The two sites, if granted permission, would be delivered by the same housing association (Broadland Housing) at the same time. Both sites combined would not exceed 10 units, would meet proven local need, are located adjacent to a group of 10 more dwellings where the housing will be provided in perpetuity.


The Conservation and Design Officer had raised no objection to the proposal although it was felt there would be some minor harm to the setting of the church (a non-designated heritage asset). The proposed development would maintain a separation distance of approximately 45m, with the proposed dwellings set back within the site and included a green buffer of open space and meadow, offering an increased feeling of openness within the street scene which was considered to improve the relationship between the church and new dwellings.


The DMTL-DW affirmed that because there was considered to be harm to the heritage asset, albeit minor harm, paragraph 203 of the NPPF should be applied in determining the application and advised that such harm needed to be weighed against the public benefits accruing from the development. In this case, the provision of affordable housing serving the local community is given great weight and it is considered by Officer’s that this public benefit outweighed the harm identified, as such the proposal is considered acceptable in accordance with Core Strategy Policy EN 8 and Section 16 of the NPPF.


The DMTL-DW confirmed, with respect of Nutrient Neutrality and GIRAM’s that foul water discharges out of the catchment of a designated habitats site, and, with regards to recreational impacts and the GIRAM Strategy the mitigation payment would be secured through the S106.


It was noted that the solar panels detailed on the plan had the potential to be installed/used but that this had not been conditioned. The agent had confirmed that other measures were proposed to reduce the environmental impact such as the installation of ASHPs. The dwellings were designed to a high standard of thermal efficiency with fabric and energy performance meeting the minimum standard of Part L2A (2021) of the Building Regulations with a fabric first approach taken. The plans proposed an EV charging point at each group of parking areas and air source heat pumps.


The DMTL-DW reiterated Officers recommendation to the proposal based on the revised plans submitted.


Public Speakers


Ed Mumford-Smith (supporting)


Members debate and questions.


      i.        Local Member – Cllr C Ringer – spoke in support of the application and advised that he had referred the proposal to Committee due to significant public interest in the scheme, though acknowledged that the application for the second site had attracted more interest and that the objections to the application being considered at present, come from its vicinity to the other application rather than neighbours in the direct vicinity.


Cllr C Ringer noted the Parish Council’s comment and their hope that the application would help revitalise the village, a sentiment he echoed. Further, he considered the site was ideally located by the playing field, the church, and the Wheatsheaf Public House – an establishment with a strong record of employing local people.


The Local Member reflected that the population of West Beckham had decreased 10% between the 2011 and 2021 census and attributed this to a proliferation of second homes and holiday lets, as well as an aging elderly demographic with a high number of retirees leading to a low occupancy rate. He noted that very few homes in West Beckham sold for under £400,000, a price tag that the vast majority of local people on local wages would find unattainable, particularly given the high interest rates on mortgages. He added that there were several families with ties to West Beckham and the surrounding villages waiting for appropriate housing, these families knew the limitations and potential of West Beckham and who deserved an opportunity to remain in their community.


He expressed support for the proposals high environmental standards including use of air source heat pumps, bird and bat bricks and a meadow, however affirmed that he would like to see Solar Panels installed. The Local Member argued that the garage on Plot 1 would be better utilised as an accessible bedroom or a ‘granny-annexe’ which would accommodate multi-generational living. He welcomed the access to the playpark and asked whether it may be conditioned that the applicant fund a bench for this site, something the developer had intimated they would be happy to accommodate. Further, he asked whether it may be conditioned that a low fence be erected along the front of the meadow to protect from vehicle encroachment. Whilst the Highways Authority had indicated that residents would likely be reliant on private cars, the Local Member was encouraged that the developer had indicated they would provide covered cycle parking at the shared Bodham and Beckham Village Hall, allowing residents to cycle to the village hall and catch the regular bus service.


Cllr C Ringer expressed some disappointment that the scheme was only for 5 dwellings, particularly given the proposal’s ideal location close to the village amenities, and felt the site could accommodate 10,


The Local Member concluded by stating that the application would provide local people the opportunity to remain in and closer to their communities against a backdrop of high house prices, and in a competitive market with expensive mortgages making the chances of purchasing a home very limited. Even more, it would help to sustain the community of West Beckham, presently struggling to keep its church open; which used to hold a myriad of community events and now does not. Cllr C Ringer stated that the application demonstrated significant potential benefits for the community of West Beckham and surrounding parishes and should be looked upon favourably.


     ii.        Cllr M Hankins noted that the application was recommended for approval subject to securing the S106 obligations, which should be completed in 4 months. He asked why the 4-month timeframe had been applied.


    iii.        The DMTL-DW advised that the 4-month timeframe was considered to be a reasonable time to secure the S106 obligations. The wording was such to encourage timely completion of the obligation.


   iv.        Cllr M Hankins considered, given there was a desperate need for affordable homes in this area and a shortage of available land to develop, that this proposal would present an excellent opportunity to close the gap and that every effort should be made to secure the S106 obligations in a reasonable time frame.


     v.        The PL asked what Members may consider a reasonable time frame for the S106 completion and commented that the timeframe could be extended if this was preferred. She confirmed that she was confident that the S106 obligations could be secured within the proposed 4 months.


   vi.        The DM affirmed he was also confident that the S106 agreement would be progressed relatively quickly. The condition was included as a backstop and would allow the application to be returned to committee should there be little progress with the S106 agreement. The DM noted that applicant was keen to start building that site, and as the Local Authority had made affordable housing a priority, it was not expected that there would be any issues. If permission was granted, it would ultimately be at the discretion of the ADP to consider progress and decide whether to re-refer the application to committee, this was not an automatic referral back to committee after the 4-months.


  vii.        Cllr A Brown considered that the 4-month deadline was the benchmark and not a hard stop if the S106 was not finalised by this date. He considered there to be an existential problem with the application in relation of policy HO3 as phase 2 of the scheme for the other site on Sheringham Road was due for consideration imminently. Cllr A Brown asked if the other application site was within 1km of the proposal.


 viii.        The DM advised that whilst the other site (still to be determined) was within 1km, the appliance of this element of the policy was not relevant for the determination of this application as this was the first of the two sites, and therefore there were no other schemes within 1km. Without pre-judging consideration of the second application, the DM commented that it was within the gift of the Committee as decision maker to apportion weight to that component of the policy. Members may choose to depart from policy where they consider there are material considerations that support housing development, in the case of the second application this may be demonstrable need for affordable housing.


   ix.        Cllr A Brown considered this argument could be applied to every rural expectation site and reflected that around 30% of housing delivery in North Norfolk was on such sites. He noted the enthusiasm from the Housing Strategy team for the delivery of the cumulative 10 dwellings across in West Beckham. Cllr A Brown expressed his concern that public perception may be that the Council had in some way facilitated avoidance of policy HO3 by separating the two applications. He asked if the applicant may elaborate why they had chosen to develop 10 homes across the two sites, in conflict of policy HO3, and not promoted this as a whole scheme. Further, he echoed comments from the Local Member that the site could accommodate more houses and asked why the applicant had settled on 5, other than to be convenient in relating to the 5 proposed for the other site.


     x.        The Chairman invited the applicant to respond to Member’s questions. Mr Mumford- Smith stated that it was his understanding that policy HO3 aimed to prevent the accumulation of large amounts of affordable housing in one location in small villages. Therefore, the splitting of the affordable housing into the two sites would improve upon the policy rather than contravene its intention. He commented that the distances between the two sites would vary if measurements were taken as the crow flies or by road. Mr Mumford-Smith advised that policy HO3 came into effect after the developer had already built 26 affordable homes in the village and he felt strongly that the proposed dwellings should not all be placed next to the existing Council housing on the edge of the village, rather, it was more appropriate to split development into two more sympathetically designed schemes.


In response to questions raised by Cllr C Ringer, the applicant advised that a revised plan had been submitted yesterday which changed the garage on Plot 1 into an annexe. Additional parking had been provided as well as a continuation of the hedge around the open space to the east. Following conversations with the Conservation and Design Officer the applicant had amended the scheme to prevent the parking of cars on either side.


   xi.        The Chairman noted that the Officers presentation did not include plans for the revised scheme, he proposed adjournment of the meeting to ensure that the final plans were available for the Committee’s consideration.


Meeting adjourned at 10.36am and reconvened at 10.46am


  xii.        The DMTL-DW apologised for the technical issues and advised that the revised plans had been received late the day prior and changes to the presentation had not been made as these had not been highlighted in the covering email. The DMTL-DW proceeded to go through the changes to the Officer presentation highlighting changes to parking, link to the play area, alterations to the ground floor of unit 1, and other minor changes including use of arches.


 xiii.        The Local Member expressed his support for the changes and asked if the solar panels contained in the drawings were part of the scheme or were for artistic affect. He sought assurance these would be included as previously it had been detailed that that there was a potential for installation, but not that they would be included a guarantee.


 xiv.        The DMTL-DW advised this would need to be conditioned.


  xv.        The Chairman acknowledged the applicant indicated they would be supportive this condition.


 xvi.        Cllr A Brown reflected on the applicant’s comments and stated that whilst he considered that the site could accommodate 10 dwellings, he was minded to support the Officers recommendation for approval. This would strictly be on the understanding that he was not pre-determined or pre-disposed in his consideration for the second scheme.


xvii.        Cllr V Holliday considered there may be a misapplication of policy HO3 and asked what community sentiment was towards the scheme, whether residents would prefer the development of 5 homes across 2 sites or 10 on the proposed site. She considered the application to be well laid out, located near to a heritage asset, though noted the risk of missing out on an additional 5 affordable houses.


xviii.        Cllr C Ringer advised, prior to his appointment to the Council, a public meeting was held in Bodham & Beckham Village Hall on this matter. Some residents had indicated their support for 10 homes on the Church Road site and objected to having the 10 dwellings built across 2 sites. He commented that the Sheringham Road application had not yet been presented to the Committee for consideration, making it more difficult for Members in their determination.


 xix.        Cllr J Toye congratulated the applicant for their community engagement and the way in which they had developed designs which assimilated with their location in an award-winning manner. Irrespective of the debate, he was confident that the developer would work with NNDC to achieve the best outcome for Local residents. With regards to the application site, Cllr J Toye was supportive of the proposed layout and expressed concern that 10 dwellings on the site would be far more cramped and less sympathetic to the neighbouring heritage asset.


  xx.        Cllr G Mancini-Boyle encouraged the developer towards building more passive housing, particularly given current costs of bills. He understood that this would be more expensive for developers but considered that efforts should be made to look forwards and not simply build out to current building standards.


 xxi.        Cllr A Varley echoed Cllr J Toye’s comments and agreed that this was a very good application. He thanked the case officer for their report and presentation to the Committee. Cllr A Varley stated that affordable housing was fundamental in ensuring communities can continue to thrive, especially during the housing crisis. He commended the environmental credentials of the application and use of screening mitigations and wild meadow which would enhance biodiversity, use of air source heat pumps, provision of EV charging points, and agreed that the provision and use of the solar panels illustrated should be conditioned.


xxii.        Cllr A Fitch-Tillett stated that within her Ward, Northreeps was benefiting from a similar scheme, which she had attended a site visit for. She assured Cllr Mancini-Boyle that Broadland Housing were operating to the best of their ability in respect of passive housing and had been experimenting in Northreeps on such schemes.


xxiii.        Cllr L Vickers added her support to the application which would add vital affordable housing for local families. She agreed with Cllr M Hankins that she would not wish to see the application fail by consequence of the tight 4-month S106 agreement turnaround. Without anticipating the Sheringham road application, she hoped that common sense would be applied in the application of planning policy.


xxiv.        The ADP advised, with respect to S106 obligations and the wording of the conditions was that the application ‘could’ be refused if no progress was made within 4 months, but that onus would be placed on the ADP to take a view whether process was likely to be made to reach a successful conclusion relatively shortly thereafter. Assuming that the application was agreed and the S106 agreement not completed in 4 months, but that work was ongoing in the right direction and would be completed within the next week or so, then he would not be minded to refuse the application just because it had gone past the 4 month deadline.


xxv.        Cllr C Ringer noted that earlier iterations of the scheme had the homes located elsewhere on the field which would open the possibility up for more homes. He affirmed that the key thing was ensuring the delivery of the 5 dwellings and in granting planning permission.


xxvi.        Cllr M Hankins thanked the ADP for his clarification and offered his support for the application.


xxvii.        Cllr A Varley seconded the Officers recommendation for approval.




That Planning application PF/23/1065 be APPROVED in accordance with the Officers recommendation.

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