The Head of Planning referred to the report and slide handout previously supplied to the Committee.
The Head of Planning read verbatim the written statements that had been received from the following person:
Mr Hankins (Residents’ Association) (supporting)
Councillor E Seward, local Member, referred to the amount of local support for this application and stated that he was not aware of any local opposition. He considered that the overriding material consideration was that approval of this application would allow residents to live permanently at the park. It would remove a potential homeless situation for 30 older residents, some of whom had challenging health issues, and the removal of the uncertainty would improve their health and wellbeing. The situation had arisen as they had been led to believe by the previous owners of the park that they could live permanently at the site. The future viability of the park was likely to be based on permanent residents as well as tourists. He referred to comments by the Lead Local Flood Authority that the park was susceptible to flooding. He referred to historic flooding in the area in 2008 and stated that this did not involve the Alder Valley County Park. No flooding had occurred since 2008 and there was in reality not a flooding issue in the area. He fully supported the application.
Councillor P Heinrich, local member, stated that there was a long history behind this application, particularly regarding actions of the previous owner, and there was a large number of permanent residents on site for whom it was their sole address. They had purchased the lodges in good faith with assurances that permission for permanent residence was in place. Approval would regularise the situation and would ensure many of the elderly and vulnerable residents could remain in their homes, which was particularly important given the current situation, and ensure that the site would remain sustainable and beneficial to the local economy. The site had existed in various forms and under various owners for many years, it did not cause a problem in the locality, was readily placed for access to the shops and other services and was well managed under current ownership. There had been clear assurance from the applicant that any flooding would be managed and residents relocated outside the flood zone. However, he was not aware of any flooding issues in this locality. He considered that maintenance to the trees on the site was good management. He proposed that the recommendation of the Head of Planning be supported.
Councillor N Lloyd stated that he had previously been a Member for North Walsham East Ward. He endorsed the comments of the current Ward Members. His family had experience of the site and he could confirm that there had been no incidents of flooding since the 1980s. He stated that approval of this application would remove uncertainty for the residents, and he seconded the proposal.
Councillor A Brown stated that if this were a new build proposal in an area outside the settlement boundary it would probably not be allowed. He asked why the condition was being relaxed on the whole site, and not just the units concerned or 50% of the site as suggested by the Town Council and Norfolk County Council. He asked if this was likely to lead to the loss of the site for tourism.
The Head of Planning explained that the application had come before the Committee as it was a departure from Local Plan policies SS1 and SS2. Relaxation of the condition would allow both holiday and residential uses across the site. He explained the licensing regimes that would govern the use of the units on the site and allow it to remain in mixed use, which he understood was the owner’s intention. It was not anticipated that the site would become a wholly residential site, but it would allow the existing permanent residents peace of mind.
Councillor N Pearce stated that this was an opportunity to clear up longstanding issues. Whilst he was not in favour of retrospective applications and relaxation of conditions, it was necessary to be pragmatic and consider each case on its merits, and on this basis he supported the Officer’s recommendation.
The Chairman allowed Councillor J Toye to speak on this matter. Councillor Toye asked if it was possible to require some of the units to be used for homeless accommodation or social rented housing.
The Head of Planning explained that he had discussed this matter with the applicant. The applicant was willing to promote residential use where appropriate across the site, and the units would be more affordable than open market units because of their nature. The Housing Team would continue to work with the residents on the site and would now be able to effectively grant aid any adaptations needed for people with disabilities. However, the applicant was not willing to enter into a Section 106 Agreement to secure homeless accommodation or affordable rented housing.
The Chairman suggested that it would be appropriate to increase the timescale for relocation to 24 months given the current situation.
The Head of Planning explained that the recommendation had been written prior to the Covid-19 social distancing rules and he was happy to extend the timescale under the circumstances.
The proposal by Councillor Heinrich, seconded by Councillor Lloyd was put to the vote and by a clear indication of support it was agreed that the view of the Committee was that the Head of Planning should exercise his delegated authority in accordance with his recommendation, subject to increasing the timescale for relocation to 24 months.