The Assistant Director for Planning presented the report and referred to the presentation that had been circulated to the Committee. He reported that Economic Development had no in principle objection to this application as there would be no immediate job losses, but considered that there was a lack of evidence to satisfy Policy CT3 in relation to the loss of community facilities. A viability assessment was warranted to determine suitability and evidence of marketing to demonstrate that the use of the building in this location was no longer required, or robust evidence should be provided to confirm that alternative provision of equivalent or better quality was available in the area or would be provided and made available prior to the commencement of the redevelopment of the site.
The Assistant Director for Planning recommended refusal of this application as indicated in the report.
Geoff Armstrong (supporting)
The comments of the local Member, Councillor Ms K Ward, were read to the Committee. Councillor Ms Ward supported the application as it was a brownfield site with a building that was not fit for purpose or suitable for economic renovation, the proposal would not create more traffic movements than the existing use, the proposed dwellings would not be intrusive, and the development would provide investment in the local community and employment for local trades. She disagreed with Officer comments regarding the Kelling Estate master plan, and with the planning policy assessment. She had referred to the support from the Parish Council and requested that the Committee approve this application.
Councillor J Toye stated that he had been dealing with Councillor Ward’s work during her illness. The Chairman stated that she would allow him to speak as an exception but requested that he did not indicate whether or not he supported the application as he was neither a Committee Member nor attending as a substitute.
Councillor Toye commented that this was not an empty site in the middle of the AONB. There was an ugly, poor quality building on the site which would spill light and noise into the surrounding area if occupied. He referred to the comments of the Norfolk Coast Partnership that the site was well screened and could only be glimpsed from the access road and garden centre or the North Norfolk Railway, with the existing garden centre and car park being more visible. He considered that the proposed development would be less noticeable than the current building. In his opinion, the description of the area as a wild, remote and tranquil landscape did not apply to this site, given its previous use and the adjacent garden centre with its associated traffic. He referred to the comments of the Conservation & Design Officer with regard to the design of the proposed dwellings, and to the concerns that had been raised by the applicants regarding the length of time taken to process this application. He drew attention to paragraphs in the Core Strategy and NPPF relating to housing needs and demand, economic impact and development in the AONB.
Councillor P Heinrich considered that the applicant had put forward a good case for replacing the current building with new housing. However, the Assistant Director for Planning had highlighted many issues that had been raised regarding this application. He referred to the previous uses of the site as a hotel and latterly a care home, and considered that the market housing proposed would change the character of this rural site. He considered that given the Committee’s recent refusal of an application for new housing development on a brownfield site on the edge of North Walsham, an exception could not be made for this proposal for a larger and more intrusive development in this location. He stated that this application did not comply with Policies SS1 and SS2, there were no transport links or pedestrian/cycle access to Holt, except along narrow roads, there were no facilities other than the garden centre within walking distance and this was therefore an isolated site in policy terms. Although the additional volume of traffic was small in comparison with the garden centre, the Highway Authority had raised an objection. He considered that the design of the proposed dwellings bore no relation to the local vernacular and would be out of character, with potential for significant light pollution due to the extent of glazing, and did not meet local housing need. He referred to the ecological impacts that had been highlighted, particularly with regard to bats. He suggested that a different view might be taken if the proposal were for reuse or remodelling of the existing building, but he considered that the proposed development was not appropriate for the site. He proposed the Officer’s recommendation to refuse this application.
Councillor N Lloyd considered that the proposed dwellings would provide a sustainable, eco-friendly living space, which developers should be encouraged to build given the Council’s declaration of a climate emergency. He was disappointed that there was no mitigation for bats and if approved, he requested a condition to require a full ecological report to be submitted. He considered that weight should be given to the brownfield nature of this site. The principle of development had been set by previous buildings on the site, which were rambling and aesthetically poor, and he considered that the proposed new build would enhance the landscape. He was disappointed that there was no mitigation payment or measures to encourage walking and cycling. He did not consider that this proposal would be detrimental to the Countryside given that this was a brownfield site, subject to the imposition of conditions to include those he had requested.
Councillor Mrs A Fitch-Tillett stated that she was Vice-Chairman of the Norfolk Coast Partnership. She referred to the Council’s duty to protect and enhance the AONB. She referred to the Norfolk Coast Partnership’s comments, which stated that very tight conditions should be imposed, particularly with regard to light pollution. Whilst she had sympathy with the design concerns expressed by Councillor Heinrich, she also had sympathy with Councillor Lloyd’s comments regarding the need for sustainable buildings. However, on balance she considered that the protection and enhancement of the AONB was the main consideration and if approved, she considered that visitor mitigation contributions were vital.
Councillor R Kershaw expressed concern that there was little detail regarding bats. He considered that the amount of traffic would be less than the care home use, and referred to the adjacent garden centre in terms of traffic and light pollution. He considered that the existing building was not fit for conversion and was an eyesore, and the proposed buildings would be greener and be an improvement in the AONB. He stated that the proposal would generate local employment and provide funds to allow the Kelling Estate to diversify.
Councillor A Yiasimi referred to the balance in this application. Whilst he was aware of the policy issues, bat protection and the need to consider the AONB, the proposal represented everything the Council was striving for in terms of its green credentials.
Councillor N Pearce stated that this application contravened many of the Council’s policies and referred to the issues in the report regarding protected species, highways, brownfield land and landscape impact. He agreed with the Officer’s assessment of this application.
Councillor A Brown referred to the policy issues in this case, some of which he considered could possibly be overcome if the proposal were amended. He was concerned that there was a lack of detail with regard to viability in respect of Policy CT3, and the impact of the proposed development on the nearby dark skies area. He acknowledged that the applicant’s representatives had withdrawn their comments with regard to the Council’s five year land supply, which had consistently been upheld at planning appeals. He stated that there would be no wider public realm benefits from the proposal, no affordable homes provision and he had concerns regarding the design of the dwellings. He took on board the comments made by Councillor Mrs Fitch-Tillett regarding protection of the area, and whilst he understood what the applicant was trying to achieve, he could not support the application as it stood. He seconded the proposal to refuse this application.
Councillor G Mancini-Boyle supported Councillor Brown’s comments, but applauded the applicants for their design and inclusion of green technology.
The Chairman stated that everyone appreciated that this was a difficult application, but reminded the Committee that the current Local Plan policies stood until its replacement came into force.
On being put to the vote, it was
RESOLVED by 10 votes to 4
That this application be refused in accordance with the recommendation of the Assistant Director for Planning.