Temporary change of use (until 31 October 2021) to a grounds maintenance depot involving the parking of vehicles/grounds maintenance equipment and 17 shipping containers for storage, parking for workers and ancillary office use of the first floor of the former clubhouse together with the parking of minibuses.
The Head of Planning outlined the planning application in detail and informed the Committee that this application related to a temporary change of use until 31 October 2021.
He explained the background to this application and the applicant’s requirement to find a site for use as a grounds maintenance depot at short notice. He confirmed that the applicant was fully aware that this was not a long term solution and officers were working with the applicant to identify a site for long term use beyond 31 October 2021.
He stated that the current site, whilst not ideal, was located away from residential properties and therefore had limited impact other than to a small number of properties in Dux Court Road. In addition, the use of the land and Clubhouse at Deangate Golf Club provided a level of security for the unused facilities on site.
With the agreement of the Committee, Councillor Sands addressed the Committee as Ward Councillor and raised the following concerns:
· This current planning application is another example of the betrayal of the local community over the use of Deangate Golf Club.
· This area of land is designated open space and is an asset of community value as it is located adjacent to Chattenden Woods and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and protected in the Local Plan.
· The use of the land as a grounds maintenance depot will cause harm and has already resulted in the felling of trees.
· Alternative sites have been rejected owing to cost but no information is available as to the site assessments that have been undertaken.
· Temporary use could create a precedent.
· This is a retrospective planning application and had the applicant not been a Council contractor, the Council would have taken enforcement action to remove them from the site.
· The contractors vehicles and predominantly diesel which is adding to the air pollution in an area where there is already a recognised pollution problem now covered by the Four Elms Hill Air Quality Management Plan.
The Committee discussed the application, noting that the applicant had moved onto the site in July 2019 without the benefit of planning permission.
Concern was expressed that the location of a grounds maintenance depot at this site had contributed to an increased number of vehicle movements, which were predominantly diesel engines in the area which is already recognised as requiring action to reduce pollution.
It was also considered that when bidding for contracts, it was the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that it has provision in place to fulfil the contract.
However, in noting the current position, it was recognised that should the planning application be refused, the applicant could appeal the decision which would be a lengthy process which could possibly take until October 2021 to be concluded. Likewise, if the Council wished to take enforcement action against the non-authorised use, this would also be a lengthy process.
During discussions, the Committee was informed that although the unauthorised use of the site was not ideal, as the applicant was now aware that use of the site required planning permission and had therefore made application, it was now for this Committee to determine the planning application. It was accepted that the site was not suitable long term and this was the reason why temporary use was being recommended up to 31 October 2021. In the meantime action was being taken to identify an alternative site for the contractor to relocate as soon as possible.
The Head of Planning in noting the concerns expressed by local residents, the Ward Councillor and the Committee, suggested that if the Committee was minded to approved the application for temporary use, an informative could be added stating that the Committee is not minded to approve any extension for the use beyond 31 October 2021.
Approved subject to conditions 1 - 5 as set out in the report for the reasons stated in the report and the addition of the following informative:
The applicant be advised that the Committee has concerns regarding the use of this land for the siting of a grounds maintenance depot based on the information supplied and does not support any future extension of the temporary planning permission beyond 31 October 2021.