Agenda item

Planning application - MC/19/0336 - Gibraltar Farm, Ham Lane, Hempstead, Gillingham

Lordswood and Capstone


Outline Application (with all matters reserved except access) for the erection of up to 450 market and affordable dwellings, nursery and supporting retail space up to 85sqm, with provision of main access to Ham Lane; estate roads; cycle and pedestrian routes; residential and community open space and landscaping; new junction for Lidsing Road/Hempstead Road and realignment and widening of Lidsing Road. Off site related highway works to Westfield Sole Road, Shawstead Road, Hempstead Road, Chapel Lane, Hempstead Valley Drive, Hoath Way roundabout, Hoath Way and M2 Junction 4.





The Head of Planning outlined the planning application in detail and reminded the Committee of the planning history for this site. He explained that there was an extant outline planning permission covering much of the current site under reference MC/18/0556 for the development of up to 450 market and affordable dwellings with associated access, estate roads and residential open space granted by the Council on 26 September 2018. This 2018 planning permission had been a renewal of an outline planning permission granted under reference MC/14/2395 which had originally been refused planning permission by the Council but subsequently granted permission through the appeal process by the Secretary of State on 6 April 2017 following a call-in and a public inquiry.


He explained that the access arrangement for the planning permission granted in 2018 relied on primary access to and from the site from North Dane Way in the Lordswood area but to date, access to the site had not been secured as part of the access would need to cross land that was not within the applicant's ownership. The section of land in question was owned by the Council and, the Council had declined to sell the land to the applicant to achieve access to the site. Therefore, the 2018 planning permission was not able to be implemented at this time. As such the 2018 planning permission did not constitute a fall back position as there was no realistic possibility of it being implemented.


In considering the current planning application, the Head of Planning informed the Committee that the Council was under a legal duty of consistency which meant that the Council had to have regard to previous relevant decisions and whilst the Council was free to reach a decision that differed from those decisions before doing so, it was required to have regard to the importance of the duty of consistency and to give reasons for any departure from them. Therefore, in this case, in light of that duty, the previous grants of permission at Gibraltar Farm under MC/14/2395 and MC/18/0556 and in particular, the rationale for those grants of permission were a material consideration in the assessment of the current planning application.


The Committee was advised that the current application was for a similar proposal to that allowed under the extant planning permission but with an alternate access arrangement, now seeking sole motorised vehicular access to and from the site from Ham Lane/Lidsing Road in the Hempstead area.


The application also proposed access by a footway and cycleway link to and from the Lordswood area along the route of the existing Public Right of Way RC29 which was a Bridleway Open to All Traffic. Whilst this link would not be for adoption as public highway, Section 278 works were proposed to link the privately maintained footway/cycleway to the adopted highway footway/cycleway network but no vehicular connection to the site was proposed from Lordswood in the current submission.


The revised access proposals had resulted in an enlargement of the application site boundary over that of MC/18/0556 and the current application site boundary now also included Hall Wood.


Other key differences between the current application and the previous permission MC/18/0556 were outlined as set out on page 53 of the report.


The Head of Planning informed the Committee that in considering this planning application, there were a number of material considerations to be taken into account, details of which had been set out in detail within the report, including the fact that this application would deliver 450 new homes and the Council had yet to demonstrate a supply of specific deliverable sites sufficient to provide a minimum five years worth of housing against its housing requirement as required by paragraph 73 of the National Planning Policy Framework.


However, in considering this application the Head of Planning drew attention to the fact that the proposed access by footway and cycleway link to and from the Lordswood area was essential to make the development sustainable and therefore in compliance with the principle of sustainable development in the National Planning Policy Framework and would cross an area of local landscape importance through ancient woodland. With the aid of photographs of the woodland area, the Head of Planning advised that to enable this access to be acceptable for use by anyone all year round, the access would need to be surfaced and lit so as to be safe, secure and usable. Discussions had taken place with the applicant but the lighting proposals submitted were to a standard P6 as being suited to a byway and were therefore not considered suitable as the Council would require the access to be lit to a standard of P4 for residential. This level of lighting would require provision of services and lighting poles and the lighting levels would create serious harm to the ecology and habitat of the ancient woodland, including the bat population of the wooded area.


The Head of Planning advised that part of the application site was located in Maidstone Borough Council’s area and he informed the Committee of that Council’s consideration of the application.


He also referred to the various other highways works that would be required in the surrounding area which were set out in detail in the report.


Attention was drawn to the supplementary agenda advice sheet circulated prior to the meeting which set out the following additional information:


  • An update in respect to the granting by Maidstone Borough Council of planning permission 19/500765/OUT – referred to through the committee report.
  • A summary of two additional objections received since despatch of the agenda.
  • A summary of one further letter of objection sent direct to the Chairman which had been circulated in full to all Members of the Planning Committee.
  • Correspondence from the applicant’s agent along with items appended to the supplementary agenda advice sheet along with officers’ response to the issues raised.  

·         Further correspondence from the applicant’s agent and the officers’ response.

·         Updates to the planning appraisal and conclusions and planning balance sections of the report.


The Committee discussed the additional information circulated noting the agent’s request for consideration of the planning application to be deferred to allow for consultation on the items provided on 24 December 2020 concerning lighting and trees but were satisfied that the officer’s presentation had been thorough and had covered all elements of the application and the additional information submitted and therefore decided to determine the application at this meeting.


With the agreement of the Committee, Councillors Rodney Chambers OBE as the Ward Councillor for Hempstead and Wigmore and Councillors Wildey and Jarrett as Ward Councillors for Lordswood and Capstone addressed the Committee and outlined the following summarised concerns:


  • This site was not identified for development in the 2003 Medway Local Plan, the Strategic Land Assessment 2019 or the emerging Local Plan.
  • This application would cause more harm than that already approved in 2018 due to the proposed footway and cycleway link which would involve access through ancient woodland from the site to Lordswood.
  • The proposed vehicular access to the site through Hempstead is unacceptable as this is already a busy vehicular route and traffic calming measures would cause chaos and inconvenience.
  • The site is a green lung for the densely populated urban areas of Gillingham and Chatham.
  • This development would place pressure on local schools and GP surgeries
  • The proposed footway and cycleway access to Lordswood from the site would involve access across Council owned land.


The Committee discussed the report having regard to the detailed presentation by the Head of Planning and the views expressed by the Ward Councillors and it was noted that land ownership was not a material planning consideration.


The Committee also had regard to the level of representation to this planning application including those submitted by Boxley Parish Council and Ward Councillors from Boxley Ward in Maidstone.


In response to a question, the Head of Planning informed the Committee that the proposed footway and cycleway link on Lidsing Road/Hempstead Road would be located on the Council owned side of the road and was considered by officers to be ‘desirable’ but not ‘essential’. However, the Committee was requested to determine whether they would consider this link to be ‘essential’ or ‘desirable’. If determined as essential, the Committee would need to approve a Grampian condition to require that it be provided.




a)            Refused on the grounds set out in the report.


b)            The footway/cycleway link to Hempstead be classified as ‘desirable’.

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