Temporary change of use (until 31 October 2023) 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 and explained the background as to why the applicant was seeking an extension to a temporary change of use as a grounds maintenance depot up to 31 October 2023 at this site.
He reminded the Committee that the applicant had originally been granted temporary permission to use this site in 2019 whilst an alternative permanent site could be identified. After an extensive search for an alternative site, details of which had been set out in the report to the Committee on 18 August 2021, the applicant had subsequently secured a site in Maidstone Road, Rochester and this had been approved by this Committee in August 2021, subject to ecology matters being addressed (reference MC/21/1286). Work to prepare the site was due to commence imminently but until such time that the site was ready, the applicant was seeking a temporary 2 year extension for the current site at Deangate Ridge Golf Course.
He confirmed that once the applicant had moved off the current site and it had been cleared, the site would be reinstated.
Drawing attention to the supplementary agenda advice sheet, the Head of Planning advised that 3 additional letters of objection had been received setting out concerns already addressed within the report.
With the agreement of the Committee, Councillor Sands addressed the Committee as Ward Councillor and raised the following summarised concerns:
The Committee discussed the application and some Members expressed sympathy for the views of the Ward Councillor and suggested that it may be appropriate to defer the application and consider other alternative sites.
Concern was also expressed that to extend the use of this site as a grounds maintenance depot could put the site at risk of being designated a brownfield site at a future date and it was suggested that if the temporary extension was approved, proposed condition 1 be strengthened to require the applicant to undertake further restoration work to facilitate turning the site into a Country Park once they had vacated the site.
In considering the application, the Committee also had regard to the services provided by the applicant across the whole of Medway and the consequences should the service delivery be disrupted if the applicant was required to transfer to an alternative site until the site at Maidstone Road was ready.
The Head of Planning confirmed that the applicant did not own the land on which it was currently located that it was unreasonable in planning terms to require the applicant to do more than restore the site to its former condition once vacated. He therefore suggested that Condition 1 remain as printed in the report but that the Local Planning Authority request that the Council, in its capacity as landowner, consider doing more to aid reinstatement of the site.
The Head of Planning informed the Committee that the applicant was confident that it would vacant the current site by 31 October 2023 and following discussions, a level of contingency had also been built into this timeline. He assured the Committee that he would be constantly reviewing the situation with the applicant and offered to provide an update to the Committee in 12 months should the application be approved.
a) Approved with conditions 1 – 4 as set out in the report for the reasons stated in the report.
b) It be noted that the Head of Planning will continue to monitor the applicant’s progress in relocating to its new site and will provide an update to the Committee in 12 months time.
c) The Council, as landowner, be requested to take necessary action to ensure that the current site is reinstated upon vacation of the applicant.