Agenda item

Application DM/2023/00592 - Erection of 1 x 2-bedroom detached dwelling. Pathways, Vinegar Hill, Undy, Caldicot


We considered the report of the application and late correspondence which was recommended for approval subject to the conditions outlined in the report and subject to a S106 Legal Agreement.


This application is a duplicate of application DM/2022/01193 which was refused due to concerns over highway safety. The decision was subsequently appealed, and the application was considered by the Planning and Environment Decisions Wales (PEDW). The appeal was dismissed on the 18th April 2023. The Inspector considered the reason for refusal, highway safety, and concluded that while that issue would not have warranted refusal of permission, "the harm and policy conflict associated with the absence of a completed legal agreement to secure affordable housing provision" was sufficient reason to dismiss the appeal.


The local Member for Magor East with Undy, also a Planning Committee Member, expressed concern that the Planning Inspector had not been provided with the adopted Highway Design Standard Policy due to an oversight with the Local Planning Department. It was considered that if the Planning Inspector had received this information, then he would have been able to make a better assessment of the safety issues relating to the highway in respect of this application. It would have given more weight to local residents’ case.


In response, the Head of Placemaking, Housing, Highways and Flooding informed the Committee:


·         It was an oversight that the adopted Highway Design Standard Policy had not been provided to the Planning Inspector. However, it was noted that this document has never been requested by an Inspector. Significant advice had been provided to the Inspector by Highways Officers, as well as providing him with access to the Planning Committee’s minutes and the recording of the Planning Committee meeting. The Inspector would have also undertaken a site inspection.


·         It was noted that the Inspector could request additional information during his proceedings but had not done so on this occasion.


·         The guidance referred to is not Monmouthshire County Council Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) but is used by all authorities across Wales.


Mrs. S. Lloyd, objecting to the application, attended the meeting by invitation of the Chair and outlined the following points:


·         This application is the third attempt to add another house onto the Green Infrastructure (GI) approved under a previous application on the wider site. That application originally included this third house but was removed due to overdevelopment concerns.


·         The objector considered that this was gross abuse of the planning system and if approved will set an unacceptable precedent to developers that they can overcome over development concerns by putting green infrastructure on sites getting them approved then applying separately to build on that GI.


·         The north elevation windows look directly onto a 2.5 metre retaining wall.


·         The south elevation contains only two slit windows.


·         The house is only 15 metres from the rear habitable rooms of Walnut House but due to the steep site the floor level is four metres higher and the ridge height 10 metres higher. It will have a grossly overbearing effect on the amenity of Walnut House.


·         The garden has limited usable space mainly taken up by rain gardens and conifer trees. This was considered not to be place making.


·         The access to the site narrows to only 2.8 metres bounded by high walls. The onsite road reduces to only 2 metres. There is a tight line bend at the entrance to the site with an unprotected drop of 2.5 metres.


·         No Swept Path Analysis has been conducted and larger vehicles cannot negotiate the bend.


·         Construction supplies are to be brought into the site by tractor and trailer which will be off loaded outside the property Firbank causing a risk to their safety.


·         The Fire Authority has not undertaken a site visit and there are no footpaths in the area.


·         The appeal Inspector concludes that the proposal does not give rise to the harmful effects on highway safety. It is unclear why the inspector states that it is acceptable for pedestrians with young children or wheelchair users to seek refuge on the steeply sloping rain gardens and small grass verges, with the swale on one side and a steep drop on the other side.


·         There are no verges on the approach to the site.


·         The local Planning Authority’s reason for refusal on highways grounds was that it was non-compliant with Policy MV1 which states that development will not be permitted that fails to provide a safe and easy access for road users and that development will be expected to satisfy the adopted highway design guide.


·         The local Planning Authority did not provide the Inspector with the adopted Highway Design Standard Policy; therefore, he was unable to support that statement. Also, the Inspector did not receive any information regarding the retaining wall.


·         This site has major issues that have never been addressed. The objector asked the Committee not to compound these issues by approving another house on this unsuitable site.


·         The application was considered to contribute to overdevelopment of the site, it has an overbearing effect on Walnut House and has an unsafe road.  Concern was expressed that a fatal road traffic accident could occur at this location.


·         It was considered that the application does not comply with many local and national polices.


·         It was considered that there has been a catalogue of inadequacies. The original application was approved without a site visit from the Highways Authority or the Planning Committee. The objector stated that the reason provided was due to time and cost.


·         The refusal notice for the first drop-in application was issued under delegated powers even though the ward member had requested that the matter be considered at Planning Committee. It was considered that this was a process breach and was unlawful.


·         The appeal Inspector was not provided with the adopted Highways Design guidance to assess compliance of Policy MV1 due to an oversight. It was considered that it was unlikely that the Inspector would have supported the right of the local Planning Authority to use its own adoptive standards to assess compliance against its Local Development Plan (LDP) policies and upheld the refusal.


·         The objector considered that the Local Planning Authority was confused as to what its adopted Highway design guide is. It was considered that the Local Planning Authority does not understand the fair dealing clause in copyright law resulting in the objector’s objection to the application not being published on the planning portal for nine days.


·         Not all Planning Committee members attend site visits. Only half of the Committee attended the site visit for this application. It was considered that the Local Government Association states that a Member can only take part in the debate and voting if they have also attended the site visit so that all Members have access to all information to determine an application fairly.


In response, the Head of Placemaking, Housing, Highways and Flooding informed the Committee:


·         There is no guidance that states Planning Committee Members are required to attend a site visit before they can vote on an application. Monmouthshire County Council holds a site visit for every planning application considered by Committee. However, most local authorities undertake site visits on request.


·         The initial application had been determined in the correct manner.


The Development Services Manager informed the Committee:


·         There should not be any overlooking onto Walnut House from windows due to the orientation of the proposed new dwelling away from Walnut House.


·         There is also sufficient distance between the proposed new dwelling and Walnut House.  There is in the region of 20 metres between the main elevations of each property and it is off set. There is also vegetation at the rear which will grow to add further screening.  The lack of windows in this elevation would mean that any potential relationship between the two properties could be managed.


·         The two proposed properties are fair and reasonable dwellings and the landscaping proposed has exceeded the Green Infrastructure requirements to serve these plots.


The applicant did not wish to exercise their right of reply.


Having considered the report of the application and the views expressed, the following points were noted:


·         The impact of the development on Vinegar Hill will have no material effect on the road.  The road safety issues raised go beyond this application which needs to be considered from a road safety / active travel aspect. This matter needs to be discussed separately from this application.


·         Traffic vehicle movements can be complex and generally relate to large developments whereby National Guidance is used to assess trip movements. This data gives an indication of the number of movements likely to be generated.  The South East Wales model also identifies      traffic movements and where and when the peak movements are likely to be.  With regard to this application, additional vehicle movements are likely to be relatively few. 


·         With regard to the potential for vehicles dropping onto the property it was noted that there is a retaining wall to be built between the driveway and the new property. However, the road is relatively narrow so vehicles are likely to be travelling at no more than 20mph so should be able to avoid driving over the sloping ground. A private drive will be constructed to facilitate access for the private dwellings.  It is the responsibility for all users to ensure that they drive to the appropriate environment.


·         An additional condition could be added requiring boundary treatments with a view to containing the slope.


The local Member summed up as follows:


·         The access is too narrow to allow the delivery of materials for the proposed development.


·         A heavy goods vehicle would be unable to make deliveries via the narrow entrance.


·         The narrow entrance needs to be improved along Vinegar Hill, going forward.


·         The local Members for this area receive the concerns of local residents regarding road safety issues on a daily basis.


·         The safety of children travelling to school along this route is paramount.  Therefore, the local Member would not be able to support this application.


The Head of Placemaking, Housing, Highways and Flooding informed the Committee that the Traffic and Road Safety Team was looking at this area in terms of the potential for providing a weight or width limit along this route which would limit certain vehicles travelling through this area. However, access to properties for such vehicles would still be permitted. Residents access only could also be looked at by the Traffic and Road Safety Team.


It was proposed by County Councillor J. Butler and seconded by County Councillor M. Powell that application DM/2023/00592 be approved subject to the conditions outlined in the report and subject to a S106 Legal Agreement. Also, that an additional condition be added requiring boundary treatments with a view to containing the slope.


Upon being put to the vote the following votes were recorded:


For approval             -           8

Against approval      -           4

Abstentions               -           1


The proposition was carried.


We resolved that application DM/2023/00592 be approved subject to the conditions outlined in the report and subject to a S106 Legal Agreement. Also, that an additional condition be added requiring boundary treatments with a view to containing the slope.

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