Agenda item

Continuation of Use of Land as Residential Gypsy Site Accommodating 9 Families on 7 Pitches, with a Total of 13 Caravans (No More Than 7 Static Caravans) and Retention of 3 No. Amenity Blocks and Erection of 1 No. Additional Amenity Block at Dollar Park, Bagillt Road, Holywell (053163)


            That planning permission be granted subject to the conditions detailed in the report of the Chief Officer (Planning and Environment) and the additional condition requested in the late observations and subject to the Committee considering the wording for the amendment to condition 1 at the next meeting of the Committee. 


The Committee considered the report of the Chief Officer (Planning and Environment) in respect of this application which had been the subject of a site visit on 18 January 2016.  The usual consultations had been undertaken and the responses received detailed in the report.  Additional comments received since the preparation of the report were circulated at the meeting.


                        The officer detailed the background to the report and explained that the application was for a change of use to accommodate nine families on seven pitches on the site which was 0.5 hectares.  She spoke of the planning history which was detailed in the report and explained that it was a former coal yard but since 2007 had been occupied by a number of Gypsy families.  A planning application on the site was refused in 2008 and an enforcement notice was issued by the Council for unauthorised use but following an appeal on a subsequently submitted application, a temporary permission of five years was granted which was due to expire on 4 February 2016.  This application had been submitted to continue the use and to include one extra pitch.  The officer referred to a number of late observations and explained that she was proposing that a temporary permission for a further five years be granted for named families with the additional pitch being on the site for the former play area.  A key issue in determining this application was the Inspector’s previous conclusions which were reported in paragraphs 7.25 to 7.30 and included the impact on the rural character of the area and the impact on the listed building Glyn Abbot.  The Inspector also considered the impact on the landscape and the open countryside and it was reported that prior to the occupation of the site, there were no buildings on the site and the natural regeneration of the site meant that it had a greenfield appearance and blended in with the open countryside location.  The inspector also noted that, in consideration of his determination of the appeal that the development would have a harmful effect upon the rural character of the locality and it was considered that this harm still existed in terms of this current application.  The impact on the setting of the Listed Building was reported in paragraphs 7.38 to 7.46 and concluded that this application which included an increased number of caravans would only add to the harm the location of the site caused to the setting of the Listed Building. 


                        Concerns had been raised about the number of vehicles accessing the site but Highways had no objections to the proposed development in terms of the increase in the number of pitches or the number of site occupants.  On the issue of need, the officer explained that a Gypsy & Traveller Accommodation Assessment had been published in 2012 and endorsed by Council in 2013 but only covered the period to 2016.  This identified that the need arising for Flintshire was for an additional 43 pitches in the study period.  The table at paragraph 7.55 showed that consents for 18 pitches had been granted during the study period for a  total of 29 caravans and the table at paragraph 7.51 demonstrated that all the pitches, with the exception of the site in Sandycroft, were occupied.  The Council had commissioned a Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation needs assessment beyond 2016 but it was evident that some level of quantitative need still existed in Flintshire.  The officer explained that the ages of the children and medical conditions of those on the site were reported in the late observations and it was therefore considered that the personal circumstances to grant a temporary permission in line with the decision of the appeal Inspector still existed.  There was currently no alternative site for the families to be directed to and therefore the officer was recommending a temporary permission for a further five years as it was realistic that the Local Development Plan (LDP) would have advanced and would have allowed time for other sites to come forward. 


                        Mr. A. Jayes spoke against the application.  In referring to the planning history of the site, he said that previous determinations of the site had indicated that a permanent permission was an inappropriate use of the site.  He commented on previous applications that had been refused on appeal and highlighted the specific issue of the suitability of the site which had been addressed by the Inspector in consideration of the appeal.  The Inspector had felt that it would create significant harm to the character of the area and to the setting of the nearby listed building Glyn Abbot and gave rise to the degree of harm to the living conditions of nearby properties.  The Inspector had concluded that the proposal for the use of the site on a permanent basis would cause significant harm and was therefore inappropriate and did not consider temporary permission.  Approval for five years had only been recommended because of the need for Gypsy and Traveller Sites but Mr. Jayes said that there was no indication of why the temporary permission should be for five years.                   


            Councillor Gareth Roberts proposed the recommendation for approval which was duly seconded.  He thanked the officer for her comprehensive report but expressed caution at the recommendation of approval as the Inspector had indicated that a permanent use of the site was unsuitable.  Five years had initially been suggested by the Inspector as it had been anticipated that the LDP would have been adopted by 2015.  He felt that the LDP would progress to adoption within the further five year period of temporary permission recommended by the officer and could allow other sites to come forward during that time.  He said that he was not happy to make the recommendation but in expressing his frustration, he felt that in the circumstances this was a realistic approach. 


            In querying who was responsible for policing the site to ensure that those named in the application were living on the site, Councillor Derek Butler also sought clarification on reviewing the temporary nature of the site.  Councillor Chris Bithell referred to the comprehensive report and quoted in detail from the report of the Inspector on previous appeal decisions.  He felt that the proposal did not comply with local or national policy but had been triggered by Human Rights legislation for Gypsies and Travellers, which he suggested was unequal for other applicants who had been refused permission on developments in the open countryside.  He expressed significant concern that the application was not a renewal of an application or the same as the application that had been permitted by the Inspector on appeal as the number of pitches had increased.  The original permission had been for five years and he felt that if this application was also permitted for five years, totalling ten years, then it could result in a permanent site in the open countryside which he felt would grow naturally.  Councillor Bithell also raised concerns about how Gypsy and Traveller applications were treated and added that Flintshire had provided a large number of sites compared to other authorities but was still being required to provide more.  He felt that if the application was refused, then the applicant would appeal the decision. 


            In referring to the application, Councillor Richard Jones queried whether the fact that a further five years temporary permission was being recommended meant that the site was more probable to become permanent.  He queried whether allowing a further five years, giving a total of ten years, would set a precedent.  The Housing and Planning Solicitor advised that the application was requesting permanent permission but a condition was being recommended for a five year temporary permission.  He added that there was no legal basis for a temporary permission for a further five years to set a precedent for a permanent permission.


            Councillor Mike Peers noticed the reluctance to support approval of the application because of the policies in place and said that if a decision was appealed it may end in the same result as five years ago with the Inspector giving consideration to when the LDP may be adopted.  He referred to the growth of the site and suggested that if it was supported, then it could be conditioned that any further growth on the site could not take place and that if the named individuals left, then the pitches were not re-occupied.


            Councillor Carol Ellis referred to the request for a permanent permission in place of the temporary permission granted by the Inspector and the condition to permit it for a further five years which would then mean that the site had been in place for ten years.  She added that the site was also being extended during the period of permission and felt that the site could grow further.  Councillor Ellis said that the decision went against policy as stated by the Inspector and that there were no sites in Denbighshire or other areas.  She suggested that the application should be refused to allow the applicant to appeal and for Inspectors to make the decision.


            Councillor Paul Shotton commented on paragraph 7.63 which referred to the justified use of temporary permissions for short term buildings or uses because it was expected that the planning circumstances would change in a particular way at the end of that period.  He agreed that setting a temporary permission would allow development of the LDP for alternative sites to come forward and be identified.  He also noted the Inspector’s comments in paragraph 7.29 that cessation of the current use would result in the present occupants returning to a transient roadside or similar existence.  


            In response to the comments made, on the issue of the policing of the site, the officer said that the Inspector had indicated that the applicant and their resident dependents could live on the site.  She said that it was not feasible to take a register of who was on the site each day but assurance was given that those living on the site would be those named in the application.  She added that it was difficult to contain household growth but added that if residents moved off the site and others wanted to move onto the site, then a variation of  condition to change the names would need to be submitted and consideration would need to be given as to whether they were resident dependents.  The applicant had always asked for a permanent permission on the site but the Inspector had felt that a temporary permission was appropriate because of the impact on the character of the area and the listed building.  This application was a request to change some of the families on the site and increase the number of pitches, but the proposals were still within the same site area and were using the vacant play area as an additional plot.  The request was for a permanent permission but it was being recommended that a temporary permission for five years was more appropriate. 


            Councillor Bithell asked whether it was possible to include as part of the condition that if alternative sites became available during the five year period, that the permission would then cease and the families would move onto the designated site.  He felt that once the LDP was adopted, the need for temporary sites would be eradicated.  This proposal was duly seconded.  The Development Manager confirmed that, together with the Housing and Planning Solicitor, he would look at the possibility of wording the condition as suggested by Councillor Bithell but added that the suggestion by Councillor Peers to condition no further growth on the site could not be included.  However, he added that any further growth on the site would require submission of another planning application.


            In response the Housing and Planning Solicitor provided clarification on the planning tests that needed to be considered when attaching conditions to planning permission but raised concern over the certainty of the condition proposed. .  Councillor Bithell commented on the expectation that the residents would move to a site allocated in the LDP when it was available, but said that if the LDP did not move forward within the five year period, then the proposal could stand for the temporary five year period.  He suggested that officers could provide wording for consideration by the Committee at its next meeting.    


            Councillor Jones queried whether Council Tax was levied on temporary permissions and who would pay for the removal of the hardcore once the residents left the site.  He was advised by the Chairman that the issue of Council Tax was not a planning consideration.  The Development Manager said that on a temporary permission, there was a standard condition that the site should be restored to its original state at the end of the permission and that this would be at the expense of the applicant. 


            Councillor Marion Bateman sought clarification on whether the applications would be able to stay on the site for longer if the LDP was not ratified within the next five years. 


            In summing up, Councillor Roberts said that if the application was refused, then he was certain that the applicant would appeal the decision and case history suggested that the Inspector could decide to grant permanent permission.  He felt that two issues had to be fulfilled which were that the LDP had to be in place within five years and that there were sufficient authorised pitches available.  He felt that approval of a temporary permission was appropriate. 


            The Chairman reminded the Committee that the proposal was for the officer recommendation of approval with the amendment proposed by Councillor Bithell and that the suggested wording of the condition be submitted to the next meeting of the Committee for consideration.                                                         




            That planning permission be granted subject to the conditions detailed in the report of the Chief Officer (Planning and Environment) and the additional condition requested in the late observations and subject to the Committee considering the wording for the amendment to condition 1 at the next meeting of the Committee. 

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