Agenda item

Application no 170264 - Land East of Finchampstead Road, Finchampstead North, Wokingham, RG40 3HE

Recommendation:  Approval


Proposal: Full application for the proposed change of use of land to Suitable Alternative natural greenspace (SANG) with associated landscape works and parking.


Applicant: Gladman Developments


The Committee originally heard this application on 14 June 2017, whereupon it was proposed that it be deferred until the Committee had visited the site.  The Committee received and reviewed an addendum to the report about this application, set out in Agenda pages 11 to 34.


There were no further updates on this item.  Members had visited the site on 7 July 2017.


Imogen Shepherd-Dubey, Wokingham Town Council, spoke against the application, stating that there was a clear link between the proposed Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) and future housing developments in the area.  She indicated that the application clearly referred to the housing developments so that it could not be argued that the two were separate.  She went on to suggest that existing evidence indicated the road could not take an increase in traffic and referred to the loss of veteran trees and the cost implication of maintaining the SANG.


Clarissa Flynn, resident, shared a presentation and spoke in opposition to the application, stating that the Council were well aware of the strong feeling in regards to this application.  She cited the National Planning Policy Framework, stating that sustainability should be put at the centre of proposals.  Previous applications regarding development in Woodcray had been relating to less extensive applications and had been denied by the Committee.  The development of a SANG in isolation was premature.  The application could not be seen in isolation from the proposed housing development as the same surveys had been used.  She requested that, if not minded to refused, the Committee defer the application until the housing development application was due to come before the Committee.


Julian McGhee-Sumner, Ward Member, spoke against the application, outlining previous decisions relating to the same stretch of land and road and the impact on traffic of any development, and citing the clear references in the application to the proposed housing development. 


In response, the Case Officer stated that further work had been carried out on veteran trees and that none would be removed.  He went on to state that there would be no maintenance cost unless the SANG was connected to a development.


Members raised a number of concerns regarding the application and its link to the proposed housing development, which would impinge on the green gap between Finchampstead and Wokingham, suggesting that the application was premature and should be held back until such time as the housing application was ready to come to Committee.  They suggested that the existence of a SANG at the time of the housing application would mean that the housing application would be more likely to be approved despite being, in their view, inappropriate in regards to sustainability, impacting the green gap and outside an established development area.


In response to Member questions, the Case Officer stated that use of open space as open space was an acceptable use of land in a green gap.  The link to the housing development was not hidden, but until that application came forward, the SANG would represent a country park.  The SANG provision would not guarantee the success of a housing application in future. 


The Head of SDL Delivery stated that the application involved using open space as publicly accessible open space.  If a housing application came forward, the applicant would need to show there was a SANG and ensure its maintenance. 


Councillor Angus Ross proposed that the application be refused on the grounds thatthe proposed SANG was designed to facilitate an unsustainable housing development on adjacent land; as such the SANG development was considered to be a premature and unsustainable form of enabling development. The proposal was therefore considered to be contrary to Core Strategy Policy CP1 and CP11.


This proposal was seconded by Councillor John Kaiser.


Resolved:  That Application no 170264 be refused on the grounds listed above.

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