Recommendation: Conditional approval subject to legal agreement
Councillors Chris Bowring, Gary Cowan and Rachelle Shepherd-DuBey declared prejudicial interests relating to this item and took no part in the discussion or vote.
Proposal: Full application for the proposed erection of a two storey detached building to provide 70 no. bedroom hotel accommodation ancillary to spa (Use Class C1) incorporating replacement gym, ancillary facilities and outside swimming pool, with associated car parking and soft landscaping, following demolition of existing 'Pulse 8' gym building.
Applicant: Mr S Barley
The Committee received and reviewed a report, set out in agenda pages 5 to 42.
The Committee were advised that the Members’ Update included:
· Various amendments to conditions 3, 14, 20, 21, 22 and 25;
· A verbal update, not included within the published Members’ Update, to state that recommendation A be amended to: A) Completion of a legal agreement within three months, unless a longer date is agreed by the Planning Service Manager and Chairman of Planning Committee, to secure an Employment Skills Plan, and……
In line with the given deadlines, two public written submissions were received for this item. These submissions were circulated to Members in advance, and noted on the evening. The submissions as provided can be found below.
Emily Temple Agent, provided the following submission in support of the application. “Thank you Chairman, and good evening.
The application before you seeks ancillary overnight accommodation to serve the existing Nirvana Spa. The proposal comes as a result of a few factors; 1) combining on site gym facilities with the spa to ensure ongoing viability, as the existing ‘Pulse 8’ gym membership was not sufficient to sustain the enterprise. 2) Widening the market appeal of the very successful spa, especially the bespoke salt water treatments and rehabilitation programmes, and 3) retain and increase local employment opportunities.
The current proposals are the result of extensive pre-application discussions with planning officers, responding to their advice in both the design and suite of technical and environment reports submitted. This includes replacement gym floor area so there is no net reduction from ‘Pulse 8’; a two storey height (plus basement) to better reflect the lower ridge of the existing spa complex, and design detailing such as the arched windows, to reflect existing.
To be clear, this is not a stand-alone ‘hotel’ development. It is not for independent weddings or conferences, and the proposed floorplans should provide reassurance of this. The existing spa already provides ancillary dining to members, and the proposed café and restaurant are an extension of these facilities for those who book to stay overnight to use the spa facilities.
Parking layouts have been revised to accommodate increased numbers, whilst maintaining safe flow and pedestrian safety around the site. Deliveries are now accessed from an existing entrance off Harrow Way, eliminating turning and waiting in front of existing residential properties. This, combined with the movement of built development away from the boundary fence, and an enhanced building design when compared with the existing gym, offers an enhancement to local residential amenity.
A suite of technical and environmental reports address a range of policy requirements. A series of conditions as recommended by officers is agreed to, and will ensure the proper management of the site as well as health, safety and residential amenity during the demolition and construction phases. A legal agreement will secure the applicant’s commitment to an employment skills plan.
I hope this is reassuring. We trust that the scheme presented reflects officer advice and guidance and addresses development plan policy requirements. It’s therefore respectfully requested your officer’s recommendation be supported today.
Prue Bray, Ward Member, provided the following statement which sought clarification on aspects of the proposed scheme. “This application is a marked improvement over the previous one which was refused, especially with the reduction in height and the less monolithic design of the building. I see that officers are now satisfied that the application will not result in increased light or noise pollution for residents.
Given the information provided with the application and the changes made in response to the previous refusal, it is hard to see that there are grounds for refusal. However, I would like to raise 3 things.
Condition 17 governs the use of the rooftop garden and makes it clear that it cannot be accessed between 9 pm and 11 am. Is it possible to change the wording of the condition slightly so that it also prevents any lighting being on in the rooftop garden between those times?
There is reference to a Construction Plan. I am fairly confident the plan will not allow construction traffic to use Harrow Way for access, but please could I have reassurance that that lorries will not be parking in Harrow Way either.
Is it possible to get clarification on who will be able to use the gym facilities in the hotel? These are significantly bigger than what was proposed in the last application, when the gym appeared to be only for the use of hotel guests. This report says in paragraph 16 that the gym would not be open to the general public, but that it would be “private member facilities”. I have looked at the planning application but I can’t find an explanation of what that means. Please could we have some clarity: will local people be able to join that gym and use the facilities, as they did with Pulse8, whose loss is greatly mourned in the community, or will its use be confined to hotel guests and members of Nirvana?”
Members were asked in turn for any comments or queries on this application. Specific comments or queries are summarised below.
Simon Weeks commented that this application was a revised scheme for a previously refused application, and this application sought to address the previous reasons for refusal. Simon queried whether the current access arrangements off of Harrow Way would be maintained under the proposed scheme. Kayleigh Mansfield, case officer, confirmed that the current access arrangements would be maintained, whereby these access point would only be used by staff, delivery vehicles and emergency vehicles.
Stephen Conway commented that he was grateful that condition 17 had been amended, and queried who would be able to use the gym facilities from the local area. Kayleigh Mansfield stated that those who wished to use the gym facilities would be required to join the spa membership, as the gym was exclusive to spa members and hotel users.
Stephen Conway asked for officer comment on the possibility of a terracing effect, compared to the current buildings, from the given proposals. Kayleigh Mansfield stated that there had been amendments to the design proposals from the previously refused scheme, including reductions of the heights of the buildings. In addition, the designs would now appear more broken up and less monolithic. Officers felt that the design proposals were suitable.
Pauline Jorgensen asked for clarification that the sequential test relating to hotels and gyms had taken into account all local town centres. Kayleigh Mansfield stated that the report had meant to refer to centres, and not a singular centre. The proposals would attract customers from outside of the Wokingham Borough to come and use the facilities, thereby reducing any impact on hotels and gyms in the local area. As a result, the planning policy team was now in support of the proposals.
Abdul Loyes sought confirmation that the proposals were suitable and sustainable in terms of flood negation, and whether the transport statement was fully compliant with policy. Kayleigh Mansfield confirmed that the proposals were sustainable against flooding. Judy Kelly, Highways Development Manager, stated that the transport statement was fully up to date and in accordance with policy.
Andrew Mickleburgh queried whether the parking proposals were sufficient to cope with the increased number of new staff, whether it could be conditioned to state the exact amount of trees to be planted on site, and whether the site was intending to use an environmentally friendly alternative to gas. Judy Kelly stated that the car parking condition was primarily due to securing provision of electric vehicle charging bays on site. The number of parking spaces met the standards for hotel and gym use. The car park accumulation survey had estimated that approximately 135 spaces were not currently in use at the busiest time, and therefore the proposed 81 additional spaces would provide ample parking. Kayleigh Mansfield clarified that there was due to be a net increase of trees, and additional details would be provided within the landscaping plans. Justin Turvey, Operational Manager – Development Management, stated that restricting the use of gas on site would be unreasonable, as there was no specific planning policy to make such provisions.
Malcolm Richards queried whether staff and other workers would be able to use the roof in the evening, for example to undertake repairs. Kayleigh Mansfield stated that the wording would be changed to include the restriction of staff and contract workers from the roof area during the evening time. Any maintenance work would have to be carried out during normal business hours.
RESOLVED That application number 193339 be approved, subject to conditions and informatives as set out in agenda pages 6 to 14, various amendments to conditions 3, 14, 20, 21, 22 and 25 as set out in the Members’ Update, rewording of recommendation A as verbally updated by the case officer, and clarification that staff and contractors were not to use the roof area outside of business hours.