Recommendation: Conditional approval
Proposal: Full application for the erection of a 1No bed two storey dwelling following demolition of existing workshop
Applicant: Mr Ray Cook
The Committee received and reviewed a report, set out in agenda pages 17 to 56.
The Committee were advised that there were no Members’ Updates.
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. A summary of the submissions can be found below.
Selena Durrant, neighbour, provided a submission objecting to the application. Selena stated that the subject application was situated towards the rear of her property, alongside her garden. Selena added that her personal view, and the view of her family, had not changed since the subject application was first submitted. Selena stated that the Twyford conservation area was unique, and included special architectural and historical aspects. Selena was of the opinion that the development of the garages was completely wrong for the conservation area, which residents and the Council should be working together to protect and maintain. Selena added that the modern design of the proposals were not in keeping with conservation area, and did not enhance the conservation area. Selena stated that any loss of parking spaces would only add to the existing poor situation in the area, creating further friction within the community which would lead to anti-social behaviour. Selena added that the close proximity of the development would encroach on her family’s right to privacy, with any owner or occupier of the proposed development being able to see directly into the rooms at the rear of her house, particularly affecting the privacy of her young son whose bedroom is at the rear of the property. Selena concluded by stating that the proposals would result in a life changing impact on her family’s lives.
Thomas Rumble, agent, provided a statement in support of the application. Thomas stated that at the March Committee, he mentioned a previous Inspector’s decision that established important parameters for how this application should be considered. Thomas added that the Inspector referred to the site’s existing negative contribution to the Twyford Station Conservation Area (‘CA’) and this brownfield site’s highly accessible and sustainable location. Thomas commented that the Inspector also identified that a contemporary design forms an approach that would be far better than a pastiche of the existing nearby buildings. Thomas stated that the Inspector had previously found two revisions that should be made to the scheme’s design, namely a glazed first floor and the first floor being realigned by half a metre to be in line with its neighbour. Thomas stated that both of these revisions were included within the scheme before the Committee. Thomas added that the Inspector did not consider the amenity space to be in conflict with the development plan or design guide. Thomas stated that the development would release a new property appropriate, for example, to a first-time buyer and removed an existing workshop use inappropriate to its surrounding residential environment. Thomas was of the opinion that refusal of this would unduly delay a scheme that is development plan compliant and appropriate in its overall design, having made revisions as suggested by the previous planning Inspector. Thomas concluded that the scheme before the Committee was a sensitive, contemporary dwelling on a brownfield site; a new property in a sustainable location; was wholly consistent with the clear advice of the Inspector; and was supported by the Borough’s planning officers.
Justin Turvey, Operational Manager – Development Management, reminded the Committee that a previous scheme was refused by the Inspector, however the Inspector had offered advice to the appellant which had now been followed. Given how clear the guidance from the Inspector had been, it would be difficult to refuse the application.
Judy Kelly, Highways Development Manager, stated that a small portion of the brick wall was proposed to be removed to improve manoeuvrability for car parking. Judy added that there were no highways concerns with this application and access would be made easier as a result of the proposals.
Members were asked in turn for any comments or queries on this application. Specific comments or queries are summarised below.
Stephen Conway commented that Wokingham Borough Council’s (WBC’s) own conservation Officer had consistently objected to all versions of this application. On that basis, having the expert advice to refer to, Stephen proposed that the application be refused on two grounds, firstly on the basis that the proposed dwelling would overlook the neighbouring dwelling, and secondly that the proposal would disturb the harmony of the street scene and would not enhance or protect the historic Twyford conservation area. Pauline Jorgensen commented that she would second this proposal.
Justin Turvey stated that the separation distance was 11.7m, where 12m was required by guidance. However, the separation distance had not changed from the previous application and it was not considered an issue by the Inspector. The flank window could be conditioned to be obscure glazed, and therefore the first proposed reason for refusal could be overcome by condition. With regards to the second proposed refusal reason, the conservation officer had objected to the previous scheme and these comments had been dismissed by the Inspector. If refused, it could be seen as unreasonable behaviour at a future appeal.
Mary Severin, Borough Solicitor, stated that officers were trying to avoid what could be seen as an unreasonable behaviour by refusing this scheme when the applicant had met the alterations to the scheme as suggested by the Inspector. It was possible that a costs application could be made against WBC in this scenario.
Pauline Jorgensen commented that it was strange to have a conservation officer’s professional opinion seemingly ignored. Pauline added that a considerable amount of obscure glass would be needed to overcome the overlooking element. Pauline queried whether the parking spaces were currently used, and whether they met WBC standards. Judy Kelly stated that the spaces were used currently, and the removal of part of the wall would help with manoeuvrability. The spaces met WBC parking standards.
Gary Cowan commented that the Inspector had made comments based on the scheme’s design, and not on policy elements. Gary added that the WBC conservation officer had made many comments which could not be ignored. Gary stated that if approved, the scheme would destroy the fabric of the conservation area. Gary was of the opinion that the scheme was completely unacceptable.
Carl Doran commented that the conservation officer opposed the scheme, as did the Ward Members, as did WBC planning officers on the original scheme. Carl added that the amenity space was also under standard, and the amount of obscure glazing required would only make the proposal more out of keeping with the conservation area.
Abdul Loyes commented that it was difficult to refuse the scheme as it was very likely that WBC would get challenged by the Inspector.
Andrew Mickleburgh commented that he could not see how the proposals would not harm the conservation area in addition to being contrary to planning policies. Andrew sought clarification as to whether the building line issue had been fully addressed. Justin Turvey stated that the first floor level was now proposed to be set back by a further 0.5m. The ground level building line was no different to the line of the current garages.
Malcolm Richards commented that on balance, he was minded to refuse this application. Malcolm added that the parking issues had been addressed in addition to the two points raised by the Inspector, however the designs were still out of keeping with the conservation area, as referred to by the conservation officer.
Rachelle Shepherd-DuBey commented that the Inspector was happy with the design, and WBC were very likely to lose this case at appeal given the applicant had addressed the Inspector’s concerns.
Stephen Conway queried how the obscure glazing flank could be added as a condition should the scheme be refused and subsequently be sent to appeal. Justin Turvey stated that officers would ask that the flank windows, from 1.8m, be obscure glazed at appeal. Justin added that if officers thought there was a reasonable chance of a successful defence at appeal, this scheme would have been refused under delegated powers.
Stephen Conway withdrew the overlooking reason for refusal, and proposed that the scheme be refused for the following reason (the wording was advised by the Operational Manager – Development Management): The proposed development by reason of its stark form, siting and discordant design within the street scene would result in significant harmful impact on the character of the area, failing to preserve or enhance the special architectural and historic character and appearance of the Conservation Area. The proposed development is contrary to Policy CP1, CP3 of the Core Strategy and TB24 of the MDD Local Plan, the Borough Design Guide SPD and the NPPF. This was seconded by Pauline Jorgensen and put to the vote.
RESOLVED That application number 192280 be refused, as the proposed development by reason of its stark form, siting and discordant design within the street scene would result in significant harmful impact on the character of the area, failing to preserve or enhance the special architectural and historic character and appearance of the Conservation Area; the proposed development is contrary to Policy CP1, CP3 of the Core Strategy and TB24 of the MDD Local Plan, the Borough Design Guide SPD and the NPPF.