Recommendation: Conditional approval
Proposal: Full application for the proposed erection of 3 no. buildings (units R1, R2 and R3) for business use (Use Classes B1(a), (b), (c) and B8) with ancillary office space, parking and associated works
Applicant: J P Winkworth Limited
The Committee received and reviewed a report, set out in agenda pages 55 to 86.
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. The submissions as provided can be found below.
Roderic Vaughan, resident, provided the following submission in objection to the application.
“Lambs Farm Business Park LFBP is not in Spencers Wood (paragraph 12 of report); is in rural parish of Swallowfield in open countryside, where a presumption against new development applies, in principle, based on current Development Plans.
Expansion of rural business parks like LFBP are considered strategically, through the Local Plan. This was done, but without success. Around 2010 it was noted the site ‘could be recognised as having scope for consolidation or limited additional development’. LFBP was considered as a potential employment allocation through the MDDP when the Examiner noted ‘evidence to support the site’s inclusion on the basis of additional land is required, or that they are preferable in location, sustainability or deliverability, is not convincing’. There has been major expansion at LFBP since 2012. Sound planning principles have been ignored; potential further development at LFBP was found to be unsustainable at public examinations.
Policy CP 11 is relevant; restricts development outside development limits. Rural enterprise is referred to in the report in paragraph 7. Key consideration is whether the proposal contributes to a ‘sustainable rural enterprise’, which is not the case as stated previously and therefore conflicts with criterion 1 of CP11. Paragraph 10 of the report states ‘there is no excessive encroachment away from original buildings’. Actually, this development is part of a continual encroachment of built form into the open countryside.
The application site and additional land was previously used for HGV parking without permission. Use was permitted in December 2018, with part of the land returned to pasture and a landscaping scheme introduced as conditions. The retrospective application noted parking arrangements at LFBP have always been generous to benefit occupiers. Massing of buildings to meet more business floorspace will displace HGV parking and will create pressure for further expansion. Expansion is already excessive according to criterion 2 of CP11. It also fails the test of criterion 3 of CP11 of ‘not being within suitably located buildings etc..’. The proposal conflicts with CP11.
The NPPF, paragraph 83, states ‘Planning Policies and decisions should enable the sustainable growth and expansion of all types of businesses in rural areas’. Carte blanche to any rural employment development is not permitted; it needs to be sustainable, the proposal isn’t and should be refused.”
J P Winkworth Ltd, applicant, provided the following submission in support of the application.
“Lambs Farm Business Park is an established high quality Business Park with some 70,000 sq.ft of business floorspace. This application is for 3 units to provide 5,000 sq.ft additional floorspace taking the total to 75,000 sq.ft. The height, design and colouring of the units is consistent throughout the Business Park. The proposed units are located within the confines of the existing Business Park and will follow the same ethos of scale, design and colouring.
The Business Park has grown incrementally with new units being built to meet specific demand rather than on a speculative basis. The policy of consolidation within the existing Business Park has evolved from the views of the Local Plan Inspector several years ago who concluded that the site was not large enough to be categorised as a Core Employment Area but he recognised its importance in providing a range of smaller business units and supporting local employment. It has therefore been regarded as compliant with Policy CP11 and the qualititive element of Policy CP15.
The occupiers are predominantly local businesses, employing local people and run by owners or managers who live within five miles of the site.
The main features that make this Business Park such a success are:-
- meticulous maintenance of the site ensuring that it always has a prestigious appearance;
- high level of security including CCTV, security fencing and gates, together with lighting;
- a good local pool of labour
- spacious layout with ample room for cars and lorries to park and manoeuvre;
- informal, flexible and approachable management style with on-site management from an estate office.
There is an un-met need for employment space of this type, which is small-scale and high calibre.
The demand is continuing and there is always full occupancy and a constant waiting list for business units. Meeting this demand supports the local economy, increases the provision of jobs and is vital to the growth of the economy particularly following the effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic. The Applicant is geared up to start the discharge of planning conditions immediately and to commence the development as soon as the necessary consents are in place.
The Officer’s report deals very thoroughly with the relevant planning considerations. In particular it concludes that there is no highway objection or harm to the character of the countryside or wider area.”
Stefan Fludger, case officer, advised the Committee that additional condition 9 was also recommended, which would require a revised travel plan to be submitted and approved by officers.
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 site was located within a rural area, however the existing development site was fairly industrial with hard surfacing with permission for HGV parking. Simon added that this application was situation wholly within the red line boundary, and there was no further expansion into the countryside proposed.
Chris Bowring sought clarification regarding the previously developed land associated with this application. Stefan Fludger stated that the current NPPF supported all forms of business expansion within the countryside. The Planning Policy officer had confirmed that this could be considered as previously developed land, currently with permission for HGV parking. This application was submitted to allow the applicant to expand their business by increasing their capacity.
Carl Doran queried why a previous application was refused in 2017, whilst a further similar application was then allowed in 2018 and now this application was also recommended for approval. Marcia Head, Development Management Team Leader, stated that the NPPF was revised between 2017 and 2018. The revised NPPF had a greater focus on presumption for business development and expansion in general. Carl Doran was of the opinion that the HGV parking should not have been allowed originally, and added that he was therefore minded to refuse this application.
Simon Weeks asked for clarification regarding expansion past the western red line boundary. Stefan Fludger stated that a previous application for expansion towards the west of the site was refused by the Inspector at appeal as they felt it was an encroachment on the countryside.
Pauline Jorgensen stated that she would like to see the travel plan to be provided prior to construction. Marcia Head stated that should this application be approved, officers could remind the applicant of Committee’s concerns and ask that the travel plan be provided prior to construction.
Abdul Loyes sought clarification regarding expansion of the site over the years. Stefan Fludger stated that there had been expansion of the site over time, with each application having been determined on its own merits.
Andrew Mickleburgh queried how a HGV could turn on site when three HGVs were parked outside the proposed business units, whether two HGVs could pass each other on the access road, and what the most recent KSI (accident) data showed in the area. Stefan Fludger stated that the access road was very long and at points not wide enough to allow two HGVs to pass, however this application was unrelated to HGV parking. Stefan added that the Highways Officer had not raised an objection to the proposed loss of HGV parking. Judy Kelly, Highways Development Manager, stated that the applicant had carried out a tracking exercise which showed how HGVs would turn within the proposed modified site, and as it was a private site there was no risk of vehicles backing up to the public highway. Regarding the KSI data, Judy stated that in the last five years one minor accident had been recorded further along the public highway.
Malcolm Richards queried what specific uses the proposed buildings would house. Stefan Fludger stated that the use classes would be B1A (office space), B1B (research and development), B1C (light industrial processes) and B8 (storage or distribution). These uses were in line with the uses of the existing business park buildings.
Malcolm Richards was of the opinion that this application was a form of encroachment on the countryside, proposing office space which was available in other parts of the Borough without having to destroy the countryside. Malcolm added that he was likely to reject this application.
RESOLVED That application number 200888 be approved, subject to conditions and informatives as set out in agenda pages 56 to 58, and additional condition 9 as recommended on the evening by the case officer.