Recommendation: Conditional approval
Proposal: Full application for the proposed removal of 12 no. existing mobile
homes and the erection of 11 no. two storey pre-fabricated temporary accommodation units consisting of one self-contained two- bedroom housing unit per floor (plots 39-48) and 1 no. single storey mobile house (plot 36).
Applicant: Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) Housing Services
The Committee considered a report about this application, set out in agenda pages 159 to 192.
The Committee were advised that the Members’ Update included:
· Rewording of condition 13;
· Additional condition 18 to secure electric vehicle charging details;
· Receipt of consultation response from the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service, raising no objection;
· Reference to comments from Prue Bray, Ward Member.
Clinton Taylor, Winnersh Parish Council, spoke in objection to the application. Clinton stated that the proposals were to replace existing one storey units with two storey units, which would be out of keeping with the area. Clinton added that the existing sewerage provision was inadequate to accommodate the proposed two storey units. Clinton stated that the Parish Council would welcome the old units to be replaced with suitable one storey units.
Simon Price, on behalf of the applicant, spoke in support of the application. Simon stated that this was an important improvement project to supply good quality emergency accommodation for families within the Borough. Simon stated that the construction timings for the project had been much reduced as part of this application. Simon stated that the two storey aspect of the application was a point of contention, however it allowed for additional accommodation for families in need of emergency housing. Simon concluded that the proposals would reduce the need for bed and breakfast use to house families in need of emergency housing.
Prue Bray, Ward Member, spoke in support of the application. Prue stated that there was a pressing need for temporary accommodation within the Borough, and the proposals included better quality accommodation than the existing poorly insulated units. Prue added that the two storey nature of the proposals were a concern, however she felt that these had been addressed within the officer report. Prue stated that the windows mostly faced away from existing units, and in instances where this was not the case the windows were obscure glazed. Prue concluded by stating that the sewerage concerns had been taken into account, and concerns regarding antisocial behaviour already existed prior to this application.
Paul Fishwick, Ward Member, spoke in objection to the application. Paul stated that he did not object to the replacement of the existing one storey units with new one storey units, however there was inadequate screening to accommodate two storey units, which would be out of keeping with the character of the area. Paul was of the opinion that the proposals would be akin to a large and insensitive wall within the existing development. Paul stated that the sewerage system was already failing within the development, and the proposals would only make this issue worse.
Rachelle Shepherd-DuBey stated that she had no issue with the provision of new single storey units within the development. Rachelle added that the biggest issue with the proposals was the inadequate sewerage provision. The two storey nature of the units would lead to massing and overlooking, and would be out of keeping with the character of the area. Rachelle stated that the site consisted of single storey units, and it should be kept that way. Rachelle was of the opinion that the application should be refused.
Andrew Mickleburgh stated that he was in favour of replacing the existing poor quality units. Andrew queried whether the total proposed parking spaces of 23 was greater than the existing provision, queried where units 39 to 43 would park their cars and whether they would share any spaces, queried how sewerage issues had been addressed, and whether there was any specific exemption for this type of accommodation relating to amenity space requirements. Senjuti Manna, case officer, stated that Highways had suggested only 16 car parking spaces would be required to meet standards, which would lead to a better layout of spaces. Units 39 to 43 were not included within the plans. Justin Turvey, Operational Manager – Development Management, stated that although sewerage was outside of the scope of this application, several benefits relating to sewerage would be realised as part of this application. Relating to amenity requirements, Senjuti Manna stated that a strict occupancy period of 12 months would be applied, as it was not the intention for this accommodation to be used by a family on a permanent basis.
Andrew Mickleburgh stated that he was concerned that internal space requirements were not being met. Andrew queried whether any consultation had been worked on relating to whether the proposals could cause mental health issues for occupants, and queried where the fire assembly point would be located, and whether it would be compliant, given the density of the site. Simon Weeks stated that given the current option for emergency occupation could include stays in small bed and breakfast facilities for families, the proposals were likely to be improvements for the mental wellbeing of any occupants. Justin Turvey stated that the fire assembly point was not a planning consideration, however it was likely that the proposed units would follow the existing site plan.
Carl Doran stated that he totally accepted that the proposals would be an improvement over bed and breakfast accommodation, however he had concerns regarding outdoor amenity space provision given that many of the users of the proposed units would have young children. Carl sought clarification as to what constituted a modular design and passive fire protection. Senjuti Manna stated that the proposals included ‘misters’, a more sophisticated form of sprinklers. Senjuti added that the walls were fire resistant which meant that the six meter separation gap was not necessary everywhere. Senjuti stated that there was a field to the south of the site, and whilst immediate outdoor amenity space was limited the accommodation would only be used on a temporary basis.
Abdul Loyes that he was supportive of the proposals, and stated that flooding issues had been addressed as he knew the area quite well.
Pauline Jorgensen queried where potential overlooking would occur, as it was not clear from the plans. Senjuti Manna stated that there had been concerns that the landing area of the external staircase could be used as an external balcony. Senjuti added that to minimise overlooking, a condition is used to secure privacy screening for the external staircase landing so that even if these were used as external balconies, no overlooking would occur.
Malcolm Richards queried whether the units would have flat roofs, queried whether the outside areas would be illuminated, and queried whether any of the proposed spaces would be for disabled use. Senjuti Manna confirmed that the roofs of the units would be flat. Senjuti added that the roads had existing street lamps, and each unit would have a small motion detected external light. Senjuti stated that the parking spaces had been changed from 23 to 16, and the detailed parking plan would be approved prior to the occupation of the units.
Malcolm Richards queried whether there was a communal depot for waste on the site. Senjuti Manna confirmed that each unit had a bin storage and drying yard at the rear of each plot.
Gary Cowan was of the opinion that the motion sensor lights could become a nuisance, and felt that the proposals were better than the existing provision. Gary was of the opinion that the proposals were of a dreadful appearance, would not fit into their surroundings, and would let people down and could create more issues going forwards. Gary stated that he had an open mind regarding whether to approve this application.
Gary Cowan queried why the Environment Agency had not been consulted on this application. Senjuti Manna clarified that most of the site was in flood zone one, and therefore the Environment Agency did not need to be consulted unless there was a critical drainage issue. In addition, a flood risk assessment had been submitted and agreed.
Stephen Conway stated that this was a difficult application to determine, as there was a great need for more temporary accommodation within the Borough to help people, however this needed to be balanced against the impact on existing residents. Stephen was of the opinion that the proposals were out of keeping with the existing character of the area, however the need for the units may outweigh the negatives, although there was a duty to protect the existing visual amenity for residents such as through screening.
Chris Bowring queried whether the proposed units could be considered as mobile homes, and queried whether a temporary approval could be granted to assess whether screening and other mitigation was acceptable. Senjuti Manna stated that as the proposed units were two storeys in height, they could not be mobile homes by definition. Senjuti added that they were classified as two storey pre-fabricated units, and would require a change of use from mobile homes to residential, which had been assessed as not causing harm to the area. Regarding the temporary approval query, Simon Price commented that the scheme had been based on double stacking units to take advantage of economies of scale and value for money. As it was in effect a permanent structure, Simon was of the opinion that a temporary grant of planning permission would not be suitable. Chris Bowring stated that subject to the provision of adequate screening, he would be inclined to approve the application on balance.
Simon Weeks queried the space requirement relationship between caravans and permanent accommodation. Senjuti Manna stated that there was a requirement for a 6m side to side separation between caravans. For C3 usage, a 12m front to side distance was set out within the guidelines. The proposals fell slightly short of the 12m distance, however the units would only be used on a temporary basis and the boundaries would be screened via high hedging.
Stephen Conway queried whether the proposed screening was enough to break up the proposed bulk and massing. Senjuti Manna confirmed that the landscaping officer was happy with the proposals.
Rachelle Shepherd-DuBey raised concern that this could encourage other units on the site to apply for two storey permission. In addition, Rachelle was of the opinion that the proposals were out of keeping with the character of the area, and would change the character of the area.
Rachelle Shepherd-DuBey proposed that the application be refused, on the grounds that it was out of keeping with the character of the local area and would constitute to a loss of amenity for existing residents. This was seconded by Gary Cowan and upon being put to the vote the motion fell.
Stephen Conway proposed an additional informative to encourage the applicant to provide additional landscaping in order to achieve greater screening. This proposal was carried by the Committee and added to the list of informatives.
RESOLVED That application number 203439 be approved, subject to conditions and informatives as set out in agenda pages 160 to 167, reworded condition 13 and additional condition 18 as set out in the Members’ Update, and additional informative relating to additional landscaping as resolved by the Committee.