Recommendation: Conditional approval
Proposal: Full planning application for the proposed construction of a 3G synthetic pitch consisting of sports fencing, LED floodlights, storage container, spectator area and pedestrian access
Applicant: Mr John O’Keeffe
The Committee received and reviewed a report about this application, set out in agenda pages 15 to 58.
The Committee were advised that the Members’ Update included:
· Condition 19 to be headed “Drainage Implementation and Maintenance”;
· Additional Condition 20;
· Confirmation that the applicant had no intention for the floodlights to be retractable;
· Contextual information regarding the 3db noise increase;
· Additional photographs of the site along Waingels Road and from within the school campus.
Keith Baker, Woodley Town Council, spoke in objection to the application. Keith stated that having just 24 hours notification prior to Committee had not given speakers adequate time to prepare for this meeting. As such, no residents had registered to speak. Keith was thankful for the Woodley Town Council staff for notifying him of this item coming to Committee, who themselves were notified around 24 hours prior to Committee. Keith felt that the lack of notification was unacceptable and undemocratic. Keith stated that he supported additional sports facilities within the Borough, however this application would result in the loss of total pitches. Keith added that there were existing flooding issues on Waingels Road, however he was grateful for the case officer’s reassurances that this application would not add to these issues. Keith stated that this application would place further traffic on to the Waingels Road, with the traffic from the Charvil direction having to travel the whole length of the road to reach this facility.
Alison Swaddle, Ward Member, spoke in objection to the application. Alison stated that the lack of notice regarding this item coming to Committee was unacceptable. Alison shared her thanks to Woodley Town Council officers for their quick actions when informed that this item was coming to Committee. Alison stated that a Scout’s centre was approved at the previous meeting of the Planning Committee which would add additional traffic to the Waingels Road. Alison added that the proposed 5m high wire fence would have an impact on roosting birds and bats in the area. Adding to this, Alison stated that she could not find a bat survey or an on-site investigation report on the impact to birds as a result of the proposals. Alison concluded by stating that although she supported the provision of high class sporting facilities within the Borough, she could not support this application due to a number of outstanding issues.
Simon Weeks sought clarification that the final closing time for the facility was 9.15pm, queried whether the proposals would create an acceptable level of additional traffic on Waingels Road, and queried whether the issue of bats had been suitably considered. Simon Taylor, case officer, stated that the whole facility including the floodlights had a final closing time of 9.15pm. Regarding the issue of bats. Simon Taylor stated that the ecology officer was comfortable that a bat survey had not been submitted, as the hours of use meant that bats would primarily only be affected in the months of May and September for a small crossover period of time each evening. Roger Johnson, Senior Assistant Engineer – Highways, stated that traffic on the Waingels Road would increase as a result of the proposals, however this would predominantly take place during the quieter periods of the day and therefore it was not considered an issue.
Andrew Mickleburgh queried whether the proposals would create additional water run-off, queried whether Waingels Road was ever closed as a result of flooding, queried why a bat survey was not deemed necessary, and queried whether a specific figure should be attached to the biodiversity net gain requirement. Simon Taylor stated that the proposals would not create any additional surface water run-off compared to the current site. In addition, Thames Water were planning to carry out works on the Waingels Road in the future which could help the area. Regarding the absence of a bat survey, Simon stated that officers had taken note and were comfortable with the proposals as the closing time of 9.15pm minimised any harm. In addition, bats would also hibernate for between 6 to 7 months of the year. Referring to biodiversity net gain, Simon stated that officers were satisfied that the proposals would produce a suitable net gain of biodiversity.
Pauline Jorgensen queried whether there was another suitable part of the site to accommodate the proposals which was not in designated countryside, and queried why consultees had been given late notice of items coming to this meeting. Simon Taylor stated that all playing fields on the site were located within designated countryside, and policy CP11 allowed for recreational facilities in the countryside. Simon added that although the proposals included some urbanising elements, the proposals were still deemed acceptable. Justin Turvey, Operational Manager – Development Management, stated that officers aimed to tell Members and residents that items were heading to Committee on the day of agenda publication. On this occasion, there was an issue which meant that some consultees were not informed with the usual one weeks’ notice. All consultees had been emailed, and all previous comments had been taken into account.
Rachelle Shepherd-DuBey queried why the proposals did not include focussed lighting, and queried whether the proposed 3G pitch would increase flooding. Simon Weeks clarified that the proposed 3G pitch would not cause any additional water run-off when compared to the existing pitches. Simon Taylor stated that the proposals included 15m high floodlights which were downward focussed and provided a satisfactory outcome in terms of light spill, whilst being consistent with other recent approvals at the school and in the area.
Gary Cowan queried what hours of use had been applied to the Luckley House School application. Simon Taylor stated that the original proposal for Luckley House School was for a 10pm finish time, which was then amended to be variable from 6.30pm in March to 9pm in the summer. Luckley House School was slightly different as the pitch itself adjoined a woodland.
Gary Cowan felt that he could not support the proposals as there were a lot of on balance conclusions within the officer report. In addition, Gary was of the opinion that an ecological appraisal should have been carried out for this application, and felt that trees were proposed to be cut down without assurances that they would be suitably replaced. Regarding the proposal to fell trees, Simon Taylor clarified that 3 trees were of substandard quality with the 4th tree being more sizeable however it was easily replaceable.
Simon Weeks commented that the trees lost at the temporary entrance should be replaced afterwards in situ.
Abdul Loyes stated that the traffic on Waingels Road was very poor, and was of the opinion that this item should be deferred in order to receive answers regarding some outstanding issues. Simon Taylor stated that the proposals would allow for some additional afterschool sports activities on the site, which could extend the pickup and drop-off times and thereby reduce traffic on the road at peak times.
Stephen Conway commented that whilst he was sympathetic to the concerns raised both on the evening and during the consultation period, as a Committee Member, he had to listen to the professional advice which stated that the proposals were acceptable. The Committee would need to come up with specific technical reasons in order to present a robust case to overturn the recommendation.
Malcolm Richards queried whether the 9.15pm cut-off time was the time that the site must be vacated. Simon Taylor stated that due to the community use of the site, most bookings would be for 30 minute or 60 minute slots, meaning that a slot would end at 9pm allowing time for users to vacate the site prior to the lights switching off automatically at 9.15pm.
Angus Ross stated that many of the concerns had been addressed either within the report or on the evening by officers. Angus added that the site currently had 3 pitches on site now which were likely to be used, and the proposals would provide a surface which could be used in poorer weather conditions and would possibly make the use of the site more regularised. Angus stated that the community use agreement would allow residents to raise concerns should aspects of the usage of the site become troublesome. Angus stated that he would support the application.
Carl Doran queried what existing cycling infrastructure was present in the area as a comment within the report stated that the existing cycling infrastructure was adequate, and queried why trees had to be felled for the temporary access. Roger Johnson stated that he could not state what cycling infrastructure was available in the area. Simon Weeks clarified that the tree removal was to reduce interference with a better specimen tree and to remove a dead tree stem.
Chris Bowring stated that he was supportive of the application, and noted that the facility would bring a range of community benefits.
RESOLVED That application number 203456 be approved, subject to conditions and informatives as set out in agenda pages 16 to 23, amendment to the heading of condition 19 and additional condition 20 as set out in the Members’ Update.