Recommendation: Conditional Approval subject to legal agreement.
Proposal: Full application for the proposed erection of 34 no. retirement living apartments including communal facilities and associated car parking and
landscaping, following demolition of existing 3 no. dwellings.
Applicant: McCarthy & Stone
The Committee considered a report about this application, set out in agenda pages 89 to 170.
The Committee were advised that the updates within the supplementary planning agenda included context and clarification regarding condition 18.
Ian Hann, agent, spoke in support of the application. Ian stated that this application would support people in living healthy and happy lives within the Wokingham Borough. Ian added that the NPPF was clear that it was critical for this type of housing to be provided and prioritised. Ian stated that that the Wokingham Borough was seeing growth of elderly persons, which was predicted to rise above the national average going forwards. Ian added that no objections had been received from residents or the Town Council, and English Heritage and highways officers had also raised no objections. Ian commented that the site was well located within a sustainable area, within easy walking distance to shops and amenity facilities, with good transport links including buses and trains. Ian stated that the proposals would generate around £500,000 per year in increased spending for the local economy, in addition to affordable housing contributions and CIL payments. Ian concluded by stating that the proposals would combat loneliness and isolation within the elderly community by releasing under-used family houses which would be replaced by high quality retirement living accommodation.
Bill Soane commented that the application only provided 32 car parking spaces for 34 units. Bill stated that whilst this was marketed as a retirement facility, many of the residents would still be of working age when living in this accommodation. Judy Kelly, Highways Development Manager, stated that this type of accommodation typically had a lower provision of parking spaces than regular market flats, due to the restricted age of potential occupants. Judy added that the site was in a sustainable location, and there was precedent for completely car free developments within the area. Judy stated that, on balance and within the age restricted context, the proposals were considered acceptable given that parking space provision was only 6 spaces lower than for a market development and a travel plan was conditioned which could be reviewed when required.
Graham Vaughan, case officer, commented that the average age of occupancy for developments such as this was typically above the age of 55.
Andrew Mickleburgh queried whether there was a specific car parking standard which applied to this type of accommodation, queried what the realistic age of occupants could be at this development, queried whether affordable housing could have instead been provided on site, and sought clarification that vehicles going along the reading road towards Wokingham could not turn right in to the proposed development. Judy Kelly confirmed that the requirement for this development was to provide 15 resident car parking spaces and 3 visitor spaces, whereas this site would provide 32 spaces total. Regarding the turning query, Judy confirmed that there would only be provision for a left hand turn into the site, and there would be curbing to prevent a right hand turn in to the site which was picked up at the stage one road safety audit. Graham Vaughan stated that the average age of occupancy would realistically be in the middle of the 70 to 80 year old age bracket. Regarding the affordable housing, officers had negotiated a much higher off-site contribution than was originally offered, and on-site provision was not a priority as these units were for retired persons.
Gary Cowan commented that planning permission had previously been granted to a similar development with limited parking, and the site could not get enough occupants within the age bracket. When the applicant then requested to market the flats as regular market properties, there was no option to expand the parking allocation. Judy Kelly stated that the site mentioned had been taken into account when considering this application, and there was a precedent for car free accommodation within the area. Gary Cowan requested a condition for this development to return to the Committee should they wish to offer the units on the open market with an unrestricted age profile. Graham Vaughan stated that a future application could not be prevented, however should such an application be submitted officers would assess the proposals and could send the item to Committee.
Stephen Conway commented that it would be useful to find space for additional car parking provision on site, to avoid complications in future. Stephen raised some concerns in relation to the listed building adjacent to the proposed development site, and asked whether any additional soft landscaping could be provided to soften the impact of the development. Graham Vaughan stated that the proposals were of a single footprint to provide step free access to the entire site. The conservation officer had not objected to the proposals, but had highlighted some harm which was deemed less than substantial. The NPPF stated that the level of harm and the significance of a historic asset had to be balanced against the benefits and suitability of proposed development. Graham added that condition 16 provided assurances that soft landscaping and tree planting would be carried out along the site boundary to protect the character of the adjacent heritage asset.
Carl Doran commented that officers had worked hard to achieve a much larger affordable housing contribution than originally offered.
RESOLVED That application number 202065 be approved, subject to conditions and informatives as set out in agenda pages 90 to 99.