Agenda item

Application No.212209 - 5 Shepherds Avenue, Earley, RG6 1AY

Recommendation: Conditional approval


Proposal: Full application for the change of use of amenity land to residential with formation of associated hardstanding. (Retrospective)


Applicant: Mr Amin


The Committee received and reviewed a report about this application, set out in agenda pages 217 to 230.


The Committee were advised that there were no updates contained within the supplementary planning agenda.


Tim Marsh, on behalf of the ACER residents’ association, spoke in objection to the application. Tim stated that the land in front of the property had not been adopted by Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) highways, and a resident of 50 years had told him that the strip of land had to be maintained by the owners. Tim added that paragraph 9 of the report stated that a number of properties on the road had paved driveways, however none had covered over their grass verges. Tim stated that should this application be approved, the proposals would risk the potential for the road to never become adopted by WBC and could set a precedent for other properties within the borough. Tim queried whether the installed drainage had been checked to see if it worked, and commented that all other such drains in the area were backed up. Tim stated that policy CP3 mean that development must be without detriment to the adjoining land users and occupiers, and in his opinion this did not apply in this case as the removal of all soft landscaping had changed the visual green landscaped amenity.


Chris Bowring read out a statement on behalf of Mr Amin, applicant, in support of the application. Mr Amin stated that he was not buying the property in front of his home, and he was fully aware that this bit of land was not part of his property. Mr Amin added that the concrete in front of his property was broken, and this was the reason that he had placed new concrete at the front of the property. Mr Amin stated that the concrete had been refurbished due to having a disabled family member, to provide safer access to and from the property. Mr Amin stated that when he had purchased the property approximately five years ago, the area in front of the property was in a very bad condition with many potholes and a public path going through his driveway. Mr Amin, along with his family, had fallen on this surface several times which demonstrated how dangerous the situation was. Mr Amin stated that there were many other properties with tarmac at the front of the property, and he had spent nearly £3,000 on the maintenance of the footpath, despite not owning the land, for the safety of all residents including the disabled family member. Mr Amin added that a drainage system had been installed, and the water now flowed away into the main drainage system. Mr Amin stated that he had paid a professional company to tidy up land which he did not claim to own to make it safer, and had provided the Council with a ten-year guarantee.


Shirley Boyt, Ward Member, spoke in objection to the application. Shirley stated that there was an application last year to allow for a disabled parking space, and questioned the need for another disabled parking space over and above the suggested need of the disabled resident. Shirley stated that there was a footpath running between the amenity land and the boundary of the dwelling, and the tarmacking took no account of this. Shirley stated that other residents had carried out works for standard width driveways, or in once instance a full width driveway using permeable materials which could be reversed. Shirley added that her main concern was that the loss of all of the greenery both inside and outside of the curtilage of number 5 was contrary to policy CP3, and if approved could set a precedent for every resident in this road to do the same, resulting in a barren landscape. Shirley stated that many other roads in the Bulmershe and Whitegates Ward contained large verges which were owned by the Borough Council, and approving this application could lead to other homeowners seeking to do the same in front of their property.


Officers responded to a number of points raised by registered speakers. Baldeep Pulahi, case officer, stated that this was a variation application, and as far as officers were aware it was for landscaping only. Chris Easton, Head of Transport, Drainage and Compliance, stated that the drainage was installed and connected, and the surface water appeared to flow, and that was all that officers were certain of. Chris added that whilst the land was owned by WBC, it was not owned by highways. No works could be carried out to any part of a public highway without significant repercussions with full and proper consent by the highways authority.


Carl Doran queried why the enforcement case had been closed. Baldeep Pulahi confirmed that once a planning application had been submitted under an enforcement case, the case could be closed.


Carl Doran queried why other properties with paved car parking on WBC owned verges were immune from enforcement, queried why the existing landscaping to the right of the property was allowed to be removed, and queried whether this application could set a precedent for similar applications. Baldeep Pulahi stated that other properties had installed their parking over four years ago, and under section 172 of the Town and Country Planning Act they would now be immune to enforcement. Baldeep stated that the site visit photographs had been taken prior to the variation for soft landscaping, and unfortunately an up to date visit had not been undertaken. Chris Easton stated that this was a fairly atypical situation, whereby the grass verge was Council property land rather than public highway land, and as such approval of this application would not allow anyone to carry out similar works on a public highway.


Gary Cowan stated that he had viewed the site, and there was room for four parked vehicles on site, and he did not notice any landscaping. Gary added that Members needed to know where the drainage led to and whether it was of standard quality.


Pauline Jorgensen stated that this was an unusual situation as the road in front of the property was not adopted but the strip of land was owned by WBC property. Pauline sought assurances that approval of this application would not set a precedent for other areas of the Borough. Chris Easton confirmed that this application would not set a precedent for other areas of the Borough which had public highway land outside of the boundary of their property.


Andrew Mickleburgh queried whether this application could set a precedent for a large number of other properties within the Borough, queried how common it was to see retrospective applications for change of use of amenity land to residential, queried whether the drainage only drained the paved area rather than the paved and tarmacked area, and queried whether the same level of access could be achieved whilst reinstating a significant portion of the soft landscaping. Justin Turvey, Operational Manager – Development Management, stated that each application had to be considered on its own merit. Relating to the character of the area, Justin stated that a number of properties had paved over part of their property frontage and as such it now formed part of the character of the area. Justin stated that as the land sloped towards the property, it was in the property’s own best interest for the drainage solution to work. Justin stated that Members had to consider the application in front on them and decide whether it was acceptable in planning terms.


Stephen Conway commented that whilst there may be very few instances of WBC property owning the verge but the road and pavement being un-adopted. Stephen raised concerns regarding any precedent set by this application, and commented that the only reason that other properties had not had enforcement action taken was due to a time limit on doing so expiring.


Carl Doran requested that it be minuted that WBC look to arrange discussions to explore options for soft landscaping to be placed to the side of the property.


RESOLVED That application number 212209 be approved, subject to condition and informative as set out in agenda pages 217 to 218.

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