Recommendation: Conditional Approval, subject to legal agreements
Proposal: Full application for the erection of 31 two bedroom apartments with associated communal areas, landscaping and parking (C3 residential use)
Applicant: McCarthy & Stone
The Committee received and reviewed a report about this application, set out in Agenda pages 111 to 148.
The Committee were advised that the Members’ Update included:
· Proposed change to condition 3, whereby Community Liaison details would be implemented during the construction unless otherwise agreed;
· Proposed changes to condition 4 relating to the Approved Scheme for Tree Protection;
· Proposed changes to paragraph 44, page 131 regarding the value of the CIL amount psqm;
· Further information regarding the number of trips generated in peak hours, and
· A note referring to additional comments that had been received.
Members had visited the site in 2015.
Mike Evans, Planning Chair for the Parish Council, spoke in opposition to the application, citing that the development went against the Village Design Statement in its location in an open/semi-rural stretch of London Road and raising concerns about the amount of carparking being put forward. He referred to the difference in the design and the fact that the increase in area given to concrete would add to the flooding risk. He stated that the village needed an influx of families, not down-sizers, and that, due to the fact that there were no amenities in Ruscombe and there were no bus stops, residents would be forced to walk if they were not able to have a car.
Ian Hann, agent, spoke on behalf of the applicant, stating that the flats would allow older people to live in a setting where they have their own space. He suggested that the majority of tenants would be 65-75 years old and that the site would be carefully managed by the applicant. He went on to outline the rise in the older population in the country, stating that the number of older residents in Wokingham was set to rise by 23% by 2036, with an increase in the number of families being headed up by someone of 65 or more. He added that the proposal met council targets and that it would potentially free-up other accommodation in the area.
Councillor Bob Pitts, Ward Member, spoke in opposition to the application. He disagreed with the agent, stating that it was unlikely that accommodation would become accessible to young families because of the cost of housing. He suggested that most over 55s would still be working and that the parking would be insufficient in light of the lack of public transport and amenities. He finally asked what the management charges and costs to the residents would be and stated that some clearance had already taken place.
The Case Officer stated that, whilst they considered the Village Design Statement and the comments received, the proposal did not present great conflict with it. The frontage of the proposed design was reflected in other properties on the London Road and a flood risk assessment had taken place and been accepted. He suggested that the character of the properties around was mixed and that as such the proposed build would not be out of character, stating that the site had already been allocated to housing. He explained that site clearance work did not have to be approved, and that extant pegging out had been related to the movement of lizards.
In response to Members’ questions, the Case Officer stated that only one person in the household needed to be over 55. The Service Manager for Highways Development Management went on to explain that the car-parking would not be allocated to individual properties, which complies with the Council’s parking standards and is often the way parking is managed on private sites such as retirement developments. A condition has been applied to the scheme to ensure that the unallocated parking is retained and not allocated to individual occupiers. He felt that the intended age range of the residents was pertinent to the management condition.
In answer to a Member’s question regarding parking, the Case Officer stated that the parking met Council policy and that there was an extant outline scheme for 16 dwellings.
In response to a Member question regarding the entry points of three properties onto the road, the Service Manager for Highways Development indicated that similar junction formations and numbers had been previously considered and consented with an earlier application on this site and that they each met the visibility splay requirement and were deemed acceptable for this scheme.
In response to Members’ questions regarding density, the Case Officer confirmed that the property would have a much higher density than other properties in the locality, but that this was implicit in the nature of flats.
Councillor John Kaiser proposed that the application be deferred to permit a site visit. This was dropped. It was then proposed by Councillor Tim Holton that the application be refused for the reason that the proposed application was out of character due to bulk, scale and mass plus failure to complete the legal agreement. This was seconded by Councillor Wayne Smith.
Resolved: That Application no 161845 be refused for the reasons set out above.