APPLICATION NO. 01/2021/0950/ PF - LAND ADJACENT TO YSGOL PENDREF, GWAENYNOG ROAD, DENBIGH
To consider an application for the erection of 110 dwellings, construction of a new vehicular access, landscaping and associated works at Land Adjacent Ysgol Pendref, Gwaenynog Road, Denbigh (copy attached).
An application for the erection of 110 dwellings, construction of a new vehicular access, landscaping and associated works at land adjacent to Ysgol Pendref, Gwaenynog Road, Denbigh.
Councillor Julian Thompson-Hill left the meeting for the duration of this agenda item as he had declared a personal and prejudicial interest.
Public Speakers – Helga Viswanathan (Against) informed the committee that the field was part of a working farm. Welsh Government agricultural land classification map illustrated the field to be grade 3a considered best and most versatile land. Planning Policy Wales stated that such land was a finite resource and should be conserved for the future and should only be developed upon if there was an overriding need. It was stressed developing the field for a further 110 houses could not be considered as an overriding need when 550 plus houses had been agreed in Denbigh alone, which was a large proportion of the recommended total for the whole county. The climate emergency, Brexit and war in Europe all bring uncertainties of food supplies from oversees therefore it was stressed the importance of conserving farm land. It was stated in 2019 Denbighshire County Council declared a climate emergency, the authority’s green policy stated that all decisions had to be made with climate crisis and environment in mind. Developing sites such as this proposal would release tonnes of carbon stored deeply with the soil directly contributing to climate change totally at odds to the declaration made be DCC. It was recently reported that the UK only had 52% of its biodiversity left, destroying fields and hedgerow added to its decline. The Environment Wales Act 2016 required that public authorities must seek to maintain and enhance biodiversity, and in doing so promote the resilience of ecosystems. It was stressed the measure set out in the developer’s proposal of providing bird and bat boxes and the planting of saplings would in no way mitigate the loss of the established wildlife habitat and biodiversity on this 7-acre site.
It was stated that road safety would be affected as the entrance to the development would be situated on a sharp bend that already had 2 junctions. It was felt that neighbouring roads would struggle to cope with the additional road use. It was thought the proposed 110 houses would equate to up to 300 extra vehicles. With the combination of the agreed planning at the North Wales Hospital site, it would potentially increase cars in Denbigh by over 1000 extra vehicles creating the potential for added congestion in Lenton Pool. The extra traffic would lead to an increase in noise and air pollution and would have a detrimental effect on the health and well-being of existing residents and particularly the school directly adjacent to the site. All planned developments combined would increase the population of Denbigh by thousands and would put added strain on existing doctors, dentists and other services who already have limited capacity whilst job opportunities were also limited. The majority of houses planned for Denbigh including the proposed development would all be in the same ward one of the most deprived in Wales. It was also felt local residents in need of housing would not benefit as the cost of the properties exceeded the affordability for many residents. Further objections were stressed being the removal of hedgerow, flood risk, loss of privacy, loss of amenity and the negative affect on the Welsh Language.
Mr Stuart Andrew (Agent) (For) confirmed he was the design and planning director of Castle Green homes. He confirmed the site was owned by Denbighshire County Council and was allocated for residential development within the Local Development Plan. The Council had previously produced a formal development brief for the site in March 2017 and had marketed the site for sale on the basis of residential development. He confirmed Castle Green homes had produced the planning application for the scheme that was entirely policy compliant and offered double the amount of affordable houses in the development. 22 affordable homes would be available for Denbighshire County Council for disposable to local residents on the Council housing needs register. Significant financial contributions of over £160k had been agreed to help fund road and footpath improvement around Ysgol Pendref and new play facilities in the local park. It was noted that local objections had been received, generally based on the concerns on the principal of development and infrastructure at the site. The speaker stressed the principal of development had been agreed by the authority and been in place for a number of years. There were no objections for the proposal by any council officers or special consultees. Members heard it was the views of professional employed by the council, NRW, Welsh Water and several others including the County Ecologist there was no technical reasons to object the application, agricultural land issues were not an issue as the land was allocated for residential development. Members heard that the proposed development would provide a £2million receipt to the council. Members were made aware of the potential cost to the authority that would be imposed if the application was refused and won by appeal.
The Chair reminded members that if they could, to address the committee only once and for five minutes. He asked members to be mindful of what other members raise and not to duplicate comments or concerns. The Development Control Manager (DCM) informed members a number of officers were in attendance to offer support and address members questions. He stated unfortunately the highways officer could not be in attendance and also the county ecologist was not present.
General Debate –It was confirmed a site visit had taken place prior to the committee meeting. Councillor Christine Marston had been in attendance at the site visit. The visit had been arranged for members to establish the setting and character of the area, access on to the proposed site, the potential impact on the surrounding residents and infrastructure, drainage implications and traffic flow. Those in attendance were invited to walk the site. Appreciation of the local feeling was noted with many local residents being present at the site visit, respectfully expressing their concerns. Councillor Peter Scott had also been in attendance at the site visit. He informed members upon arrival he first noted the removal of the hedgerow which in his opinion was premature. The field was a large open field. He confirmed a number of local residents were also at the site. He was subject to overhearing comments that were rude and not accurate. He confirmed he had attended the site to ascertain facts and assess the site in the proposal. Councillor Mark Young thanked the officers for arranging and attending the site visit. He also thanked the peaceful protesters that had been at the site with the one comment heard by Councillor Scott it was a respectful protest. He commented the site was situated on a bad bend. In his opinion it was a very good site visit. The thoughts of the other members were echoed by Councillor Rhys Thomas also at the site visit. He wanted to highlight to members the topography of the site in relation to the surroundings. It was almost looking down on Denbigh Castle, it raised concerns on the potential change to the skyline over Denbigh.
The Chair guided members to the late information that had been submitted and shared on the supplementary papers.
Councillor Glenn Swingler (Local Member) thanked all that had been in attendance at the site meeting. It was confirmed the hedgerow had been removed on the last day of February, before the requirement to apply for a license was needed. It was disappointing the ecology officer was not present at Committee as he had not raised concerns about the hedgerow removal. Cheshire Ecology Services employed by Castle Green, stated the site was generally of no ecological value with the exception of the species rich hedgerow, which had the potential to qualify as important under the wildlife and landscape criteria of the Hedgerow Regulations 1997. A section of the hedgerow was proposed to be removed to facilitate the development. He informed members once the hedgerow had been removed, a drystone wall was found. It had the possibility of being the previous town boundary. It was the local member’s opinion that further investigation on the wall was needed.
Councillor Swingler reminded members that Denbighshire County Council had declared a climate change and ecological emergency, he asked how could members agree to the development on graded agricultural land. He confirmed the site was included in the LDP in 2012. Which he stated was out of date.
The additional properties in Denbigh would increase the traffic flow especially down Smithfield Road towards Lenton Pool, an already congested roundabout. The added traffic will also go down Vale St which is already the third most polluted street in Denbighshire.
As previously stated the development site was in an elevated position, the proposed houses would stand out and above the skyline. A big detriment to the area. It was stressed numerous objections to the application had been made.
Councillor Peter Scott agreed with all the concerns conveyed by Councillor Swingler. Councillor Scott proposed to refuse the application on the grounds of over intensification, building on open countryside grade 3A farming land. This proposal was seconded by Councillor Mark Young. Councillor Young in addition to the reasons suggested by Councillor Scott requested an additional Highways reason be included. He stated Planning Policy Wales Edition 11, February 2021, stated that planning authorities must seek to reduce the level of speed of traffic in and around new developments, with streets in the area having a 20 mile per hour speed limit.
Councillor Rhys Thomas echoed the views expressed by fellow Councillors. He highlighted to members the Council for Protection Rural Wales along with Denbigh Town Council had objected to the application. He raised concerns on the sizing of the affordable houses included in the proposal being smaller than what was set out in Beautiful homes and spaces standard. He also stated that 110 houses would have no open space. He raised concerns that local residents would not be able to afford even the affordable houses proposed. Councillor Thomas provided members with information contained within the LDP annual monitoring report. He requested members gave consideration to that.
Councillor Gwyneth Kensler offered, in her opinion, some material planning considerations to oppose the application. Those where climate change, reorganisation of schools in Denbigh and the current war in Ukraine with regard to food security.
In response to the concerns raised by members officers offered some further guidance. The Strategic Planning and Housing Manager (SPHM) confirmed that the site was allocated within the adopted LDP. The site also had an approved site development brief approved by Council in 2017. A ministerial letter had been received in September 2020 clarifying the current LDP remained in place until a new LDP was agreed and adopted. Clarification was provided that the information on housing numbers discussed related to the preparation for the replacement LDP. The figures discussed had been the residual requirement looking at new population. The residual figure of 833 that took into account completions that had already happened, sites under construction and took into consideration figures for the former North Wales hospital in Denbigh. Members heard the medium income for household in the area was £22,635 per annum.
The agreed site development brief suggested commuted sums would be acceptable for open space. It was the understanding of the SPHM that within the revised plans that had been submitted, the sizes of the affordable houses met the standards of the beautiful homes and spaces. Policy RD1 in the adopted LDP referred to density stating that making most efficient use of land by achieving densities of a minimum of 35 dwellings per hectare for residential development. This was a guide and intended to make best use of the land. The senior Planning Officer confirmed that the capacity of the local school was 180 with currently 111 enrolled at the school. As such, there was capacity to accommodate additional pupils from this development. Members were also informed the closest Welsh medium school had capacity of 286 pupils with 267 pupils currently enrolled. Regular contact with the education department to ensure they were aware of potential developments took place. Members heard when the site had been put forward for the LDP in 2013 the agricultural land issue had been discussed and accepted.
The DCM advised caution when discussing funding towards active travel. It was his understanding that it was the authority that applied for the active travel funding, to improve roads. The funding applied for and received was provided by central Government. It was confirmed officers had reviewed the application in light of active travel and had offered no objections.
Following further discussion Councillor Merfyn Parry stated he was disappointed with the highways report it was his opinion that the entrance to the site could have been made safer. It was disappointing that the suggestion of a roundabout at the site had not been assessed. He requested that the safety of the entrance to the site if approved be completed at the start of the development and not during the development at the site. Further information how officers calculated affordability costs with changing lifestyles and inflation, was sought.
The Lead Member for climate change Councillor Brian Jones stated he was disappointed that the climate change reference in the report was light within the papers.
The DCM guided members to the suggested condition 16 that addressed some concerns raised with regard to the entrance to the site. It was confirmed that close discussion took place prior to the application and throughout the procedure. Members were also informed information in the supplementary papers addressed concerns on potential prosecution of the applicant for the removal of the hedgerow. The Local Housing and Strategy Development Officer confirmed that affordability was calculated as per the affordable housing SPG which related to the local income. It did take in to account the Welsh Government guidance.
Proposal – Councillor Peter Scott proposed, seconded by Councillor Mark Young to refuse the application contrary to officer recommendations on the basis of the following reasons; the unacceptable and unnecessary loss of the best and most versatile agricultural land, the potential negative impact on highway safety and the impact the proposal would have on the climate change and ecological emergency. It was agreed that the precise wording of any reasons for refusal would be agreed with local members before being issued.
FOR – 0
AGAINST – 16
ABSTAIN – 1
RESOLVED that permission be REFUSED against officer recommendation for the reasons in the proposal above.