Minutes of a meeting of the Town Council's Planning/ Licensing Committee held in the Council Chamber, Windmill Lane, Northam on 13 th January 2010

PRESENT: Chairman - Cllr C K Langton

Members - Cllrs Mrs A Boyle, Mrs S Collins, B Edwards, P Hames, R Johnson

and 70+ Parishioners and representatives of LTPH Ltd

Apologies were recorded on behalf of the Town Mayor, Cllr R H Osborne, Cllrs Mrs P Biggs, Mrs M Cox, A Eastman, J Braund

1. Minutes 

The minutes of the Town Council's Planning/Licensing Committee held 16th December 2009 were approved and signed.

(Vote: Unanimous)

2. Planning applications

Cllr Johnson declared a personal interest.

1179/09 Land at Knapp House, Churchill Way, Northam Proposed mixed use development comprising marina, hotel, medical centre, food store, community hall, retail units/café, care house/dementia unit, offices, up to 450 dwellings, play areas, open space and ancillary infrastructure.

The Chairman advised that this was a complex application which was receiving a great deal of attention from members of the public. In order that the Town Council were fully aware of the various issues he suggested that Standing Orders be suspended so that the developer could give a short presentation and that members of the public be allowed to speak. It was RESOLVED to suspend Standing Orders.

(Vote: Unanimous)

Mr Hevingham, on behalf of the developer, gave a brief history of the planning consents granted on part of the site and outlined the benefits of the present proposal. He advised that the proposal would provide some of the additional housing required, that there was a need for a care home/dementia unit and that 250 jobs would be created. Affordable housing would be part of the scheme but the exact numbers were yet to be determined from discussions with the Planning Authority. He advised that traffic was an issue and that from consultations with Devon County Council these would be mitigated by the introduction of traffic lights and wider filter lanes.

Cllr Hames advised that in his view the proposal would have a disastrous and massive effect on the area and that the seven year construction period would cause great misery. The proposal flouts several planning policies and is outside the development area. He advised that the Minister had previously rejected a similar proposal. He was concerned about the huge effect on wildlife and the estuary, which is a SSSi. He was concerned that the archaeological investigations were not complete. The site was not suitable for affordable homes and he was concerned that if built the residential properties would end up as second homes with no guarantee that jobs would be created. The facilities proposed for the site, other than the marina, were currently available and within walking distance of Northam village centre. He was concerned about the additional and massive traffic impact. The Town Council has consistently resisted development in the Rural Gaps between the villages that make up the Northam Town Council area and he hoped that they would continue to protect these important areas.

Jackie Avery asked what the first phase would be. The developer advised that the marina plus two areas of housing would be constructed.

Gareth Cross questioned whether there was a long term plan to maintain the marina. The developer advised that a separate study was being prepared to consider the detail of the marina. Gareth Cross also questioned who would use the marina.

John Puddy was concerned about access to the marina from the river and was of the view that the proposal may not be a bad thing and does need further consideration. The developer responded by advising that tidal access on a spring tide would be two and a half hours either side of high water and on a neap tide would be two hours either side of high water and that they had a licence with the Crown to form the channel from the marina to the river.

Anthony Chambers was concerned that the proposal did not deal with the local need and gave as an example the recent developments at Westward Ho! which remain empty and unsold. The proposal does nothing to provide affordable homes and therefore little to meet the needs of the area.

Steven Richards questioned the reaction to a seven year construction period.

Mrs Eason was concerned that the area was clearly green belt and what did the planning rules mean if this could not be maintained?

Mrs Arnold was concerned about the demolition of Knapp House which she advised was a lot older than the developer had eluded to. She indicated that research shows that the property or parts of the property date from 1397 and that it has particular historical significance because of its links with Churchill and Roosevelt during the Second World War. She urged that efforts be made to have it spot listed. The developer advised that they had taken advice from the County Archivist. Mrs Arnold advised that the Archivist was re-appraising the situation in the light of additional evidence.

Mr Turney was concerned about the traffic bottleneck on Churchill Way, outside Grenville Terrace.

Cllr Hames understood that the County Council were recommending refusal as there was insufficient information. The developer advised that an independent safety audit had been called for and this was being provided.

Mr Wilkinson expressed the view that the housing that was required was not appropriate for this site.

John Harrison questioned whether there was a demand for a marina. The developer advised that preliminary studies had indicated that there was and that an additional study was being taken by a marina specialist at the request of the District Council.

Loveday Jones referred to the number of empty homes in Appledore which were now holiday cottages and she saw this development being nothing more than an extension of this. She foresaw the situation where there would be empty boats and empty houses except for two weeks of the year.

Mrs Richards expressed the view that over-development would result in the natural attractions of the area being lost.

All members of the public having been given the opportunity to speak the meeting returned to business.

Cllr Edwards advised that his first thoughts on the proposal were to support the idea of a marina. However further consideration of the site and details had changed his mind and he was of the view that the proposal should now be refused for the following reasons:-

(1) Concern about the viability of the marina, both in financial terms and also practical operational matters.

(2) Concern about the number of boats to be accommodated in an area which is severely restricted by a dangerous bar and the changing sandbanks within the estuary. He advised that the Appledore Lifeboat was the busiest station in Devon and Bristol Channel.

(3) The proposal conflicts with District Council policies ENV2, 5 and 7 and DVT policies 2 and 8 and also transport policies 1, 3,7 and 10.

(4) The area is part of the SSSI.

(5) It is a flood risk area.

(6) Less than 10% of the houses will be affordable.

(7) It is outside of the Development Area and if built would reduce the Rural Gap.

(8) There are problems with infrastructure.

Cllr Mrs Boyle advised that she would not be able to support the application. She was concerned about the loss of the Rural Gap and the archaeological/historic evidence that was coming to light with regard to napp House.

She was also concerned that if built the situation would arise where residential properties were cheek by jowl with the major local industry of Appledore Shipbuilders. Noise could well impact on the residential properties to the extent that the Shipyard may have to curtail activities.

Cllr Mrs Collins emphasised that North Devon does not have the infrastructure to support the proposal. She emphasised the importance of the Rural Gap and was concerned about accessibility with only one road to rely on for access.

Cllr Johnson advised that the major problem for the area was the provision of affordable homes which were desperately needed. This proposal has a very low percentage of affordable homes and would put additional burdens on existing over-stretched resources. The proposal did not add up and he was opposed to development in the Rural Gap.

Cllr Langton summed up the views expressed during the meeting and following a proposal from Cllr Edwards it was RESOLVED to advise the

District Council that the proposal be refused for the following reasons:-

(1) Concern about the viability of the marina, both in financial terms and also practical operational matters.

(2) Concern about the number of boats to be accommodated in an area which is severely restricted by a dangerous bar and the changing sandbanks within the estuary. The Appledore Lifeboat is the busiest station in Devon and the Bristol Channel.

(3) The proposal conflicts with District Council policies ENV2, 5 and 7 and DVT policies 2 and 8 and also transport policies 1, 3,7 and 10.

(4) The area is part of the SSSI.

(5) It is a flood risk area.

(6) Less than 10% of the houses will be affordable.

(7) It is outside of the Development Area and if built would reduce the Rural Gap.

(8) There are problems with infrastructure.

(Vote: 5 For, 1 abst)

llr Hames did not vote.

 

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