The Planning Process (?)
The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended) puts uses of land and buildings into various categories known as ‘use classes’. Day Nurseries are currently categorised as non-residential institutions, along with health centres, schools, art galleries, museums, libraries and church halls among others.
How Long Has It Taken?
STEP 1: Pre-Application Consultation
A Pre-Application Consultation was submitted to Hart District Council and validated on 14/01/2015. The scope of this consultation was “Construction of a new building for D1 use on land adjacent to Hollybush House”.
The Pre-Application process is a useful service for Applicants to test ideas and assumptions. In turn the process helps to create better prepared planning applications that address all the key issues. The quality of the advice obtained is heavily dependant on the quality of the input by the Applicant. The ideas submitted do not need to be high quality drawings and generally they can be sketched up using readily available and free graphics software. In addition to the site and building elevation drawings, I normally include a document summarising my views on the proposal and how it meets the Planning Policies I think are relevant to the consideration.
The Pre-Application process consulted the following interested parties:
- Hart Environmental Health
- Hart Highways
- Hart Arboricultural
- Natural England
The points raised in the internal Hart consultation responses were included in the Planning Officer’s response. The Hart Planning Officer suggested that the points raised in response from Natural England should addressed directly.
The major points raised that would need to be addressed in any formal Planning Application were:
- The site is outside of the Settlement Boundary of Blackwater & Hawley and therefore is “located within the countryside where new development is restricted in order to preserve the rural character of the area”
- Policy RUR35 (Infrastructure Services) of the Hart District Local Plan supports proposals “which retain, improve or provide community based services” if they are “within and on the edge of rural settlements or where existing facilities are adjacent to the urban areas provided that the location is well related to the catchment area served”.
- The National Planning Policy Framework also advises “that planning policies plan positively for provision and use of community facilities”
- The Arboricultural Officer raised no objections in principle to the development, subject to a BS:5837 tree survey and that all significant tree are retained and not harmed by the development.
- The Hart Highway Officer observed that an ideal catchment exists within a reasonable distance of the site and therefore any planning application should be supported with a highway statement that concentrates on road safety and sustainability. A Trip Assessment would be required in any formal application.
- The Environmental Health Officer only raised issues relating to the construction process
From the feedback received, the principle considerations to address were:
- Need justification for proposed development
- Design to mitigate the overall impact of the structure on the Strategic Gap
Natural England were consulted by the Hart Planning Officer as the site is in close proximity to the following designated nature conservation sites:
- Castle Bottom to Yateley and Hawley Commons SSSi
- Thames Basin Heaths SPA
- Blackwater Valley SSSI
In this context, the following specific points were raised regarding mitigation of adverse impact on these designated areas :
- “We would expect to see provisions put in place for onsite parking security at all times, preventing the general public from gaining access to the Thames Basin Heaths SPA.”
- “If the development results in an increase of people at the site e.g. from staff or general public users, Natural England would expect provisions for facilities at the site, such as benches and accessible green space, to ensure people are kept on site, e.g. during lunch, to be submitted with any formal application.”
STEP 2: Full Planning Application
A formal Planning Application was submitted and validated on 11 December 2015 as 15/02998/FUL
The public record can be viewed by clicking here
A total of 19 objections were received by Hart District Council and these were placed in the public domain on the Planning Portal. Of the 19 objections, only 14 were relevant as 5 objections were received from outside of the area.
Of the 5 objections, 3 were from Bristol, Reading and nr Hitchin and 2 related to activities which are contrary to policies regarding use of protected areas.
Please click on the image below to see the analysis of the issues raised:
The analysis counts the number of times the issue was stated in local objections. The predominant objections related to highway issues. The issue of Business vs Residential development appears not to consider the restriction on residential development in the area.
Of the 14 objections, 2 supported the need for Day Nursery provision within Blackwater & Hawley in their objections.
When the planning application was submitted to Hart District Council, an email was sent to the 3 Hart District Councillors representing Blackwater & Hawley. The email introduced the project and the intentions for the application. Only 1 of the 3 Councillors acknowledged the email and none entered into any dialogue at any point in the planning process.
The Planning Application was referred by Hart District Council to Blackwater and Hawley Town Council for their comment, which is normal practice for all applications. This was discussed at the Planning and Payments Committee meeting on 8 February 2016. The Minutes of this meeting can be viewed by clicking here.
The following objections were submitted to Hart District Council as Consultees:
- Inadequate car parking for the proposed new childrens nursery – 40 plus children were initially expected to attend.
- The nearby Memorial hall car park had been stated as a selling point in the nursery planning application. It was made clear that the Memorial hall car park was not there to support commercial business use. The Memorial hall car park was for customers of the leisure and recreational facilities.
- Traffic generation The Hawley Green Road (next to the Memorial hall car park and the Almshouses) would be used as a short-cut to get to the nursery at dropping off and picking up time instead of using the Fernhill/Hawley Road junction. The Hawley Green Road had been made in to a cul-de-sac some years before because of traffic management issues. The Hawley Green Road was a narrow road, difficult for vehicles to pass and was the main access to the Almshouses, where emergency vehicle access was a high priority at all times.
- Pedestrian access inadequate, lack of a footpath.
- Noise and disturbance – would adversely affect the quiet enjoyment of the Almshouses.
- Highways was also requested to look at the safety concerns.
An issue regarding a conflict of interest by Blackwater and Hawley Town Council arose from the submitted response. The Town Council failed to state that they were owners of adjacent D1 premises which are offered on a commercial basis for use by similar childcare businesses.
Subsequent to the Planning and Payments Committee meeting, notices were attached to both the Leisure Centre and the Memorial Hall:
Please click on images to view at larger size
The placement of these signs was featured on the front page of the News & Mail. The use of the word “Customers” was questioned, particularly in the context of the Memorial Hall where such a restriction may infringe the use by “inhabitants” as required by the original deeds and trusts.
Subsequent to this, the original signs were over-stickered to alter the wording of the signs to remove the word “customers”
Brian Blewett is both the Hart District Councillor for Blackwater & Hawley and also a Town Council Member. Despite being approached over a number of issues concerning this project, he has not acknowledged any emails or engaged in any way with this project.