Committee Report NSC



North Somerset Council


REPORT TO THE Planning AND Regulatory Committee


Date of Meeting: 31 october 2012


Subject of Report: Planning application ref no 12/P/1053/F Sub division of existing properties to form 19no self-contained flats comprising 13no 2 bed and 6no 1 bed units. Erection of 6no additional new dwellings to rear comprising 3no 2 bed and 3no 3 bed dwellings AT 85 - 91 Bristol Road Lower, Weston-super-Mare


Town or parish: Weston-super-Mare


Officer/Member presenting: head of development management


Key Decision: No





The application is APPROVED subject to the completion of a S106 Agreement to require:


a)                 the provision of an acceptable level of S106 contributions from a 100% affordable housing scheme, subject to site viability;

b)                 the provision of an acceptable level of S106 contributions from a mixed open market and affordable housing scheme.


And the planning conditions set out in the South Area Committee report dated 20th September 2012 and with the following additional condition:


18. Prior to the commencement of the development hereby approved written details of a scheme to mitigate the impact of the proposed development on protected species and which shall accord with the principles of the “Bat Mitigation Strategy version 2, by Michael Woods Associates dated September 2012”  shall be submitted to and agreed in writing by the Local Planning Authority.  The approved scheme shall be fully implemented unless otherwise agreed in writing by the Local Planning Authority.


Reason: To protect Biodiversity and protected species in accordance with Policy ECH/11 of the North Somerset Replacement Local Plan and CS4 of the North Somerset Core Strategy



1.                Summary of Report


This application proposes a high quality affordable housing development which would retain the two existing large Victorian villas on site in a beneficial use and thus help preserve the character of the area. Officers initially recommended this application for approval at the South Area Committee on September 20th subject to the provision of a revised site layout plan which should propose acceptable on site parking provision and an acceptable and satisfactory outcome to the required bat surveys.


Prior to the committee the applicants submitted a revised layout plan (rev E) which provided the 28 parking spaces required to meet the minimum standards and made improvements to the garden space design and layout. The Transportation Officers objections were withdrawn on this basis. Additional bat surveys have been submitted since committee which found that there is some evidence to support a small number of bats roosting on site. Therefore the three tests under the Habitat Regulations (European Protected Species) have been applied and are summarised in this report. It is concluded that with the suitable mitigation proposed the development is acceptable.


2.                Policy


Refer to the South Area Committee Report in Appendix 1.


3.                Details


The full details of the application are set out in Appendix 1.


This application would provide a much needed affordable housing development. The tenure would be a mix of affordable rented and shared ownership. The South Area Committee resolved that it be refused for the following reasons:


1. The proposal represents an inappropriate form of development which, by reason of its design and density would detract from the established spacious character of the neighbourhood, contrary to policy GDP/3 of the adopted North Somerset Local Plan and policy CS12 of the adopted North Somerset Core Strategy.


2. The proposal, by creating a substantial community within the plots of two former dwellings would fail to integrate the development within the surrounding neighbourhood, contrary to policy CS15 of the adopted North Somerset Core Strategy.


3. The proposed scheme fails to provide adequate off-street parking in accordance with the policy and standards of provision adopted on by the Council on 21 November 2011 as the emerging standard for the adopted Core Strategy.


The South Area Committee also requested that the Planning & Regulatory Committee be invited to consider an extension to the Conservation Area as a matter of urgency, to incorporate this part of Lower Bristol Road.


Although the views of the South Area committee are noted, It is not considered that the density of the proposed development would have sufficient visual impact on the character of the neighbourhood to warrant refusal. The majority of new units (19) are within the two existing villas and the other 6 are located to the rear of them. They will not be visually obvious or prominent in public views.  The development also protects the existing character by retaining the two Victorian villas. It is acknowledged that the proposed development is higher density than the surrounding neighbourhood (approx 71 units per hectare whereas typical density of the neighbourhood is 41 units per hectare although there are a large variety of differing densities) but the design and layout is such that this is not visually obvious. The conversion and new houses have been designed to a high standard and use good quality materials and external finishes which are in keeping with the character of the area. It is acknowledged that the site would be of a higher density that the surrounding neighbourhood and the large gardens associated with Victorian villas would be removed but it is not considered that this results in substantial harm to the visual quality of the area.


In relation to the second refusal reason it should be noted that the most recent use of the site is as a commercial residential care home and not as two houses. The proposed development includes a variety of house and flat sizes. Some of the houses will be shared ownership and some rented and it meets identified housing needs.  There is no reason why affordable housing cannot mix with open market units. The development is not proposing a single house type unlike the majority of the surrounding neighbourhood. It is introducing a mixed development into an area which is not highly mixed and therefore creates more balance between uses and house types which is a strategic aim of Council and Government policies. It is therefore considered to comply with Policy CS15 of the Core Strategy.


The third refusal reason relates to on site parking provision. It is important to note that the proposals comply with the adopted parking standards in the adopted local plan. The Council’s draft new residential parking standards are currently being introduced where agreed with the developer through the Executive Members Decision. However it acknowledges that if the draft new standards are not met then providing those in the adopted plan are, an application should not be refused on this basis. If the new standards were applied this development should provide 44 parking spaces which cannot be accommodated on site unless virtually the whole garden space is removed which would impact on the quality of the accommodation proposed. Members are advised that the emerging parking standards would not carry significant weight at appeal and that refusal reason no 3 would be difficult able to defend at appeal on this basis.



European Protected Species.


The Bat surveys submitted since South Area committee meeting indicate that there is evidence that some bats may be roosting on site, and by law the Local Planning Authority’s decision must meet three tests to comply with the legal protection afforded to European protected species. The tests are that:


1. There is "no satisfactory alternative"


This test has been met because to make this development viable the buildings and part of their roof spaces have to be used to create accommodation. However it is possible to mitigate impacts on bats because not all the roofspace will be used and an area will be set aside for bat use with suitable access.


2. The proposal would "not be detrimental to the maintenance of the populations of the species concerned at a favourable conservation status in their natural range”


This test has been met by the proposed mitigation strategy which has been agreed by the Ecology Officer. The replacement habitat to be provided will be in a very similar location to their current one which will encourage its use by bats. The development will also allow the long term preservation of the buildings and the bat habitat within them. The site is also very close to Weston Woods where there are many opportunities for new bat habitats to be created.  


3. The proposal is "in the interests of public health and public safety, or for other imperative reasons of overriding public interest, including those of a social or economic nature and beneficial consequences of primary importance for the environment"


This test has been met because the development is to provide much needed affordable housing at Weston-super-Mare where there is a very large shortfall. The development site is brownfield and previously developed and is therefore preferable to the use of greenfield sites which are frequently in less well lit areas and more likely to accommodate and support bats. 


To make the development accord with the three tests an additional condition is required to provide suitable mitigation as set out in the recommendation to this report.



4.                Consultation


Details of consultation responses are in Appendix 1.


Following neighbour notifications on the revised plans which increased the parking spaces and made improvements to the layout an additional 4 letters of objections have been received which reiterated previous objections including to a perceived lack of off street parking.


5.                Financial Implications


The Council is at risk of an award of costs against it if it cannot justify its decision on the basis of development plan policy or other material considerations. Members are advised that although the Executive Members Decision updating parking standards and parking space requirements are a material consideration, they are not adopted local plan policy and therefore do not have the same material weight as the policies in the North Somerset Replacement Local Plan and Core Strategy. 



6.                Equality Implications


Equality issues are taken into account in all planning decisions.


7.                Corporate Implications


As set out in the Committee report.


8.                Options considered


Planning applications can either be approved or refused.




Sally Evans, Principal Planning Officer – Development and Environment


Background Papers

Appendix 1: South Area Committee report 20 September 2012 and update sheet