Planning Positives or Planning Negatives?
June 12, 2013 by Editor
With the David Wilson Homes/Barratts development there was even the potential of Community benefits through a Public Open Space if Rochford District Council, Hawkwell Parish Council, and The Hawkwell Residents Association had the same vision as ourselves, HAG and CTFDAG. A Private Open Space isolated from the Spencers Park Open Space, which is owned by Hawkwell Parish Council, is not a Community benefit. We negotiated for the provision of a bridge to join the two spaces, to be paid for by the developer but as permission by Hawkwell Parish Council was refused this cannot go ahead. So there are no benefits there which seems hardly reasonable given the loss of greenbelt.
But there are the benefits required by a Planning Inspector and embodied in the Section 106 Legal Agreement. In this case the retention of the ‘Paddocks’ as a green buffer zone.
Okay part of the Paddocks, The Christmas Tree Farm, is being used as a builders yard/ compound, contrary in our opinion to the Legal Agreement, but we have asked our Head of Planning to see if something can be done bearing in mind the estimated 5 year build/sales time and the adverse effect on the scene from the road which was not expected by the Planning Inspector. No response as yet from Shaun Scrutton.
It is argued that there is tangible benefit to the Community by provision of 60 new homes as affordable housing stock. We will let you decide if that is a positive or a negative.
The New Homes Bonus (£200,0000 from the Government to compensate the Community), which we had hoped would be used primarily for the benefit of those adversely affected residents could have been another plus but no benefit for Hawkwell. Unfortunately this money is expected to go into the general Rochford District Council “pot” to enable the Council Tax for the whole District to be kept lower. Again we will let you decide if that is a positive or a negative.
It was a regrettable decision, in our opinion, of Rochford District Council (we voted against) to allow two David Wilson Homes/Barratts commercial sales and marketing offices in a residential area but it should bring in additional business rates as Non-Domestic Rates, or business rates, are collected by local authorities. This is how businesses using non-domestic property contribute.
Under the business rates retention arrangements introduced from 1 April 2013, local authorities keep a proportion of the business rates paid locally. We have alerted our Head of Finance at Rochford District Council and she is going to take the necessary action to bring these Offices into the business rating list. This would not have been captured as a positive if your Ward Members had not raised this opportunity with the Council.
On a smaller but equally important scale when as Ward Councillors when we are made aware of potential problems with Planning Applications we can ask for Conditions to be put in place that protect the affected parties as far as possible.
Conditions are only of use in this way if they are known about and communicated so we do try and ensure that those potentially involved know about the restrictions.
On one property recently, with an issue of overlooking where windows not shown on the original plan had been incorporated, a simple condition requiring the retention of the dividing fence to prevent potential future overlooking resolved the issue and ensuring the affected neighbour was aware of the Condition will hopefully prevent any future disputes.
On a similar small but important build the neighbour concerns about bulk and potential ungainly effects of a fence on what had been an attractive green vista was overcome by the simple addition of a condition requiring a small fence wall with evergreen planting to soften the impact.
Neither of these interventions would have occurred without action by your Ward Councillors.
Our main concern is that the Planning Officers do ensure that the Planning Conditions are kept and whilst we are busy looking at the DWH/Barratts site more than others at the moment we do keep our eye on the small developments as well.