Demolition of existing building and construction of a four-storey building (with basement levels) comprising Office use (Class E) with associated works
(Planning application number: P2021/1692/FUL)
Only Councillors Klute, Poyser, Jackson, North and Convery were involved in the consideration of this item on the basis they were members of the committee that originally considered the application.
In the discussion the following points were made:
· Meeting was advised that since publication of report, no additional representations had been received noting that the number of objectors still remain as 35.
· The Planning Officer advised that since the committee meeting of 4 April the applicant has further revised the scheme, noting that although the floor plan for the first floor still remain as previously proposed, the roof along the boundary has been amended from a flat roof to a pitched roof which adjoins the neighbouring external amenity spaces at first floor level to Pietra Lara. The height of the resulting rear wall will now match that of the existing wall boundary with the amenity areas whilst the pitched roof will reduce the massing above.
· Members were advised that the pitched roof will therefore reduce the scale of the proposed building and reduce the feeling of a sense of enclosure and that the step back approach addresses the concern of residents in terms of impact on resident amenity.
· Members were reminded that although the proposal includes dedicated SME floor space with the provision of 4 units at basement level measuring a total of 281sqm, equating 15.8% of the overall GIA, it still remains as previously proposed. However, due to the decrease of overall office space above and given further setbacks the proportion of the SME floor space has now increased to 16.5% GIA.
· With regard to daylight assessment, the Planning Officer noted that the quantum of reductions beyond BRE guidance has now significantly reduced particularly the Pietra Lara building, that although the previous scheme had 3 windows with transgressions beyond BRE guidance in VSC, all windows now meet BRE guidance, whilst for NSL, the number of transgressions has been reduced from 6 to 5 with betterments to the rooms.
· It was noted that with regards to Pietra Lara there are now no BRE transgressions to both VSC and NSL, that the transgression is either VSC or NSL and not both.
· In the case of 26, 27and 29 Bastwick Street, the Planning Officer acknowledged that the reductions have resulted in minor improvements, with regards to 37 Bastwick Street, there is one slight improvement to the 3rd floor window, however in the case of 41 Central Street there have been no betterments so remains as previously proposed.
· The Planning Officer acknowledged that in regard to sunlight, transgressions have been reduced and there has been a slight betterment in regard to overshadowing of the garden of 45 Central Street although it does not meet BRE guidance.
· The Planning Officer noted that following suggestions at previous meetings, Officers have amended conditions 11 and 12 respectively to address the times for delivery to be restricted to daytime hours only 07.00-2300 and for construction activities to be permitted Monday to Friday and no Saturday activities.
· In response to a question about reconsultation on the revised scheme, the Planning Officer stated that there is no statutory requirement for consultation as changes in the revised scheme were changes to do with the betterment of the scheme.
· An Objector acknowledged the possible improvement to daylight loss as a result of the proposed pitched roof but reminded meeting that there here are still issues with the massing at the back; that these marginal changes will only result in marginal benefits. The Objector was concerned that he was unable to access developers plan, reminding committee that Pietra Lara built in 2000 is not an old development, noting that committee request for the applicant to reduce the density concerns has not been addressed and urged members to reject the application as it was too dense a development.
· A resident of Bastwick Street representing the 12 flats in a neighbouring block west of the proposed building had concerns about the proposals darkening its neighbours, that at the meeting in February, members deferred specifically for the applicant to explore ways of reducing the darkening. Objector reminded Committee that at the April meeting, the Chair stated that modifications to the scheme had produced little improvements, noting that considering the applicant was able to half the “light violations” to rooms and windows from 16 to 8 within the revised scheme indicates more could be done especially as this was achieved with the loss of 3% in floor space.
· Another objector also noted the impact of the scheme on the garden at 45 Central Street which loses all its sunlight, requesting more could be done to resolve the impact of neighbouring amenity by reducing the massing. Objector had concerns about the light survey results due to its inconsistencies and inaccuracies stating that scheme should not be approved on those basis. Another neighbouring resident informed the meeting that the revised scheme did not take into account resident’s views as was suggested by members at the last meeting when item was deferred and requested a refusal outright. The Objector acknowledged that he expected some of light as a result of the scheme but not a total loss of light reminding members that in the Officers report, it was acknowledged that 8 windows still have light transgressions.
· Objector informed the meeting that after every deferral, developers resubmitted another revised scheme by shaving off slices of the blocks with the hope that committee will eventually grant planning permission, that this is not an innovative approach, especially as the revised scheme is not keeping with the character of the area, that the developer had not taken on board comments regarding its design from objectors or councillors at any point of the whole process.
· Councillor Graham noted that despite a number of deferrals as a result of reported inaccuracies with submitted plans and illustrations and residents’ concerns, the scheme still fails to address amenity issues of existing and neighbouring residents, that the developer has treated the committee with contempt from the onset and should be rejected especially as developer had been given sufficient opportunities to improve the scheme and have failed substantially, that the developers must have hoped that by introducing minor changes, the committee will be minded eventually to agree planning permission, noting that there is no reason for this block to be built in that location.
· On the issue of lack of consultation, the agent informed the meeting that this was carried out by way of door knocking and virtual consultations in May 2020, that face to face meetings with individuals were held for those who could not make those sessions and the team have attended committee meetings both in February and April responding to concerns raised by residents and members.
· Meeting was reminded by the Planning Agent that the scheme will create 200 jobs, rejecting the argument that there are vacant offices nearby and no demand for office space.
· Members were advised that the proposal will produce a high percentage of SME floor space, noting that this is a building of approximately 60 years old and clearly a development site, that the revised scheme will address the sense of enclosure concerns with the setbacks introduced and also cut back to the top floor significantly which ensures that the BRE guidelines are adhered to reminding the meeting that this a tight and difficult site and team have been aware since the pre-application stage in Dec 2020 daylight and sunlight would be the key issue.
· Members were advised that in terms of daylight sunlight issues, since the April meeting a number of changes to the proposal have resulted in an improvement, that in comparison to the previous scheme of the 221 main habitable room windows tested only 2 windows fall short of the BRE VSC component test result which is at 37 central street and that it is important to note that these are marginal shortfalls in some of the windows.
· In terms of daylight distribution all of the room pass the test with the exception of 7 rooms, and with the exception of 2 windows, all other neighbouring windows meet the VSC test which indicates all of the windows receive sufficient light and that the design of the single aspect room that prevent the scheme from meeting the daylight distribution recommendations.
· The Planning Agent noted that in terms of sunlight, there has been some betterments in the result to the scheme, that all of the windows pass with the exception of 5 windows. However these windows don’t appear to be serving main living rooms and a number of them serve bedrooms.
· On the issue of overshadowing of gardens and open spaces the agent disputed the assertion that 45 Central Street would be plunged into darkness as the test on whether it receives 2 hrs of sunlight on 21 March is given as an average for the year and it means that during the summer months it receives more than 2 hours of sunlight.
· In response to a question on whether the living room windows in the Pietra Lara building that face the proposed site were dual or single aspect, the Planning Officer indicated that from the floor plans, the 2 flats within the central element of Pietra Lara were single aspect looking out to the back whereas the 2 on the flank of the building do benefit from dual aspect, with front and rear outlook.
· In addition to the above, the Planning Officer stated that with regards to flat 2 which lies to the eastern most side of the site it has both front and back dual aspect for the living kitchen diner but with regards to flat 5 on the other side which is closer to No 44 Pear street it is dual aspect as a unit but not as a room so it has either the living room or the bedroom at the back.
· The Chair reiterated that item was deferred mainly on the issues of sunlight daylight and a sense of enclosure, noting that although there has been some inroads most of the concerns have not been sufficiently addressed properly. The Chair was also concerned that the only view for Pietra Lara residents would be only through the rear of the building straight on to the proposed site and that it appears that in an attempt by the applicant to address the sunlight daylight issues, the changes have made the design worse and that the cutbacks have actually resulted in an increased sense of enclosure for residents due to the bunker-like quality of the rear elevation.
· A member acknowledged some betterments to daylight and sunlight concerns however some issues still exist especially to the rear elevation.
· Another member stated that since the last meeting nothing significant has been done to what was previously considered in February that issues of design still remain and nothing to address the issues raised by residents and it appears that the design of the scheme does not appear to suit the area.
· A Member acknowledged that although the applicant had made incremental changes to improve the design, the scheme cannot be viewed as a coherent scheme, that the small cutbacks and setbacks appear inadequate.
· The Chair in summary noted that although the previous reasons for deferral were limited, the opportunity to address those previous reasons have now generated more problems for the scheme in terms of poor design, an unreasonable sense of enclosure, massing, continued daylight and sunlight issues and overshadowing of gardens, noting that these issues have not been properly addressed by the scheme.
Councillor Klute promised a motion to refuse planning application on the basis of reasons stated above. This was seconded by Councillor Poyser and carried.
That planning permission be refused for the reasons set out above, the wording of which was delegated to officers.