Erection of 20 (affordable) dwellings with estate road, using existing vehicular access
Proposed Residential Development Land East Of Bridgnorth Road Highley Shropshire
Submission from Councillor Dave Tremellen, Member for Highley Ward of Shropshire Council.
22 July 2019
Throughout the documentation accompanying this application there are repeated assertions about the low impact that these 20 houses will have on the traffic situation at what is LOCALLY considered to be one of the most dangerous short stretches of road in Highley. Quite why this assertion persists throughout the documentation when officer and consultee reports from the earlier application for nine bungalows, whilst acknowledging the low impact of nine bungalows, does so with an air of caution.
Members may remember the officer report to the South Planning Committee (Agenda Item 9) dated 1 March 2016 which said (my italics):
“6.2.3 [……] The Councils Highways Officer considers that on the basis that a typical domestic dwelling generates on average 6 vehicle movements per day the 9 dwellings proposed would generate possibly 54 movements, plus any associated with the farm access, although it is noted that the dwellings are bungalows and are likely to be occupied by older people who may not make as many journeys each day.”
Compounding the surprisingly optimistic assertions made in the current application, in the ‘Rural Exception Site Planning Application Supporting Statement’ that accompanies it a number of erroneous claims are made and repeated throughout the documentation, not least that:
“The traffic speed is 30mph but due to the local facilities and residential properties on the road this is reduced further.”
A claim that, frankly, got an incredulous response on the local Facebook pages. I include representative samples, collected after just six hours online between 09.00 and 15.00, at the end of this submission.
The developer, TC Homes, again quoting another stunning presumption on the part of the earlier traffic engineers (my underlining):
“‘This development will also significantly increase the likelihood of slow moving and stationary vehicles undertaking turning movements at this location, which would not be unexpected in this semi urban environment. Therefore, as long as the proposed new access is constructed to an appropriate specification, including satisfactory visibility splays, parking and turning areas, then there is unlikely to be any issues for highway safety, associated with this development proposal.’”
An assertion strongly contested by local residents far more familiar with a stretch of road generally considered to be one of the most dangerous in Highley because of the brow of Benn’s Bank!
Nor, in the current application fot 20 dwellings, is there convincing evidence that consideration has been given to whether the layout, density and scale are appropriate in relation to the context in which these 20 houses are proposed. A comparison needs to be made with what is being proposed here and the scale of the earlier proposed development of nine bungalows.
The March 2016 report goes on to say about the bungalows (my underlining):
6.4.4 The existing residential dwellings in the area vary in type and size and the majority have spacious gardens. The application site is considered to be of relatively low density which results in the proposed plots being spacious, this and the single storey nature of the dwellings would be fitting for an edge of settlement location such as this and compliments the character of the surrounding estates.
The second report, produced as part of the appeal process when the bungalow application was refused, emphasises the significance of the environmental impact of any development on this site, but points up that the scale of a development of nine bungalows goes some way to mitigating that impact:
6.5 Visual Impact and landscaping
6.5.1 The site forms part of a ‘broad location’ considered to have medium capacity for housing in the Landscape Sensitivity study (part of the evidence base that informed consideration of sites within the SAMDev Plan preparation) and is considered ‘moderate’ in the generalised landscape character assessment. The site is much smaller than the broad location in the landscape sensitivity study but clearly the impact on the setting of Highley, recognising the prominent ridge upon which the village stands, and its potential impact on the visual amenity of the area and the Severn Valley needs careful consideration when determining the application.
6.5.2 The site adjoins the current development boundary that runs along the eastern edge of Highley. The proposed layout shows that the built part of the proposal would not project past the existing built development at Vicarage Lane as such it is considered that the scheme would relate well with existing built development and would not encroach significantly into the open countryside.
6.5.3 It is acknowledged that due to the location of Highley on the ridge the built development at the edge of Highley is visible from public view points in the wider landscape and it is inevitable that the proposed development would, like the adjacent dwellings, be visible.
6.5.4 The scale and density of the development is considered appropriate for the size of the application site and its edge of settlement location. The single storey nature of the dwellings would create a low level development which would go some way towards reducing the potential visual impact. Landscaping and appearance of the dwellings are matters to be dealt with at reserved matters stage should outline planning permission be granted, however it is considered that there is sufficient space to enable the integration of design solutions and landscaping which takes into account the sloping nature of the site to further help mitigate potential impacts on the visual character and appearance of the area. Given these factors it is considered on balance that the impact on visual amenity and the Severn Valley would not be significantly detrimental to justify refusal. The Appeal Inspector on the previous application 14/02129/OUT concurred with this assessment, as may be seen from the paragraphs from the appeal decision letter at 1.5 above.
At which point it is interesting to note observations by Ian Kilby (Planning Services Manager at Shropshire Council) when he was resident at the Bridgnorth Office of the (then new, 2009) Shropshire Council, Ian having been a planning officer with the old Bridgnorth District Council:
The view of the Bridgnorth Office is that we would prefer not to see more development on the eastern side of the village – i.e to not add to existing development on the western ridge of the Severn Valley or the upper slopes to the western side of the village. We consider therefore that any allocations should be on land to the south/southwest on the basis of landscape impact.
At that time, it should also be noted, an Article 4 Direction was in force on this site together with its larger neighbouring field to the north of the site.
The March 2016 report concludes:
7.1 The site is considered to be in a sustainable location and the proposed layout and scale would be appropriate for the area. The development would relate to existing built development being bounded by housing to the south and west would not represent significant built, encroachment into the surrounding countryside. It is considered on balance the scheme would not be of significant detriment to visual amenity or the character and appearance of the Severn Valley. The scheme can be implemented without compromising highway safety or exacerbating flooding, further the scheme can be developed in a manner so as not to result in undue harm on residential amenity. The Inspector in the July 2015 appeal decision, prior to the adoption of the SAMDev Plan, reached these same conclusions about the proposed development.
From nine bungalows to 20 two-storey ‘affordable’ houses is a jump too high and too far, an over-development that shows no consideration for either its environmental or social context (in terms of its impact on a local infrastructure already stretched beyond breaking point).
Again, as noted in the 2016 report:
…setting aside the location being outside of the village development boundary, [….] the provision of bungalow accommodation has often been requested in development proposals for the area; the impact nine 2 bedroomed bungalows on village services would be limited;
Members will recall that I withdrew my objection to the earlier development of nine bungalows because I considered that the development of the ten houses on Whittles Close breached the principle (established earlier by Ian Kilby – see above) of restricting development on that side of the Severn valley. In comparison the development of nine bungalows on the site under consideration here would actually have had less impact than those ten houses on the lower slope of the eastern ridge. In fact I had earlier argued for a development of ten bungalows on that old garage site, in alignment with the existing bungalows on Rhea Hall!
The claim by TC Homes that their development…
“…will have minimal impact on the established setting of the village in the countryside.”
…ignores all the reservations expressed in earlier reports.
Nor was I impressed by the cut and paste nature of TC Homes’ ‘Rural Exception Site Planning Application Supporting Statement’, a desk-top exercise as evidenced by the inclusion of one sloppily edited section which even managed to locate the site in question on the opposite side of the county…
“Furthermore the Council’s Supplementary Planning Document: Type and affordability of Housing makes it clear that the provision of affordable housing should be reflective of the scale of the community and where exception sites seem out of proportion to the scale of local need – there is a strong need for housing growth in Bishops Castle to meet the demands of the area and this is supported by the Council’s Housing and Enabling team.”
That more or less did it for me, I’m afraid!
But that was just the full stop to all the reasons why I not only cannot support this application but object to it in the strongest terms because, unlike the earlier application for nine bungalows, it has absolutely nothing to commend it.
Hannah Ellis The bend is absolutely lethal Dave. My parents live in the White House at the top of the rec, and the majority of the time, someone has to CROSS THE ROAD to see us out of the drive safely. The speed at which some people go is is scary. People also take it wide as well, but when you’re coming the other way in a vehicle round that corner, it’s a bit of a shock when they are over the white line on your side of the road, and people that turn into that junction coming up from the village chance it as it is due to poor visibility. As you can well imagine, the visibility hasn’t been great since Severn Centre had their fencing redone many moons ago and the repositioning not its best; they’ve only recently strimmed down there because my Dad sent emails and pictures complaining. How on Earth are we all going to cope when we have this heavy duty traffic- and for how long will the work be going on right opposite the house on that unforgivable bend? To even entertain the notion for access there is completely ridiculous when there is another viable, safer access point that the vehicles necessary for this job can use. It will save them travelling through through the top half of the village, and will also keep commuting school children safe when the work does start, as they can use the other access point. It will also have less impact on commuting. I’ll speak to my parents and see if I can collate their views here for you?
Anne Windsor Absolutely ridiculous that bend is dangerous at the best of times as you don’t have any visibility around the corner
Chris Sandy That bend is horrendous.
Alice Pete Burden Utter madness to even consider that increased traffic in and out of that access at this point on the road is feasible.
Megan Plant I live right opposite that junction and even though the main road is 30mph most traffic is doing approximately 50/60 mph and of course the roads are terrible.
Alan Edwards Plenty of cars regularly exceed 30 on all parts of the Bridgnorth road. To assume people go slower because it’s sensible will not protect the children going home from the Severn Centre.
Russell Drye Then the same problems exist, turning out on to the main road will be a gamble as some don’t always follow the 30mph limit so will be harder to judge traffic coming from the right, even now crossing the road by the alleyway is a nightmare at times. I traffic lighted crossing would make crossing safer for all to use. Speed bumps? Mini round about? Whatever is said by us the people won’t be listened to, they have made their minds up already and nowt we can do to stop it sadly.
Jane Woods That stretch of road, specifically the corner bend is totally lethal. Using the track, regardless of having it widened or not will not make any difference to the speed people go on the Bridgnorth Road and around that bend, in particular. The amount of times I’ve nearly experienced a head on collision with a driver who is driving WAY TOO FAST around that bend, subsequently driving on my side of the road, beyond the white line is unmentionable, you add building trucks etc to that and a fatality is imminent.
Colin Beesley the bend is dangerous why are we letting this happen and also there are people always crossing the road i have seen cars doing 70 mph
Member for Highley Ward of Shropshire Council.
22 July 2019