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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Council held on 18/02/2003





The following report is reproduced as submitted to the Development Control Committee from Central Area Development Control Sub-Committee:

WA02/0962 Demolition of existing CDT classroom and removal of temporary classrooms. Erection of a new classroom block and dance/drama studio at St Hilary’s School, Holloway Hill, Godalming

Grid Reference:E: 496659 N: 143387
Development Plan:Developed area. ASEQ (Godalming Hillsides). TPO
Ward:Godalming South East
Highway Authority:No requirements
Drainage Authority:No requirements
Town Council:Original Proposal : The Council observes that the application will increase the “footage” from 196 square metres to 476 square metres. The Council objects to the application on the grounds of over-development; the excessive increase it will create in traffic levels; and the visual impact and the detrimental effect on the general amenity of neighbours.
First set of additional information : Raise objection on grounds of:-
      1. overdevelopment;
      2. excessive traffic increase;
      3. visual impact;
      4. detrimental effect on the general amenity of neighbours.
Second set of additional information/amendments : No objection.
Consultations:Borough Environmental Health Officer – Report that having considered the information received, confirm that there is no objection to the proposal. However, suggests conditions to control dust and construction hours.
Representations:Original Proposal – 20 individual letters of objection and one letter signed by 14 residents of Summerhouse Road/Close, Tuesley Lane and Braemar Close, on the following grounds:-
1. double floor area of existing classrooms;
2. different location to existing classrooms;
3. increased traffic and affect road safety;
4. inadequate car parking;
5. out of school hours use;
6. impact on trees;
7. contrary to DP policies;
8. affect wildlife – request ecology report;
9. increase pupil numbers;
10. loss of residential amenity – noise, light and overlooking;
11. diminish wooded appearance of Godalming hillsides;
12. inappropriate development for such an area;
13. sited close to residential property boundaries;
14. school already has good standard of facilities – question need for the additional facilities proposed;
15. increase noise/disturbance at evenings and weekends – plans show terrace (doors on east elevation);
16. alternative siting should be sought;
17. existing hall already hired out.
First set of additional information : 17 individual letters of objection and one letter signed by 18 local residents in response to additional information/clarification submitted:-
1. previous objections still valid;
2. proposed building not comparable to existing CDT buildings;
3. use of proposed building for commercial purposes;
4. inconsistencies in information submitted;
5. proposal would exacerbate car parking problems;
6. proposed building of unacceptable scale, height and bulk and its design adversely impact on neighbouring homes.
Second set of additional information/amendments: 9 letters of objection and 1 petition signed by 21 local residents, on the following grounds:-
1. not address original objections;
2. sited too close to the property boundary;
3. add to car parking and traffic problems;
4. noise and disturbance;
      5. should be a buffer zone between the proposed building and boundary;
      6. inadequate space for planting;
      7. conditions suggested too vague and inadequate;
      8. visual impact/intrusion of single storey building replaced by two storey building;
      9. overdevelopment of site;
      10. other sites are possible and should be investigated further;
      11. should be a limit on pupil numbers;
      12. some welcome the changes made to the scheme.

Relevant History

WA76/1629Rebuilding of dining room and ancillary works
WA79/1002One new classroom and the rebuilding of existing classroom
WA81/0588New woodwork building and rebuilding of music room
WA82/0390Erection of an extension to school hall and provision of music teaching and practice rooms
WA83/1281Erection of a two-storey extension to provide classroom, cloakroom and covered passageway with library over
WA89/1275Erection of a two-storey link building, extension and alterations
WA94/0464Alterations to provide improved nursery facility and children’s play area; siting of outdoor play equipment
WA98/1531Construction of tennis court
WA00/0515Siting of two attached portable classrooms for a temporary period
(expires 30.6.03)


This application was referred to the Development Control Committee at the request of three members of the Area Sub-Committee in accordance with Standing Orders.

Description of Site/Location

St Hilary’s School is located within an established residential area on the western side of Holloway Hill. The School is an independent school and caters for 400 children up to the age of 11 years.

The school occupies grounds of some 2.8 hectares (7 acres) in extent and the main school buildings are located off the main entrance to the site. Ground levels fall away in a northerly direction and the school grounds are generally enclosed by mature tree belts and wooded areas.

To the south, the school grounds are bordered by the rear gardens of residential properties in Braemar Close; the west by a residential property called “The Eyrie”; and to the north by wooded slopes with the Ockford Valley beyond. Vehicular access is from Holloway Hill to the east.

The Proposal

The site for the proposed scheme lies to the west of the main school buildings on the southern boundary. Currently on the site there is a white rendered “CDT” single storey classroom building of 73.9 square metres. The proposal would result in the demolition of this building and the removal of the two temporary classrooms of 131 square metres opposite (permitted under application WA00/0515). The proposal incorporates these classrooms together with a dance and drama studio.

The proposed building would be two-storey in form and can be considered to comprise two elements. The main body of the new building would be brick and timber-clad with a pitched slate roof. This would contain the classrooms, drama and various ancillary rooms. The second element comprises a glass-clad addition on the northern side, which would act as a circulation zone to all the rooms and double as an exhibition area.

The proposed building would have a total gross external area of 516 square metres (with a “footprint” of 270 square metres), a height to eaves level of 6 metres or 5.6 metres and a height to ridge level of 7.7 metres or 8.1 metres. The existing buildings to be demolished have a total external area of 204.9 square metres, of which the existing CDT building has a footprint of 73.9 square metres and a height to ridge level of 4.5 metres.

A tree report has been submitted with the application of the larger trees close to the development site, two Wellingtonias, a Holm oak and a Monkey Puzzle tree, the report suggests that only the Holm oak is considered for removal.

Submissions in support

In addition to the normal planning application forms and plans, the School’s agents have submitted the following additional information:-
The agent explains that the School obtained planning permission for two temporary classrooms in May 2000 to alleviate curriculum teaching problems within the main school building. The school currently teaches CDT (design and technology) in a single storey concrete building which is argued to be substandard and that these buildings now need to be replaced. The agent further argues that the School also has a problem with the timetabling of the existing hall to provide dance and drama and it has identified the need for additional space for this purpose.

The agent stresses that there will be no increase in pupil numbers as a result of this development but the school is committed to delivering high quality education and therefore, it is necessary to continuously improve the facilities and teaching accommodation.

The agent argues that the scale, materials and aesthetics of the proposed building are comparable with that found on the site. The school also wanted the design to be innovative and provide them with a “flagship” facility.

The agents have submitted an extensive letter in support of the proposal. The agent states that the proposed block includes three classrooms of a similar size to the existing three to be replaced (two temporary and the CDT room) plus the dance/drama studio which is 2/3 the size of the existing hall/gym. This studio is seen as a rehearsal/classroom and not a performance theatre in its own right. The School will continue to use the hall/gym for major productions.

The Headmistress of the School has commented that St Hilary’s is deficient in providing drama within the curriculum. Following the School’s Inspection Report in 2000, she states that the School has tried to devise a fuller, more accessible range of extra-curricular activities and argues that a new dance/drama studio would alleviate this pressure and would mean that all pupils could benefit.

In terms of commercial use, the School states that it is not proposed to market the new facility commercially, but to make it available for local use. A possible use of the new dance and drama studio would be for further dance and drama rehearsal and for meetings.

The agent has argued the proposed siting of the building and that careful thought has been given to the design so as to not unduly affect the adjoining properties. The agent has also argued that the building has been designed to fit in with the existing School buildings. The agent has also indicated that the existing School boundary fence would be replaced and reinforced with additional planting.

Additional Information and Amendments

The applicants’ agent has now responded with the following additional information and amendments to the scheme:-
“St Hilary’s School would only hire out the new dance and drama studio for educational purposes. The facility would not be hired out for discos, aerobics and parties. Lettings would cease a 10.30 pm. The facility would not be hired out on Sundays or Bank Holidays.”

Relevant Policies
Main Planning Issues

The main issues are considered to be as follows:-

the impact of the development on the character and appearance of the area, having regard to the location of the site within the Godalming Hillsides policy area;
the likely effect of the development on the amenities of nearby residential occupiers, in terms of visual impact, privacy, noise and disturbance;
the impact on trees;
car parking and traffic implications;
the identified educational needs of the school balanced against the environmental implications of the proposed development.

In general planning policy terms, St Hilary’s School is located within the developed area of Godalming where new development can be acceptable, in principle, subject to visual and residential amenity considerations. In addition, the Godalming Hillsides policy (BE6) of the Local Plan 2002 states that development will not be acceptable unless the Council is satisfied that the development would not diminish the wooded appearance of the hillside and result in a loss of tree cover to the detriment of the area and the character of the town.

The officers consider that the proposed building would be of a modern design and it is considered that the use of cedar boarding would assist to reduce the overall scale and impact of the development. However, some concern is expressed over the possible visual impact of the two-storey glazed entrance foyer to the building. The proposed building has been sited towards the southern boundary of the site and close to the existing main school buildings and therefore away from the wooded slopes to the north and west. In your officers’ view, given the location of the proposed building and the generally well wooded nature of the site, it is not considered that the proposal is likely to have a significant impact beyond the site in the wider townscape. There is not considered to be an objection to the design of the building.

For these reasons, the proposal is not considered to conflict with Surrey Structure Plan 1994 Policy PE10 (the protection of urban character); and Waverley Borough Local Plan 2002 Policies BE6 (Godalming Hillsides), D1 (b - harm to visual character and distinctiveness of the locality) and D4 (a – be appropriate to the site in terms of its scale, height, form and appearance).
In terms of the neighbour amenity issue, residents in Braemar Close have raised strong objection to the proposed location of the building close to the boundaries of their rear gardens. Concerns have also been raised in respect of possible loss of privacy and noise disturbance from the use of the building.

Whilst your officers are sympathetic to the concerns of residents in Braemar Close, it is not considered that the proposed building would appear unduly intrusive or to detract seriously from their outlook or privacy. It is acknowledged that the proposed building would be visible from the rear gardens of certain properties, particularly from their lower gardens, but the presence of the trees and other vegetation would soften the visual impact of the development. The properties also benefit from long rear gardens, with the houses some 65 metres away from the site.

The proposed building incorporates a single window serving one of the first floor classrooms on the rear elevation. The officers express concern that this window could lead to overlooking of these rear gardens to an unacceptable degree. The officers have suggested to the applicants that this window should be deleted or fixed and obscurely glazed to overcome this concern (this window has now been deleted from the proposal).

Residents have also expressed concern over noise and disturbance from the use of the proposed building, particularly with the possible non-school activities in the evenings and at weekends. The agent has stated that the new building would be well insulated and double glazed to contain any noise within the building. It should also be noted that the Borough Environmental Health Officer has not raised any objection to the proposal. Again, although your officers are sympathetic to the concerns, it is difficult to gauge the likely level of any additional noise which may arise from this development compared to what may arise at present, but it is not felt that this is likely to be significant.

For these reasons, the proposal is not considered to conflict with Policy D1 (c – loss of general amenity ..., including material loss of natural light and privacy and noise disturbance) or D4 (c – not significantly harm the amenities of occupiers of neighbouring properties ... through adverse environmental impacts).
The existing trees and in particular, the Wellingtonias, have been the subject of an extensive tree survey and report submitted with the application. The proposed building has not been sited any closer to the Wellingtonias than the existing CDT building on the site and that a 10 metre “protection zone” from the Wellingtonias can be provided as requested by the Council’s Tree and Landscape Officer. “Porous” paving is also to be used and is indicated on the submitted plans.

One tree, a Holm oak, is proposed to be removed from the site as it is argued to be growing under the canopy of an existing Monkey Puzzle tree. The Borough Tree and Landscape Officer considers that of the two, the Holm oak is the better tree and its removal is only necessary because of the frontline of the glazed foyer. However, he considers that the tree’s value is largely internal and feels that there is scope for additional replacement planting on the front lawn area.

Behind the current building and just within the gardens of two properties in Braemar Close is a line of tall Lawson Cypresses. It is clear that the construction of the proposed building will result in some root loss and their loss would open the site up more to these properties. However, it is felt that other trees and vegetation present would still provide sufficient screening of the proposed development.

For these reasons, it could be argued that the proposal would conflict with Surrey Structure Plan 1994 Policy PE9, Surrey Structure Plan (Deposit Draft) 2001 Policy SE7 and Waverley Borough Local Plan 2002 Policy D7 (retention/loss of trees) by virtue of the loss of the Holm oak. However, the two protected Wellingtonias would be unaffected by the development and the applicant has agreed to some new tree planting as part of the landscaping scheme. Policy D7(c) requires adequate separation between important trees and the proposed development and it is felt that this has been achieved.

Local residents have raised concern over the likely impact of the development on car parking and increased traffic at the School. The School Bursar has commented on the parking spaces which are available for evening functions and does not expect the new facility (which is argued to be of limited size) to cause a problem. The Bursar has indicated that up to 144 spaces can be made available, of which 72 (the car park and drive) are in regular use.

The School has also indicated that the new facility will not increase pupil numbers. It will therefore be difficult to gauge what additional traffic is likely to be generated by the proposal, particularly the out-of-school use of the new dance/drama studio. It should be noted that no objection has been raised by the Highway Authority to the proposal.

For these reasons, the proposal is not considered to conflict with Surrey Structure Plan 1994 Policies MT2 and MT5; Surrey Structure Plan (Deposit Draft) 2001 Policies DN2 and DN3; and Waverley Borough Local Plan 2002 Policies M5 and M14 on these issues.

5. Educational Needs

The School has emphasised that the primary purpose for the new building is to enhance their present facilities for current pupils. In support of their application, the School has sought to justify the need for better facilities, particularly in relation to dance, drama and design technology.

The arguments put forward by the School are fully understood by the officers. However, in planning policy terms, there is no objection, in principle, to new development in the developed area provided it is acceptable in environmental terms. Nevertheless, the needs of the School need to be recognised and Policy CF3 of the Local Plan 2002 relates specifically to extensions or adaptations to existing establishments, provided that certain considerations are met.

Policy CF3 of the Waverley Borough Local Plan 2002 relates to proposals for new educational establishments or extensions and adaptations to existing ones. In your officers’ view, the proposal is not considered to conflict with the criteria of this policy for the following reasons:-


In addition to the standard conditions which are imposed on most development schemes, the officers have given further consideration in relation to other possible conditions which seek to control the proposed use, such as in terms of non-school use, hours of use and noise levels. One of the major concerns of local residents is over possible noise and disturbance from the use of the proposed dance/drama studio at unsocial hours. The officers have given consideration to the condition suggested by the school, in respect of the use, but do not feel that this would be specific enough to control the proposed development.

There are, effectively, considered to be four possible controls. These are physical controls (e.g. sound insulation and windows); noise controls; use; and time limitations. The officers have, therefore, suggested a number of conditions which cover all of these aspects, of which the most relevant are Conditions 15 to 18. The conditions have been modified in the light of the Area Sub-Committee debate, in order to strengthen or clarify them. The officers consider that the conditions proposed would provide the Local Planning Authority with sufficient control over the use of the proposed building and to safeguard the amenities currently enjoyed by residents which live in the vicinity of the site.

An issue has been raised in respect of student numbers in that the development may lead to a further increase and thereby add to car parking and traffic problems. Whilst the officers acknowledge that concern, they take the view that, given the school is located within an urban area, it would not be appropriate to restrict the number of pupils at the school. In any event, part of the proposal is to replace existing classrooms on the site.


The proposal is considered to represent significant new built development at the School and given the location and nature of the facilities to be provided, has generated much local opposition. Local residents’ concerns, particularly from those who back on to the School site in Braemar Close, are set out in this report. While your officers fully acknowledge the various concerns which have been raised, it is not considered that the proposal would cause material harm to the character of this part of the town or to the amenities of neighbouring residential occupiers. Many of the issues raised are matters of planning judgement, such as in terms of visual impact and effect on residential amenity. Whilst there are reservations over the proposed siting of the building, on balance, it is felt that the proposal could be supported.

Officers therefore recommended that permission be GRANTED subject to the following conditions:-
Background Papers (DoP&D)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.