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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 30/09/2003
SUPPLEMENTARY PLANNING GUIDANCE ON DENSITY AND SIZE OF DWELLINGS: POLICY H4 OF THE WAVERLEY LOCAL PLAN 2002



Summary & Purpose
This report supplements that which went to the Executive on 21st July 2003 with the same title. The Executive asked the Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee to consider the Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) further, before it is recommended for adoption. This report responds to comments made during the Executive’s meeting, and presents a recent appeal decision at “Howberry”, 20 Courts Mount Road, Haslemere that usefully highlights the key issues addressed in the SPG. No substantive changes to the SPG are proposed, though a slightly revised version of the SPG is attached at Annexe 2. This re-orders some paragraphs, and makes some minor changes.

Quality of Life Implications
Natural Resource Use
Pollution Prevention and Control
Biodiversity and Nature
Local Environment
Social Inclusion
Safe Communities
Local Economy
Natural
Resource Use
Pollution
Prevention and Control
Biodiversity
and Nature
Local
Environment
Social
Inclusion
Safe, Healthy
and Active
Communities
Local
Economy
Positive
N/A
N/A
Positive
Positive
Positive
Positive


REFERENCE FROM ENVIRONMENT AND LEISURE OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
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The Supplementary Planning Guidance seeks to protect the quality and character of the local environment whilst addressing an identified need for dwellings suited to small households.

E-Government implications:

Draft Supplementary Planning Guidance published in October 2002 is accessible on the Council website.

Resource and legal implications:

The cost of printing the final document is the only resource implication and can be met from existing budgets.
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Introduction

1. At it’s meeting on 21st July 2003 the Executive considered a report recommending that Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG), for Policy H4 of the Local Plan, proceed to Council for adoption. Rather than agree the SPG, the Executive referred it to the Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee for further examination. The point was raised at the meeting that the SPG fails to deal with traffic generation from residential development.

2. Since that meeting, the Council has received an appeal decision for a site at “Howberry”, 20 Courts Mount Road, Haslemere (see Annexe 1). The decision letter gives a useful analysis of the issues that the SPG seeks to address. This report summarises the key points. The opportunity has also been taken to make minor amendments to the SPG to improve its wording. The latest version is attached at Annexe 2 with the changes shown as strikethroughs and underlined text.

Applying H4 away from town centres

3. The SPG was criticised at the Executive meeting for failing to address the concern that residential development within settlements generates extra traffic on local roads. The SPG was seen as an opportunity to prevent this, by avoiding the application of minimum densities in Policy H4 away from town centres.

4. Traffic generation is a frequently cited concern when determining planning applications. The difficulty is that where housing development is acceptable in principle, so Planning Policy Guidance Note 3: Housing (PPG3) and Policy H4 apply, unless there is a genuine planning reason to grant an exception. For the SPG to say that Policy H4 will not be applied away from town centres would be contrary to the Local Plan, the emerging Surrey Structure Plan, and national planning policy. The SPG cannot be used to change policy, and would carry no weight in determining planning applications. The purpose of the SPG is to ensure that Policy H4 is interpreted correctly, consistently applied, and helps prevent inappropriate development.

5. Sites within settlements, including those away from town centres, are the Borough’s primary source of housing land. The Council relies on these sites to meet its housing requirements set out in the Surrey Structure Plan. The Local Plan shows the urban areas in white on the Proposals Map, and identifies settlement boundaries for many of the villages.

6. Extra traffic on local roads is a likely consequence of development within settlements. However, the existing policy to direct new development to sites within settlements, in preference to green field sites, usually more remote from public transport and services, is considered the more ‘sustainable’ choice. Nevertheless, the Highway Authority assesses development proposals for safety and capacity, and the Borough Council assesses the impact of traffic on amenity. Sometimes road capacity, parking problems, highway safety or impact on amenity, can be a genuine reason for refusal. The SPG refers to this at paragraph 14(iii) 3rd bullet point.

7. The Government does not consider the minimum density in PPG3 of 30 dwellings per hectare to be high density, but a minimum needed to avoid low density development which is regarded as ‘unsustainable’. Higher densities (above 50 dwellings per hectare) are encouraged at locations with good accessibility, such as town centres. Higher densities do not imply poor environments, and it is sometimes surprising to discover quite high densities in many of the most attractive built environments. Providing the small dwellings needed in Waverley helps achieve these densities in an acceptable way. Good design is high on the agenda to create attractive places.

8. A policy in the Draft Surrey Structure Plan requires zones to be identified around town centres for densities over 50 dwellings per hectare. Outside these areas the minimum density would be 30 dph. If this policy is still in the Structure Plan when it is adopted, the zoning will be done locally as part of a ‘Local Development Framework’.

The “Howberry” Appeal Decision

9. “Howberry” is a single dwelling in a substantial plot on Courts Mount Road, Haslemere, within the built up area. Three separate outline applications were lodged to redevelop the plot with 4 dwellings, 9 dwellings, and 13 dwellings. Officers recommended the scheme for 4 be refused as underdevelopment, and that the schemes for 9 and 13 be permitted. The Southern Area Development Control Sub Committee, and the Development Control Committee, refused all three applications, judging that they were all out of character with the area.

10. The appeal decision, with illustrative layouts for each scheme, is attached at Annexe 1. The Inspector permitted the scheme for 9 dwellings, and refused those for 4 and 13. He concluded that the scheme for 9 was the only one that complied with all of the following factors:
the character and appearance of the area, including the effect of traffic
the living conditions of future and neighbouring residents
highway safety
density requirements.

11. The table below summarises the outcome for the different schemes:

Scheme
The character of the area
Effect of traffic on “ambience”
Impact on amenity of neighbours
Highway safety
PPG3 and H4 density policy
4 houses
x
9 houses
13 houses
x
x
= acceptable impact / complies with policy
x = unacceptable impact / fails policy

The character and appearance of the area

12. The Inspector disagreed with the Committees’ assertion that the area is similar in character to those designated in the Local Plan under Policy BE6 (Low Density Residential Areas). The Inspector concluded that viewed from the street, character is determined by the positioning of buildings, and the presence of hedges, fences and walls, such that the “sizes of many of the plots are not apparent to a passer-by” (paragraph 23). He did not regard the density of the area as a determinant of local character.

13. The Inspector reasoned that the development to the rear of the site was “out of sight” and thus had no effect on local character. This is an important point. A view of the proposals in plan form (overhead) might suggest an out-of-character development, but when viewed from public vantage points, the perception is very different. This is a point made at paragraph 14 (iii) of the SPG.

14. The scheme for 13 dwellings failed on ‘character’ grounds. The Inspector found that too much development other than the frontage dwelling would be visible from the street (paragraphs 28 and 29). The schemes for 4 and 9 would, he concluded, have a minimal, and acceptable, visual impact. The Inspector considered the likely increase in traffic to be acceptable in terms of amenity, as well as highway safety, even for the 13-dwelling scheme. The Inspector also found that the increase in activity within the site would have no impact on character, particularly given the extent to which the site is screened from public view.

Impact on amenity of neighbours

15. The only scheme to fail in this regard was the one for 13 houses. The Inspector considered that four gardens backing onto the property at 22/24 Courts Mount Road would create unacceptable noise and disturbance.

Accessibility

16. The Inspector assessed the site’s accessibility, aware of the close proximity to bus and rail services, but recognising the steep gradients for pedestrians and cyclists. He considered that a density of 30-50 dwellings would be appropriate. Faced with two schemes that he considered acceptable in all other regards (one for 4 dwellings and one for 9) he could not justify the lower density proposal, which would fail H4.

Conclusion

17. Policy H4 cannot be restricted to town centres. 30 dwellings per hectare is not ‘high density’, but a minimum to ensure inefficient use of land is avoided. Higher densities (above 50 dwellings per hectare) are encouraged in and around town centres.

18. The “Howberry” decision demonstrates the concept of ‘optimising’ density rather than ‘maximising’ density, taking into account local character, accessibility, impact on amenity and traffic. It is considered that the appeal decision accords with the approach set out in the SPG, and that no substantive changes are needed.

Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny

This report was considered by the Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee at its meeting on 15th September 2003. The Committee had no further comments to add to the report.

Recommendation

That the Supplementary Planning Guidance at Annexe 2 be recommended to the Council for adoption.
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Background Papers

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

Name: Daniel Hawes Telephone: 01483 523295
E-mail: dhawes@waverley.gov.uk
Comms/executive/03-04/254