Change use of land to a single private gypsy pitch with associated hardstanding and day room.
Refuse Against Officer Recommendation
Mrs Stevens presented the item to Members and drew Members’ attention to the information provided in the Agenda Update Sheet and confirmed a correction to the first sentence of para 8.11 which should have read ‘The site is immediately ‘east’ of an area of land….’ and a further condition was amended regarding the requirement for nitrate neutrality to avoid an increased nitrate level within the Chichester Harbours.
Mr McAra arrived at the meeting.
The Committee received the following speaker:
Richard Hitchcock – Parish Council
Officers responded to Members’ comments and questions:
With regards to the reed bed, Mrs Stevens explained that the size had been calculated to mitigate the amount of nitrates estimated to be released from the package treatment plant as a result of the new pitch, in line with methodology established by Natural England. The reed bed would require future management in order to remain effective in its function to remove nitrates and therefore a condition had been included to secure the necessary maintenance. On the matter of unauthorised pitches, Mrs Stevens confirmed that her understanding was that these were not within the site being considered but on adjacent sites and enforcement action was in progress. In regards to inefficient use of the land, Mrs Stevens explained that there was not an established density requirement as associated with housing schemes and it may be possible to provide more pitches on the site in future if deemed acceptable, but only the application with its proposed layout within the red line, which was tight around the single pitch, was currently being considered. In relation to the landscaping and lawn, Mrs Stevens confirmed the ecologists were satisfied with the proposals to provide planting and native hedging, and it would not be reasonable to require further enhancements, however as a standard landscaping condition had not been included, a landscaping condition which required native mixes to be used could be added.
With regards to the weight which could be afforded to an emerging Neighbourhood Plan, Mr Whitty confirmed this was a matter for the Committee. The Neighbourhood Plan had been through a process in which a number of fact-checks had been made including an assessment relating to sustainability and environmental impact, and was likely to be presented to CDC Cabinet in either April or May this year and a referendum would take place. Therefore the Neighbourhood Plan could be afforded some weight and whether that was sufficient to outweigh presumption in terms of a sustainable development was to be considered. Mr Whitty advised that the relevant policy was OA42 which related to Gypsy and Traveller pitches which stated that the purpose of the Neighbourhood Plan was to consider if Gypsy and Traveller sites had been proportionately met. Officers had noted that this application was for an extension of a set of pitches for a family taken a balanced view between appropriate weight afforded to the Neighbourhood Plan, against significant harm not been identified.
Mr Whitty advised the main basis on which to take a decision was to consider whether or not the district’s level of supply had been met and the existence of vacant pitches similarly to considering vacant market housing stock would not be relevant at an appeal. The focus should be on the lack of current supply and balancing the harm that may be construed from the proposal in relation to that. With regards to over-whelming a settled community, an Inspector may take a view that this evidence was anecdotal and not a provision of tangible evidential harm.
With regards to relevant guidance, Mr Whitty responded that this could not be used as policy. On the matter of the suggested maximum number of 15 pitches within a site, the site which was the subject of the application and the neighbouring site, might be viewed as two separate sites as one could not be accessed from the other. Mr Whitty also advised that the referenced guidance was withdrawn on 1 September 2015, although it could be noted, but an Inspector was unlikely to give it any weight.
On the matter of considering the evidence which informed the Neighbourhood Plan and whether that was relevant, Mr Whitty confirmed it could reviewed for the current and future applications. Evidence of over-development was usually provided by demonstrating a strain on services, but an argument could be presented of a perception within a community of one group defined by traits, as being dominant. However, officers had experience on appeal with much larger numbers of gypsy and travellers pitches, and the actual numbers of those in the settled community were significantly higher and the Inspector had not found the community to be over-whelmed. With regards to anti-social behaviour, police evidence may be required which would have to demonstrate that it was directly related to the number of pitches. Mr Whitty reiterated that a robust case would have to demonstrate a strain on services, and that the settled community were numerically overwhelmed, which could relate to the local neighbouring dwellings rather than the parish as a whole. The lack of a Local Plan would not give any further weight to a Neighbourhood Plan, but when made it would be afforded weight the Local Plan did not currently have.
Mrs Stevens confirmed a landscaping condition which required native mixes to be used could be added to the ecological enhancement condition or be included as a stand-alone condition.
In a vote Members refused the application against officer recommendation.
Mr Briscoe proposed refusal of the application on the grounds of its being premature in relation to the Neighbourhood Plan, over-intensification of the site, and having dominance within the settled community in terms of the immediate neighbouring houses. Mr Whitty advised that prematurity would not be a reasonable reason for refusal, rather that reasons for refusal were: the cumulative impact of this site and the adjacent site, the harm demonstrated by the domination and intensification, and the current status of the Neighbourhood Plan, which provided a reason supported by policy. This was accepted by Mr Briscoe. The proposal was seconded by Mr Potter.
In a vote Members agreed the proposed reasons for the refusal of the application.