Proposed steps down through garden to a 1.5 metre
long tunnel beneath
public footpath rising through to another set of steps to the foreshore
Refuse contrary to officer recommendation.
Mrs Stevens introduced the application.
The following members of the public addressed the Committee:
Mr Keith Martin – Parish Council
Mr Richard Austin – Objector (Chichester Harbour Conservancy)
Mr George Chapman – Applicant
Mr Whitty advised the Committee on matters cited by the speakers in relation to the public right of way which he confirmed to be a footpath not for cyclists, the use of the land, which is now immune from enforcement action and that the Committee should focus on the application which was in reference only to the construction of the proposed tunnel.
During the discussion members sought clarification regarding the location sitting within a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Protection Area (SPA) and matters associated with those designations and the use of the land. Mr Whitty advised that the use of the land provided the setting and was lawful, and the matter at hand was whether the proposed tunnel ‘in itself’ was harmful.
Members sought further clarification regarding the SSSI/SPA in relation to the planning process, and the ambiguity of the boundary. Mr Whitty responded that it was impossible to precisely identify whether the land was within the SSSI/SPA, although the essence of the matter was the potential impact on the SPA and activities were more likely to have an impact. With regards to the previous movement of soil to create a path and more level area, it was considered less harmful to not to request this to be reinstated. Mr Whitty drew the Committee’s attention to comments from Natural England in the report which confirmed the proposed tunnel was outside the designated nature conservation site, however, irrespective of whether the tunnel was within or outside of the designation the test was ‘whether the tunnel would have an adverse effect on the integrity of the SPA’ and although there may be some impacts at the construction stage these can be mitigated. Overall, the development was assessed as being not of a sufficient scale to have an adverse effect on integrity of the SPA.
Members further discussed whether the proposed tunnel would be visible from the water, if development was prohibited in an SSSI, potential urbanisation of the location, lighting of the tunnel and whether the handrails would be a further intrusion on the visual appearance of the location. Mr Whitty responded that small, domestic scale lighting such as solar garden lights could be provided on the land without planning permission and lighting could be controlled to be directed internal to the tunnel as far as possible, and he could not comment on safety of the handrails as this was a matter for the applicant, not the Planning Authority. Mr Whitty further advised that there was a risk of costs if the matter was taken to an appeal on the grounds of ecological impact, given the advice available to the Council from its own internal experts and that of Natural England. Having heard the debate by the Committee, if refusal was based on the harmful impact to nature within the conservation site, and the landscape impact within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) of introducing concrete and not conserving or enhancing the countryside, rather than an ecological impact, may be a more robust reason for refusal of the application. Such a reason would be reflective of the Committee’s concerns raised in the debate.
The Chairman sought an initial vote on the recommendation and advised should that not be carried, a further proposal would be sought.
Contrary to the recommendation of officers to permit, the application was not carried.
A further proposal to refuse the application on the grounds that the application would be harmful to the AONB through the introduction of an overtly man-made feature which would have a harmful impact on this unspoilt and tranquil landscape, was proposed and seconded.
Contrary to the recommendation of officers to permit, the application was refused.
Mr McAra left the table for the next item
to which he had declared a prejudicial interest.