Yes another update on oak Gardens! When will it end.

Having been refused on several reserved matters , Crabtree are back in double quick time with a new applications (19/5534N and 19/5489D).

What Crabtree has now created is four 1 bedroomed apartments. These replace the two two bedroomed semi-detached properties as shown on this site plan:

It has long been argued that the site was overcrowded. This was due primarily to the desire of the developer to build as many 4 and 5 bedroomed ‘Executive’ homes as the site could bear. The Planning Officer has clearly been at work and made it clear that Crabtree must respond seriously to the issues raised by Cheshire East Officers and members of the public in the comments made on previous plans. In the latest iteration they have made a number of important changes:

1. The number of houses across the western boundary has been reduced from 6 to 5

2. We have more 3 bedroomed (shown in yellow) properties

3. The 4 affordable homes have been converted to single bedroomed apartments.

Extra room has been created by the reduction in space allocated to the ‘affordable homes’ and the introduction of ‘market’ directed semi-detached homes next to those affordable dwellings. This has allowed the developers to give the required space to the veteran ash tree and as noted above, put in few houses in the west

The Parish Council remains concerned about the change to the affordable houses. Here are its latest comments:

Bunbury Parish Council objects to the application on the grounds that the four affordable homes that are mentioned are not clear from the diagram or the design statement. It is believed that the original application may have contained a different mix of affordable housing. The detail needs to be more specific

The design statement attached the application is noteworthy for saying very little of substance despite looking a bit more professional. Again, the contrast with the Duchy Homes statement on the site they have acquired off Bunbury Lane is a sharp lesson in how to do it right first time. That said the need for single bedroomed homes in Bunbury is clearly evidenced. Likewise we have to be pleased to see more three bedroomed properties as these are often in short supply in Bunbury but in strong demand.

Full report by the Planning Officer is available here:

report on refusal of reserved matters _ Oak Gardens

In Summary:

The layout does not make adequate provision for the veteran Ash tree.

The layout would be dominated by parked cars at the entrance of the site.

Hence, it fails to comply with policy SE1 of the Cheshire East Local Plan and policy H3 of the Bunbury neighbourhood Plan and the Cheshire East Design Guide.

The separation distances are in places below the recommended distances set out in the adopted guidance.

Those houses numbered 10-14 on the plan would be 1 metre above houses in Wakes Meadow. ‘;This would exacerbate the impact of the development.(Properties 5 – 7 Wakes meadow are identified).

Again this would be contrary to policy BE1 of Nantwich & Crewe Local Plan and BNP policy H3.

How long this refusal will delay matters is difficult to estimate. The developers need to come up with a site layout that deals with all the issues identified in the Planning Officers report. To me, the underlying issue that emerges once again,  is that the plan to put 15 dwellings on this site is just not achievable if all you want to build is 4-5 bedroom detached ‘executive’ style properties. Fewer, smaller houses of the type needed in the village would not be such a problem but potentially less profitable.

Latest Update October 29th 2019:

Cheshire East has refused reserved matters consent on the land at Oak Gardens!

Announced yesterday the planning officer has refused to discharge the reserved matters conditions 6, 7, 9, 12, 13, & 14 listed in application 19/3992N The reason given by the planning officer, Simon Greenland, is that no agreement has been made on an acceptable layout of the site. It is clear from the comments made on each of the conditions that they were close to agreement but continue to be held up by the lack of details on the floor and ground levels so that a proper evaluation of the site layout can be made. This is of key importance to local residents impacted by this development. From the start there has been concern of the height ad proximity of the dwellings on this site relative to existing properties and trees. It was a point made by the HM Inspector in her report on the appeal:

Condition 14

No development shall take place until the following information has been submitted to, and approved in writing, by the local planning authority:

i) a full site survey showing: the datum used to calibrate the site levels; levels along all site boundaries; levels across the site at regular intervals; levels of adjoining gardens; and floor levels of adjoining buildings.

ii) full details of the proposed finished floor levels of all buildings and hard landscaped surfaces

Appeal Decision APP/R0660/W/16/3165643

The department at Cheshire East raising this objection was Heritage & Design – Forestry. Their comment was :

The condition requires a full site survey and datum, levels across all site boundaries and across the site and adjoining gardens including floor levels of adjoin buildings. As far as I can ascertain all that has been provided is finished floor levels. Given the topography of the site, the provision of existing/proposed levels are critical to enable assessment of the impact on existing site constraints.

I am assuming that a new application will be presented shortly to cover this refusal. Time is starting to become an issue however. The Appeal result is dated 31st May 2017 and the developers have until the 31st of may 2020 to resolve all matters. If not the process will start have to be restarted with a fresh application. However, it is important to remember this is effectively the last condition, a really key one, and while  details on condition 6, 7, 9, 12 and 13 are refused along with condition 14 the real issue is the later.

 

The original comments:

Many of you will now have had notification of the developers plans for the field next to Oak Gardens

Development plans for the field next to Oak Garden have been lodge with Cheshire East planning department. They can be viewed on their website here. If you wish to do your own search the planning reference is 18/6338N.

This is part of the ‘reserved matters’ relating to the outline planning permission granted to Crabtree Homes on 31st May 2017 at appeal. Under the schedule laid (Appeal Decision on Application 16/20210N) down by the HM Inspector in Item 1:

Details of the appearance, landscaping, layout, and scale, (hereinafter called “the reserved matters”) shall be submitted to and approved in writing by the local planning authority before any development takes place and the development shall be carried out as approved

Here is the proposed layout of the site (updated 29/01/2019):

Amended Layout of Oak Gardens development showing distances to points on adjoining properties. (NB ‘OG’ indicates obscure glass.

The Existing Site:

Without wish to alarm residents I do wish to draw your attention to the Existing Site Plan submitted with application 18/6338. You can see this just below:

 

Existing Site Plan for application 18/6338

The red line defines the site, or does it? The line is a series of straight lines drawn on the plan that ‘roughly’ marks out the site. But it does not follow the boundary fences. It cuts across some gardens and in places locates substantial trees in peoples gardens as being in the site. Probably just a draughting error. May be not. We must speak to the developer to clarify this one.

The Proposed Layout plan (1418-P005):

This plan shows a number of radical changes to the one submitted as part of the original 16/2010N application.

 The important changes that I have noted are:

a) The location of the houses on the western border has increased to 6 properties with No 6 coming very close to the back garden of No 9 Wakes Meadow. Such a location must seriously reduce the privacy of the existing and future residents. I would think this gable end must be within 2 or 3m at best (guesstimated until I can measure the plan). Is it not normal to allow 10m to preserve privacy and existing resident amenity?

A similar problem occurs at the other end of the site where the affordable homes now encroach on the amenity of the three homes that front onto Bunbury Lane at this point to the north of the access road.

The Bunbury Neighbourhood Plan (BNP) states under Housing Policy H5 Design:

Demonstrate that the amenities of neighbouring dwellings will not be adversely affected through overlooking, loss of light or outlook, over dominance or general disturbance.

This point is emphasised by BNP Policy LC1 – Built environment:

..demonstrate a high quality of design and a good standard of amenity for existing and future occupiers of the proposed development, at the same time ensuring that the amenities of neighbouring properties will not be adversely affected.

These plans therefore pose a serious loss of privacy and amenity to existing residents. It is not beyond the wit of skilled architects to solve this problem.

In her report on the appeal of application 16/2010N on the land off Oak Gardens, the Inspector laid down a series of conditions. This forms the schedule at the end on the document and stipulate what MUST be done and in what order. A number of these conditions have relevance to any of our objections to these plans. The inspector identifies condition 1, 8, 10, 11 and 13 as pre-commencement conditions as they cannot be satisfactorily dealt with any other way

Condition 1: requires the developer to submit ‘Details of the appearance, landscaping, layout, and scale, (hereinafter called “the reserved matters”) shall be submitted

That would appear to have been fulfilled by the plans currently on display on the Cheshire East (CE) website. Click here to view

Condition 8 of the schedule:

No development shall commence until the public right of way through the site has been diverted as shown on the approved Footpath Plan.’ (Schedule 8)

While the appeal against the original path orders was rejected, a new appeal against the subsequent amendments to those orders is still ongoing. It is good to note that the Cheshire East Footpath Team are on the job , spurred on by Susie Reed -and have already lodged an objection to the application.

Their comments are worth attention because the project must stop until the issues are dealt with:

We wish to object to the Reserved Matters planning application (18/6338N) as the developers Landscape Plan does not reflect the proposed widths of FP14 Bunbury as recorded in the Footpath Diversion Order and previously agreed with the developers.

FP14 runs from the gate into the field to the kissing gate in the middle of the southern boundary (and onwards over the next field), near to the west end of Oak Gardens. Footpath 15 the runs from the kissing gate along the southern boundary to the style leading to the small bridge over the Gowy brook. the Footpath team comment:

Public Footpath No.15 – although this section of public footpath has not required a diversion, it has previously been mentioned that as it is proposed to enclose the path a minimum of 2.5 metres for the footpath would be required. However as this footpath also follows a existing hedge to the southern boundary of the site, it is assumed the Nature Conservation Officer will be recommending that a buffer is also required for this section. Therefore a greater width would be required.

Condition 10:

Before the approval of the final reserved matters application, an updated protected species impact assessment and mitigation strategy shall be submitted to and approved in writing by the local planning authority. Development shall be carried out in accordance with the approved details.
No such updated impact assessment or mitigation strategy has been forth coming.

Condition 11 is addressed further down the page.

b) Secondly are concerns related to the proposed gardens of these houses and the extent this poses a serious threat to the local ecology and an attack on the BNP Landscape and Environment Policy.

In outlinning its polcy toward the environment the Bunbury Neighbourhood Plan (BNP) states that one of the key issues it wishes to address is:

To continue to protect wildlife, especially those endangered species such as great crested newts, birds of prey and owls. (BNP p22)

The specific policies that it uses to enforce this are:

Policy ENV3 -Woodland, Trees, Hedgerows, Sandstone
Banks, Walls, Boundary Treatment and Paving

Incuded in the policy are the statements:

All new developments should seek to protect local woodland, trees, hedgerows, wide verges, sandstone banks, walls, boundary treatment

All new development close to existing mature trees will be expected
to have in place an arboricultural method statement to BS5837
standard or equivalent before any work commences. This will detail
tree protection policies to be employed during construction.

No such statement has been made.

Policy ENV7 – Buffer Zones and Wildlife Corridors opens with the statement:
The existing woodlands, wildlife sites, drainage ditches, brooks and culverts
will be maintained and enhanced and, where appropriate, new buffer zones and wildlife corridors will be created to increase the biodiversity of the plan area.

The western border of the site backs onto a stream – a tributary of the River Gowy. This is designated in the Bunbury Neighbourhood Plan (BNP) as a Wildlife corridor in Policy BIO 1 – Bunbury Wildlife Corridor ( Map Reference Appendix C Map 1 BNP).

A key passage in the Justification of this policy is

The designated area should incorporate all semi–natural habitat along the river corridor and include a non–developable buffer zone to protect the corridor from issues such as ground water and light pollution, and the spread of invasive garden species.

This is specified in the CE Principle Nature Conservation Officer and repeated by HM Inspector in giving her consent to the development at appeal.

I understand that the application site falls within an indicative wildlife corridor as shown in the NP. The NP recommends a 15m non-developable buffer zone adjacent to the wildlife corridor. The Council has acknowledged that this appears to have been achieved in the indicative layout and I have no reason to find otherwise.

Now the proposed site and landscape plan show the ‘buffer zone’ has gone and gardens appear to extend to the banks of the stream. The developer has even indicated a gate is to be provided to better access the wildlife corridor! If the corridor and its protective buffer zone are subsumed into the gardens we can clearly see the dangers to the wildlife and the environment. Undergrowth will be cleared, trees will be cut back ‘the threat of falling branches poses a danger both to my house and children cut them down!’, people will invade this quiet area and drive out the wildlife. This amounts to a cynical rejection of the BNP polices designed to protect these essential environments. It is also a complete reversal of the plans presented that can be seen below comparing the landscape plans before and after planning consent has been granted.

Here is the current proposal for landscaping the site:

New landscape plan of site showing position of houses and some limited planting of hedges.

Here is the amended version that now puts back many of the mitigation features originally proposed. Why did we not get this plan first time ?

Latest landscape plan (29/01/19) showing restoration of many of the ecology mitigation features not included in the first version shown above.

It is interesting to view the original layout and features to support the ecology of the field. Here is the original plan:

Indicative layout of site showing position of houses roads and ecological enhancement items required.
Original Landscape plan submitted with application 16/2010N

The latest landscape plan now shows the pond, the Hibernacula Mounds, Habitat Mounds, Wooden Compost Bins, and apart from some planted fence lines no additional planting round the pond or the old ash tree. Much of the area behind the row of house adjacent to the brook still is incorporating the 15m buffer zone required by the Nature Conservation Officer and shown on the original landscape plan. This has now been included within the gardens. The ‘buffer zone’ protecting the wildlife corridor has gone. the wildlife corridor on this side of the brook has also effectively gone.

Condition 11 specifies:

Before the approval of the final reserved matters application a habitat management plan to cover the life of the development shall be submitted to and approved in writing by the local planning authority. From the day of commencement of development, the management plan shall be adhered to thereafter.

No such plan has been submitted.

These matters will be decided by the assigned Planning Officer, Simon Greenland. It is important to register your concerns about these proposals by the 13th February. I will make available some of my concerns as soon as possible but numbers and specific concerns about the plans really do matter. It is pointless to rehash points made in the original debate about this development. The focus has to on these particular plans, such as impact on existing dwellings, privacy, protection of landscape as specified in the various environmental assessments and agreements. More on this soon.

This application is therefore incomplete and cannot be considered as it does not comply with the conditions laid down by the inspector. Both conditions 10 and 11 come with the preamble:

Before the approval of the final reserve matters application…

Neither have met. The Planning Officer assures me that the information is on its way. But the point is, it is not available now for proper scrutiny. The clock is running and unlike council officer members, the public need time to check the website, think, and marshal their comments. Presenting critical information late in the day is just another variant of the ‘A good Day for bad news’ strategy that governments, corporation and businesses are inclined to use when they do not want the hassle of accountability.

About the Author

Peter Gorman ()

Now retired from teaching. Involved in supporting the Village Day Committee, Village websites and Secretary of the Bunbury Action Group.