Agenda item

4 Waterside House, Cowley Business Park - 53180/APP/2021/1325

Change of use from offices (Class B1a) to 51 studio apartments (Class C3) (Application for Prior Approval under Schedule 2, Part 3, Class O of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (as amended)).


Recommendations: Approval


RESOLVED: That the application be approved as per officer’s recommendation, subject to the changes in the addendum and verbal updates.



Change of use from offices (Use Class B1a ) to residential use (Use Class C3) to create 36 studio apartments (Application for Prior Approval under Schedule 2, Part 3, Class O of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (as amended)).


Officers introduced the application, highlighted the addendum and made a recommendation for approval. Applications 63329/APP/2021/1326 and 53180/APP/2021/1325 were heard together however the Committee voted on the items separately.


A petitioner in objection of the application addressed the Committee and referred to a presentation that had been circulated to Members prior to the meeting. The Committee was informed that two petitions had been submitted in objection of the applications, with one of petitions having over 1100 signatures. It was acknowledged that only certain factors could be taken into consideration when determining the applications, however petitioner concerns were reiterated to the Committee. A history of the site, land conditions and agreements were outlined, and it was emphasised that this once an idyllic meadow between two water ways. Concerns were raised regarding the protection of the diverse wildlife and the protection of residential privacy and amenities. Concerns were also raised regarding the deterioration of the corridor that could lead to fragmentation of the links in the green chain. It was questioned how the wildlife would be protected and also how the Council could maintain strategic pledges whilst risking the wildlife corridor.


It was noted that other office spaces in Hillingdon had been granted Article 4 Directions and questions were raised why it had not been done in this site given the impact of the pandemic. It was submitted that the impact of traffic was underestimated particularly in light of additional residents living in the area and additional online deliveries. Concerns were further raised regarding pollution, contamination, flood risk and the pressures on sewage and waste disposal with the additional residents living in the area, loss of amenity and character. It was questioned whether a friendly fence could be erected to protect the wildlife. It was noted that authorities had a duty to preserve nature for future generations, as once it had gone, it had gone. The Committee was encouraged to comply with pledges made and it was asked whether the change of use could be stopped in order to preserve the rich habitat to avoid the fragmentation of the wider green corridor, the safety and privacy and amenities of residents and the character of the area.


In response to Member questions to the petitioner, it was confirmed that the woodlands had pumps to avoid flooding however due to the level of water it was difficult to manage and pumps needed to be used continually to control the level of water. It was unclear who maintained the pumps.


The agent for both the applications addressed the Committee highlighting that the office was vacant and 39 apartments for Otter House and 29 apartments for Water House had been proposed.  Housing shortage was a factor in the development purpose. Otter House included 76 parking space with cycle and refuse provisions, 36 onsite, 4 disabled and 4 visitor spaces. Waterside House had 106 car spaces, with cycle and refuse provision .51 on site, 4 one site and 4 visitor spaces. Given the onsite availability, there was no adverse impact on highways safety or surrounding roads. The wider site had no known contamination risks. Although the site was located in a flood risk level one area, the change of use would not increase this. The current scheme had been reviewed and confirmed as acceptable subject to a maintenance plan. It was confirmed that there was not expected to be any impact on noise which had been confirmed by officers. The plans showed that each apartment would benefit from good levels of natural light. The significant local interest was noted,  however the scheme remained compliant with relevant assessment criterias and was acceptable. Further, this was demonstrated by the Council’s approval of previous applications at the site in 2020. The site had also remained vacant for several years and remained occupied by squatters and different communities. The development would contribute to housing and make good use of land that added positive contribution to the wider area. The Committee was urged to approve the applications in line with officer recommendations.


In response to Members questions, it was noted that the wider landscape area was under the management of the business park management. Although the additional carpark spaces did not meet the maximum criteria, it was clarified that one space per dwelling was adequate. It was also clarified that the agent was unaware of any covenants on the site and the windows were large and served every habitable room.


The Deputy Director of Planning and Regeneration informed the Committee that the planning system had changed significantly and only the five material planning considerations were permitted to be considered. It was highlighted that they were all studio flats and the parking allocation was sufficient. The proposal could was unpreventable, however conditions had been proposed to control the proposals. A condition preventing access was important and would address the issues relating to woodland, security and ecology. Other conditions had already been imposed, but this one was very important. The Committee was advised that the pumps could be conditioned to ensure that they would be maintained and an informative relating to wildlife and protective species could be imposed to address some of the petitioner concerns.


Members noted that this was a prior approval application and only material planning considerations could be taken into account. Following officer clarification, it was noted that the development would most likely see 20 cars during the am rush hour peak and this could be accommodated by the network. The Committee discussed the increase in deliveries and amending condition 3 to include a delivery bay on site.


It was confirmed that air quality was not a material planning consideration and the site was located in flood risk zone 1 which was in the lowest risk area. However, the Committee considered that a condition regarding pumps would alleviate flooding concerns.


Subject to reviewing the conditions to update the number of visitor car parking spaces at both Otter House and Waterside House, adding a delivery bay of both sites, adding a condition regarding the maintenance of the Frays River pumps and information regarding protective species, the officer’s recommendation, was moved, secondedand, when put to a vote, agreed with seven Members voting in favour and one abstention.


RESOLVED: That the application be approved as per officer’s recommendation, subject to the additional information in the addendum and conditions.


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