Agenda item

Northwood Police Station, 2 Murray Road, Northwood - 46639/APP/2022/60

Change of use from former Police Station (sui generis) to mixed use place of worship (Class F.1) and community centre (Class F.2), along with minor alterations to car park layout.


(Re-Consultation: Expired on 4th November 2022)


Recommendation: Refusal


RESOLVED: That the application be refused.


Change of use from former Police Station (sui generis) to mixed use place of worship (Class F.1) and community centre (Class F.2), along with minor alterations to car park layout.


Officers presented the application and highlighted the information in the addendum. It was noted that the application sought the change of use of a Grade II listed building situated in a Conservation Area.  The schedule of existing and proposed activities, together with the likely busiest periods and the estimated numbers of cars which would use the site were highlighted to Members. It was noted that the building had a physical capacity of 292 people and a sanitary capacity of approximately 200. It was anticipated that 100 people would be on site at the busiest times.


Officers had raised concerns in relation to parking stress, traffic, the lack of sustainable transport and air quality hence the application was recommended for refusal on the following grounds:


1. Unacceptable impact on highways safety;

2. Unacceptable impact on air quality; and

3. Failure to secure mitigation through a S106 legal agreement by virtue of recommendation for refusal.


A petition in objection to the scheme had been received and the lead petitioner addressed the Committee. Key points raised included:


·       Petitioners’ objections were based purely on the grounds of traffic congestion, noise and air pollution;

·       Volume of traffic in Northwood was already an issue and the proposed change of use would have a major impact on traffic congestion, safety and the health of all Northwood residents;

·       The Iron Aid Foundation (IAF) had stated that the premises would be in use from dawn until almost midnight. 100+ attendees were expected to attend some events including Friday prayers and festivals. Seven rooms would be available for rental for other activities;

·       The Iron Aid Foundation claimed that up to 50 staff had previously worked at the police station. In reality, only 6 members of staff had worked out of Northwood Police Station at one time;

·       Northwood Police Station had never been a 24 hour Police facility hence a Police telephone box had been placed outside with an out of hours connection to Uxbridge Police Station;

·       Drop off and pick up at the premises would result in major congestion in a restricted parking zone;

·       It was likely that drop off / pick up drivers would come into conflict with shoppers using the Waitrose car park opposite the entrance to the Police Station car park;

·       Crossing the busy junction would be dangerous;

·       The IAF had been worshipping at St John’s Church in Hallowell Road for over 10 years without any impact on the community but the proposed site  was within the central conservation area;

·       If granted, the proposal would lead to an increase in air pollution;

·       Northwood town centre was at saturation point with heavy traffic and was about to get worse due to the large number of apartment blocks planned / being built.


The applicant and agent for the application were in attendance and addressed the Committee. Key points highlighted included:


·       The IAF was an existing organisation which had been operating in Northwood for 12 years close to the proposed site with no complaints raised;

·       There were insufficient faith and community facilities available in the Borough at present;

·       The proposed location was a vacant listed building which needed to be renovated and brought back into use;

·       The proposal would resolve a number of existing issues – the current operation at St John’s Church had no parking provision whereas there would be 15 spaces at the Police Station. There were no planning restrictions at the Church whereas restrictions were proposed at the Police Station. Moreover, the proposal obligated travel planning and parking management;

·       External consultants had raised no significant concerns;

·       The policy threshold for refusal on traffic grounds was severe cumulative impact – this was not mentioned in the report;

·       The IAF would agree to pay the air quality mitigation contribution if the application were approved;

·       The maximum capacity had been calculated by officers as a theoretical exercise based on building regulations;

·       If there was to be a population explosion in Northwood, good community facilities would be needed to support it;

·       The IAF had been founded in 2010 and aimed to help the Community;

·       Prayer was important but represented a small part of the planned centre activities;

·       The Foundation had a proven track record of helping those in need e.g. raising significant funds for the Paul Strickland Scanner appeal. £250k had also been raised locally in the last five years for good causes and they were currently planning to join forces with the ‘Live at Home’ charity;

·       The IAF had developed a good relationship with St John’s Church based  on trust and had received no complaints;

·       The IAF had engaged positively with the Council and the community and planned activities would not overlap peak traffic times of school drop of and pick up;

·       The proposals had cross-faith support.


The Planning Service Manager addressed Members in relation to some of the points raised. It was confirmed that officers were not recommending a refusal reason in respect of noise following advice received from the Council’s noise officer and from an external consultant.


The new site would allow an increase in use and the existing site currently being used would still be available.


For the purpose of clarification, Members’ attention was drawn to paragraph 111 of the National Planning Policy Framework which stated that “Development should only be prevented or refused on highways grounds if there would be an unacceptable impact on highway safety, or the residual cumulative impacts on the road network would be severe”. It was confirmed that officers had concerns that there would be an unacceptable impact on highways safety.


In response to questions from the Committee, the lead petitioner confirmed that Maxwell Road was extremely congested at all times- even at night.


Members sought clarification from the agent regarding projected numbers of attendees. It was confirmed that these had been calculated based on current numbers and those expected to attend future events. It was estimated that approximately 100 people would attend Friday prayers- attendees at other events would be far fewer.


In response to their questions regarding parking and congestion, Members heard from the agent that this would be carefully managed. Eventbrite would be used as a booking system for the car parking spaces. Those intending to visit the premises would be able to see whether a space was available in the car park and, if not, could make alternative arrangements. There would be car parking spaces for those with disabilities. With regard to drop offs and pick-ups, it was confirmed that many of the proposed events would take place in the evenings when it was quieter. Although there were parking restrictions in the area, a quick drop off or pick-up was permitted. In terms of ‘hard measures’ to address parking issues, it was anticipated that people would not try to access the car park once it was full. With regard to the 30% car share mode, it was confirmed that this was a voluntary arrangement – a high degree of car sharing (2.7 people per car on average) was anticipated especially for evening prayers.


Further to questions from Committee Members, it was claimed that the number of HGVs likely to use the Waitrose store opposite the application site was insignificant hence there would be little opportunity for conflict.


Councillors sought clarification regarding the air quality concerns and the applicant’s failure to secure mitigation through a S106 legal agreement in relation to this. Members were informed that air quality had been reviewed by the Council’s air quality specialists who felt the proposed change of use would result in harm due to net additional trips. The development was not deemed to be air quality neutral, and the measures proposed were not sufficient to mitigate the total emissions. The applicant had claimed that the change of use would not result in additional trips therefore had not agreed to contribute towards air quality mitigation measures.


In respect of highways concerns, Members heard that parents dropping their children off for activities would often be obliged to get out their cars and cross a busy road – this was a safety concern. It was anticipated that visitors to the premises would try and park as near as possible rather than using local car parks. It was likely that some 50 or 60 cars would visit in a day with car parking spaces for only 14 cars. Moreover, the busy junction and HGV movements opposite were a matter of concern.


In response to further requests for clarification, Members heard that much of the information provided to officers had related to Friday prayers and there had been a gap in the information relating to the proposed community use of the premises especially between the hours of 6-7pm. There could be up to 90 people on site at that time and this had not been fully assessed as part of the application. Estimated numbers of attendees were not necessarily an indication of future usage and it was felt that the worst-case scenario had not been adequately assessed by the applicant.


Members expressed their concerns regarding parking, vehicle movements and attendees and noted the strength of the comments from Highways officers.


Noise and disturbance were also a matter of concern. It was confirmed that third party advice had been taken in relation to this and, if approved, mitigation measures were proposed such as closure of the parking at certain times, prohibiting external public address and a Facility Use Operations Manual. It was felt that an acceptable noise environment could be achieved therefore noise was not recommended as a reason for approval. It was confirmed that concerns regarding the access gate were covered in Highways reason for refusal.


In summary Members were in favour of bringing the Police Station back into use and commented that a place of worship would be welcomed. However, it was felt that this was the wrong location given the concerns regarding the highways implications on a busy junction, with a supermarket opposite and a school nearby. Air quality was also a matter of considerable concern.


The officer’s recommendation was moved, seconded and, when put to a vote, unanimously agreed.


RESOLVED: That the application be refused.


Supporting documents: