Agenda item

Northwood Commercial Sales/ Autocentre Northwood Ltd - 77460/APP/2022/2480 - Northwood Hills

Replacement of vacant car sales centre with a 3 storey mixed used development comprising of 1 x 1-Bed Apartment, 7 x 2-Bed Apartments and 1 x 3-Bed Apartment, with associated ground floor undercroft car and cycle parking and ground floor commercial space Use Class E.


Recommendations: Refusal


RESOLVED: That the application be refused


Replacement of vacant car sales centre with a 3 storey mixed used development comprising of 1 x 1-Bed Apartment, 7 x 2-Bed Apartments and 1 x 3-Bed Apartment, with associated ground floor undercroft car and cycle parking and ground floor commercial space Use Class E.


Officers introduced the application.


A written representation was received from the lead petitioner.


In the planning application it stated that Chestnut Avenue was “a quiet road used for access to a residential area beyond the railway line and Northwood Recreation Ground containing a playing field and park.” This statement was disputed by Watkins Close residents, who did not agree that Chestnut Avenue was a quiet road; it was a busy suburban avenue with access and egress only via the main Pinner Road. It also served a members’ private gym; a football and social club; a cricket and social club; a bowling club; and a cemetery. None of which have been referenced and all of which produced a great deal of traffic at this busy junction. Residents, of which there were over a hundred, were constantly battling the odds to gain a parking space close to their homes. In Watkins Close the dwellings were built on what was previously a Council car and lorry park. People had long memories, and many still felt they had a right to park in resident-only spaces in the private close, and regularly blocked residents’ entrances. Unfortunately, as social housing tenants there were no electronic gates to keep unwelcome visitors out. Parking was a contentious issue the length of Chestnut Avenue with residents at the bottom having issues with visitors to the football club and gym. A recent funeral procession, leading to the cemetery, had held up traffic in the area for half an hour, due to the volume of guest vehicles attending. Mourners had abandoned their vehicles wherever they chose, without consideration for others.


The commercial space was not required and not welcome as this would cause further issues with parking. It was naïve for the proposal to assume that any visitors would cycle to a commercial space and not require vehicular parking: what about lorries unloading deliveries? This space would be put to better use by allocating further parking for the residents, to lessen the impact on the immediate neighbourhood.


A further contentious issue was the commotion and noise of constructing the new build. Many residents now worked from home daily and there were concerns around disruption to working days. In Watkins Close, residents already contended with trains and whistles, traffic and sirens coming from both sides; they would now have to cope with construction disturbance too.


The fact that there are less than ten dwellings had been noted as this avoided the necessity for affordable housing. It was understood that it was all about profit, but those profiting did not have to live with the results. It was quite clear that these flats, once built, would be sold off to property investors who would then be able to charge increasingly unachievable rents to professional medium-to-high earners. The only conclusion was that this building would not benefit local people in any way. Allocated parking spaces would probably be sold at a premium and those unlucky tenants who rented an apartment without parking would be the ones fighting with current residents for spaces.


The objectors to this development in current form were not gullible enough to believe that their objection would overturn this proposal; they were of the view that this construction will go ahead in some form but requested that further consideration be taken into the impact to the surrounding area.


A representative of the applicant attended and addressed the Committee.


The applicant had had to submit an appeal for non-determination on this scheme and contractually they had had no choice but to do this. The principal issue was that the applicant had already been through two rounds of pre-application that had lasted the length of 2021 and then the application was submitted in August 2022 following that extensive pre-application and meetings with Transport for London (TfL). At this point, 18 months had already passed and then no response had been received from officers between August 2022 and February 2023, when the appeal was then submitted. The representative noted that that this was a tough time to be a planning officer but with the contractual situation that the applicant was in in respect of purchasing the land, there was no choice but to submit this appeal for non-determination.


Had the feedback on the overlooking and the daylight/ sunlight comments been received by the applicant sooner in the process, they would have been happy to make any amendments that were necessary. When it was confirmed that this item was coming to the Committee, the applicant had sought to get a daylight and sunlight report commissioned which was not a validation requirement, nor was it asked for a pre-application stage or application stage. However, the applicant commissioned one and had it done as quickly as possible. The consultant who had carried it out concluded that the standards for all of the flats far exceeded what was required. On the point of overlooking, one of the balconies was a secondary balcony that was serving a bedroom, so the main balcony sat on Pinner Road, and this was the balcony that was serving a living space. Therefore, the secondary balcony was a nice-to-have rather than a need-to-have.


The applicant was anticipating a planning condition that would require boundary treatments; a landscaping condition and a 1.8 meter high privacy screen on the secondary balcony to protect the privacy of residents.


There was a 12 meter gap and to provide a privacy screen in between the two for a balcony that was not the primary amenity space for the flat would have been acceptable by way of a planning condition and something that would be expressed to the planning inspector.


The appeal was now running which meant that the Committee were unable to make a decision, however a positive steer from the Committee would enable this to move forward. The applicant would be happy to withdraw the appeal on the basis of moving forward with a new application.


Officers clarified that the daylight and sunlight report had been submitted the previous evening, and this application could not be considered by the Committee as it was now with the planning inspector. Officers had carried out a cursory review of it and there were concerns raised with regards to baseline assumptions that had informed the analysis as well as a lack of detailed inputs so officers were still confident in reason for refusal number one. However, in preparing the appeal documents, officers would consider it further as although it was not part of the current application, the planning inspectorate was likely to ask for the Local Planning Authority’s view on it. In that regard, officers asked that should any amendment be required to the wording of condition one that this be delegated to the Area Planning Service Manager and the Committee Chairman to consider.


In relation to the condition for the opposing balconies, officers would not consider this acceptable because if there was a 1.8 meter high screening, this would likely impact the outlook from that room as well as potentially loss of light and so it may affect the daylight/ sunlight assessment.


In relation to the applicant’s point about progression, that would be a discussion that could be had after the Committee and Members’ determination. It was clarified that when an application was appealed because it has not been determined, the decision on the application was taken out of the Council’s hands. Therefore, officers’ recommendations were what would be presented to the Planning Inspector. In terms of the current application, officers were recommending refusal and so Members would either agree or disagree and that would be the argument presented to the Planning Inspector. It was further clarified that having reviewed the daylight/ sunlight report, there were still concerns over the application and so it was maintained that the reasons for refusal were still valid. The Council as Planning Authority would have to prepare an appeal statement to answer any questions that the Planning Inspector may have.


Members asked if there had been any speed or traffic surveys completed within the last 12 months. Officers confirmed that the application was supported by a transport statement but that did not include any traffic flow details.


Members asked whether it would be possible to condition for vehicle type at the retail unit. It was clarified that this could not be included at this point as the officers’ recommendation was for refusal. However, this could be included within the appeal statement.


Officers asked about emergency vehicle access to the proposed development and the adequacy of this. Officers noted that the issue of fire safety was covered within the report as part of a suggestive condition. As part of the Council support statement, officers would recommend a fire safety report to be submitted as part of a condition which should include details to do with emergency vehicle access arrangements in the event of fire.


Members noted that Transport for London (TfL) had advised to reduce the number of parking spaces from eight to seven. Members asked if those seven spaces would be just for residents of the flats or if there would be one for the commercial properties. Members also asked what the arrangements would be for deliveries and waste collection. Officers noted that this had been carefully considered by the Highways Team, and this was covered within section six of the report. The proposed car parking spaces were solely for the future occupiers of the flats. It was emphasised that the retail unit was only 140 square meters. The Highways Team were satisfied that this unit did not require on-site parking provision. In terms of deliveries, what would have been requested and would be presented as part of a suggestive condition was a delivery servicing plan which would include restrictions as to when delivery vehicles can access the site and this was to minimise any issues with traffic and congestion.


Officers’ recommendations were moved, seconded and when put to a vote, unanimously agreed.


RESOLVED: That the application be refused.

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