Agenda item 4 was introduced as a mix of care and residential use with bungalows and two storey flats. There was screening for the development which would remove a non conforming use. Cllr Kelly asked about access to the site from two named roads. He said he had looked at it on Google Earth. He mentioned bollards and asked about vehicle access to the proposed site. He said there was no condition to bollard the entry which would need a Traffic Regulation Order to be processed. He asked for a condition to be added. Matthew Rushton said it was not as a specific condition but it would be best as a condition. The Chair said it was appropriate to have a condition regarding details of these facing the South-East. Cllr Kelly asked if this would remove permitted development rights. All councillors voted in favour, including the addition of the extra condition.
Item 6 had an amendment to the conditions. Cllr Mitchell and Johnson proposed. All were in favour.
Item 7 had been withdrawn.
Item 8 was proposed by Cllr Mitchell and Cllr Boult. All were in favour.
Item 9 had been agreed earlier in the meeting for a site visit.
Item 10 was proposed by Cllr Johnson and Cllr Mitchell.
The Chair commented that Cllr Realey had not been as vocal and vociferous as usual.
Item 10 was approved by all councillors.
Item 11 was proposed by Cllr Mitchell and Cllr Johnson and was approved.
Item 12 was proposed by Cllr Mitchell and Cllr Johnson and was approved.
Cllr Johnson asked what “sui generis” meant on page 70 on item 14. Unfortunately the planning officer didn’t turn his microphone on so I didn’t hear the answer.
Cllr Boult said he had a problem and wanted to discuss something in closed session without the press and public present. The Chair said it was unusual but agreed so the rest of the meeting considering any other business was held in closed session.
The Chair said it would be dedicated to the hundred and forty households. He said it was better to consult these hundred and forty people asking under the circumstances whether they wanted it or not? He said “Everybody made mistakes”. Matthew Rushton said further consultation would come from the Parks and Countryside Service who have the money which was one option. Cllr Elderton asks for suggested solutions. He said he accepted a or b. Options a and b were proposed and seconded.
There was a vote which split along party lines. Seven councillors (Lib Dem and Labour) voted for option A. Five councillors voted against for option B. Therefore option A (The Local Planning Authority accepts the dedication of land and constructs a play area to the value of £56,000 (plus interest), on that portion of the site indicated at Appendix 1) was accepted.
Cllr Lewis asked if they would have to get planning permission. Matthew Rushton said it was permitted development so it didn’t require planning permission. It would be designed and they would apply for permission. The Chair said the original s.106 was flawed and this was retrospective. He was not happy it was a practical solution. Matthew Rushton said there would be a twelve month period as it would have to fit in with the work program. The Chair said they had spent a lot of time on it. Cllr Mitchell asked why as they had made the decision they hadn’t moved on to the next item? The Chair agreed that was the end of it.
Cllr Bernie Mooney said there had been 26 residents opposed, but what about the other hundred, what if they say they want a play area, what are the legal implications? Cllr Elderton said this had been raised in the briefing. They were asking to take into account the views of twenty-six versus one hundred and forty. He said Cllr Lewis had concluded that everybody wants no play facility.
Cllr Lewis said the ward he represents was interesting electorally. He said the opposition outweighs the benefits and “the residents don’t want it”. Cllr Hayes pointed out the variation to the s.106 agreement regarding the water feature. Matthew Rushton said there had been an application to remove the water feature two years ago and a decision was made. The water feature had been put in because of its nature conservation value as it supported wildlife. However after the houses had been built its nature conservation value had decreased. There had been a planning application made with public consultation and it had not been part of a legal agreement. The legal adviser mentioned about maintaining the area.
The Chair said nobody was “smelling of roses”. However he said if it had gone ahead there would’ve been consultation on what it would have looked like. Matthew Rushton said if it proceeded the Parks and Countryside Service would do consultation. The wording of s.106 agreements usually required the developer to build something after a certain proportion of the housing had been completed. There was no deadline with relation to this case which was unusual and it didn’t rely on other things which was unique.
Cllr Salter said he had been on Planning Committee for nearly ten years. Large developments included a play area. The Council or the builder had done wrong. There had been a big argument about Port Sunlight where they hadn’t wanted children to play. They played on the roads instead so he had decided to go for option a). Cllr Kelly asked how large was the original application in terms of number of houses.
Cllr Elderton said it was for one hundred and forty houses. Cllr Kelly asked about traffic calming on the Reeds Lane/Dibbins Lane junction and the status of the 3600 m² in its Unitary Development Plan designation for example Green Open Space. Matthew Rushton said it had triggered a threshold because of the number of houses which required a play area. The policies had not changed since then.
Technical Services referred to the crossing from Whiteheath to Reeds Lane. Matthew Rushton said in the Unitary Development Plan it was primarily residential and specifically an amenity open space. It was unlikely to get planning permission for development as the policies had been tightened up regarding flooding. It was not a green space due to the plan and policy recommendation to develop a play area. Cllr Hayes said the circumstances had changed and asked Where will the children play? He said there was a brand new play area for them. He said with retrospective public opposition they should go for B and accept the 3600 m² of land.
Cllr Mitchell also referred to resident’s concerns about derelict land. He asked why it had taken so long to make a decision? He was going for option a which was the original decision. He said a certain area of land had been dedicated for it.
The Chair said it was unique. He referred to the £75,000 spent nearby, which mitigated the problem. He was not sure how valid it was. They had in the past agreed in some cases to make changes that went against the Unitary Development Plan such as a sports facility in an industrial area. He was not going against policy and making a precedent but encouraged members of the Planning Committee to “be their own people”.
Cllr Kenny said he had heard Cllr Mitchell and supported what he was saying. He supported option A which was consistent and argued against antisocial behaviour. He said it was strange that every day society had its troubles, with young people not having enough to do. He didn’t agree that there should not be a play area here and the money should be given back. It couldn’t be used for another one, so what would happen to the land? He said the song “Where Do The Children Play?” was by Cat Stevens. He was going to support recommendation a. They had been told there were twenty six people against, but not told the number of people that would welcome a play area that had previously been agreed by Planning Committee.
Cllr Ian Lewis said he was surprised that they [Wirral Council] didn’t take ownership and that the residents want to have the opportunity to comment. They had been in the same position over the water feature. In that case there had been no consultation with residents, however he was not aware of great support for the play area. He asked them [the Planning Committee] to agree to return the money.
Cllr Elderton said he wished to seek legal advice on what would happen if Wirral Council didn’t comply with the terms and conditions of the s.106 agreement. The legal advice given was that the variation made in not having a play area would set a precedent for the future. Matthew Rushton explained it was a matter for the Planning Committee and would result in the money being returned, however he said he hadn’t read the s.106 agreement. There was a requirement for 3600m², there would have to be alterations.
Cllr Brian Kenny asked a question regarding the recommendation. He said if they approved the recommendation they would be no further forward. He noted on page 45 the need to make a decision. If the play area was approved or not, what were the alternatives?
The Chair said there were three alternatives. Deciding option two or three was recommended.
Cllr Mitchell said that option a) would result in a decision to agree to the construction and support for it to continue. He said he had listened to Cllr Lewis. He would hate to be known as the councillor in the press that didn’t allow children to play. He said all authorities were getting rid of play areas.
Cllr Ian Lewis continued by saying the was aware of the needs to renovate play areas, but this was an exceptional circumstance. It had not happened over the last seventeen years. 4.3 of the report dealt with the construction at a location to be agreed. An area on the map was marked but the boundary was not correct. It had not taken into account drives such as two nearby residential private drives and access roads. The developer had been required to plant replacement trees. 4.6 dealt with the tree planting, which had not yet been complied with on both sites, only on the play area. 4.7 stated there was no agreement with residents and there had been no formal consultation. The record was clear. Page 48 section 4.9 stated there was no s.106 agreement for a green space.
There were nearby play areas such as Farmworth Avenue. However some residents wanted it removed as it had become an eyesore. The residents didn’t want one imposed. There had been a new play area at Reeds Lane last year costing £75,000 for Leasowe. At the point planning permission was granted there was only a play area with two swings. He asked the Planning Committee to agree to recommendation a). The £56,000 couldn’t be spent on anything else, the developer was adamant he wanted the money back but would work with residents about planting.
Cllr Ian Lewis was surprised over option B, but he expected the land would be adopted by Wirral Council. It was basically a grassy area. There had been negotiations to get the trees and paths reinstated.
The officer introduced the nine-page report of Kevin Adderley about the play area and the section 106 agreement along with the two page appendix (which covered location maps). The play area had not been done, but the money had been paid. There was an issue of precedent. If they chose option B the money would go back to the developer. It was in a flood zone (3A) which meant there was a high risk of flooding so it was unlikely to be used for another other use. A committee decision was sought as to which option would be pursued about the play area.
Cllr Elderton said he wanted to be clear about the facts. He stated the petitioners were not here. A ward councillor (Cllr Ian Lewis) addressed the committee. He said he had worked on the problem since 2008. It had been 17 years since planning permission had been granted. The residents had been consulted and there had been about two hundred emails on the subject. Residents were opposed as they thought a play area would devalue their properties. There had been three public meetings. There had also been nine leaflets through resident’s doors.
People who have moved in since were not aware of the play area on a property search for the request for a play area. The Council didn’t own the land. 26 households had signed a petition against. Going through the report, specifically page 46 section 4.2. There had been a failure between the Council and the developer. It was an unusual position to be in.
The Chair of the Planning Committee Cllr Elderton welcomed people to the Planning Committee meeting and invited people to take their seats. He explained to the members of the public present that the councillors on the left and right wings would be making the decisions. He also introduced the officers which would be making presentations, the committee clerk and the legal officer.
The minutes of the meeting held on 19th July 2011 circulated separately on paper only (not on the council’s website with the agenda for this meeting) were agreed. Cllr Mitchell and Cllr Elderton both said they agreed with the minutes.
There were no declarations of interest made.
Cllr Kenny requested a site visit for item 5 (APP/11/00561 – 98 BIDSTON ROAD, OXTON – Refurbishment and extension to existing building into 21 no. apartments with associated hard and soft landscaping) and Cllr Keeley (deputising for Cllr Clements) made a request for a site visit for item 9 (APP/11/00613 – 2 DINGWALL DRIVE, GREASBY – First floor rear extension). Both requests for site visits were accepted.
The agenda was reordered to take agenda item 13 first along with its appendix first.