To consider report PES/373aof the Head of Economy and Planning.
RECOMMENDATION to REFUSE.
The Committee considered report PES/373a of the Head of Economy and Planning which proposed as follows:
Erection of primary school with associated parking and landscaping (amended description and amended plans received).
Councillors Ali, A Belben, Burrett, Irvine, Jaggard, Malik, Mwagale, and P Smith declared they had visited the site.
The Principal Planning Officer (MR) provided a verbal summation of the application which sought permission for the development of a two storey primary school adjacent to the existing Mosque building. The Committee heard that, since the publication of the report, a further reason for refusal regarding biodiversity (reason 7) had been added. Further representations had also been received including from H Smith MP and Councillor P Lamb.
Brian Tully spoke in objection to the application. Matters raised included:
· The lack of need for more primary schools in Bewbush or Broadfield.
· An increase in overspill parking on to nearby roads at school pick-up and drop-off times.
· A query regarding the source of funding for the school.
Arif Syed, the applicant, spoke in support of the application. Matters raised included:
· The applicant strove to work constructively with the Local Planning Authority regarding the Section 106 agreement and drainage strategy but communication was unclear.
· Although six trees were proposed to be felled, 25 replacement trees were to be planted, which was deemed a positive ecological contribution.
· Building on the area of ancient woodland would have no greater detrimental impact on the land than some previous housing developments in the borough.
Mohammad Bora spoke in support of the application. Matters raised included:
· Many students already attend the evening school operating at the Mosque without any shortage of parking spaces. The school was not proposed to operate during prayer time on Fridays, when the Mosque was busiest.
· The overspill of approximately 25 cars at peak times due to a loss of car parking spaces, as predicted in the report, was contested.
· Faith schools encouraged high educational achievement.
Mohammad Jogee spoke in support of the application. Matters raised included:
· Residents had expressed a need for a local Islamic faith school as the closest was currently 20 to 30 miles away. There were a number of existing Christian faith schools in the Crawley area.
· The proposed school was to be community-funded – no public money was to be used.
· The school aimed to promote community integration.
Councillor Kiran Khan, on behalf of Councillor Tim Lunnon (ward councillor for Broadfield), spoke in support of the application. Matters raised included:
· An adjustment had been made to the Mosque’s prayer times on Fridays, leading to decreased traffic and in turn greater availability of parking spaces.
· West Sussex County Council’s Highways Department had retracted its objection to the development.
· The positive responses from Broadfield residents regarding the plans.
Councillor Khan (ward councillor for Broadfield) also showed support for the application and commented that there was a definite need for the school.
Councillor Peter Lamb spoke in support of the application. Matters raised included:
· A need to balance the various elements of the application based on policies, and preclude those matters not forming relevant planning considerations. On this basis it was deemed correct to permit the application.
· The lack of a 15 metre buffer zone between the development and the ancient woodland was a reason for refusal in the report; however the existing buffer between the area and the Mosque/nearby housing was smaller than this.
· Concerns over parking were regarding overspill from the Mosque, not parking at the school itself.
The Committee then considered the application.
Upon receipt of a query from a Committee member, the Planning Officer clarified that the proposed development was sited within an area of ancient woodland but the majority of the trees had been cleared from the site. A 15 metre buffer zone bordering the remaining woodland to the west was required however no buffer zone was proposed, so the proposal was not policy-compliant in this regard. Several Committee members expressed concerns regarding the lack of a buffer zone and that the woodland should be protected from damage during and after construction. Other Committee members queried the need for a buffer zone as the existing Mosque car park did not have this. The Planning Officer stated that the proposal’s relationship with the woodland was different to that with the Mosque and the use of the site as a car park, as the school was proposed to be a large structure in nearly constant use with classroom windows facing the woodland. The development required initial and future works to the trees.
A concern was raised regarding the distance to neighbouring houses (the closest house was situated 23 metres away). The Planning Officer confirmed that the recommended distance was 30 metres, however in this instance there was an intervening road already accessible by the public and no direct overlooking, so the distance was acceptable.
Committee members sought clarification regarding the Local Plan designation of the site, which was confirmed to be within a Biodiversity Opportunity Area, an area of Ancient Woodland, and formed part of the area’s structural landscaping.
The Committee discussed the refusal reason regarding flooding and a suggestion was made that this could be controlled by conditions. The Planning Officer explained that a Surface Water Drainage Strategy had been submitted, but had not sufficiently evidenced that the proposal would not increase off-site flooding.
The loss of six protected trees at the site was discussed. Committee members discussed the trees’ health – two of which were damaged – and expressed mixed views about their existing amenity value. The proposal to plant 25 replacement trees was generally deemed a positive aspect of the application, however some Committee members had concerns that the replacement trees were not of high amenity value.
Mixed views were expressed regarding parking at the site. The Planning Officer confirmed that the parking proposed at the site was sufficient for the school, but the development would result in a loss of existing spaces by the Mosque as the school would be located on the overflow car park. This could in turn lead to overspill on to surrounding roads which currently experienced parking issues at peak operation times at the Mosque. Several Committee members suggested that the proposed parking situation was manageable.
Queries were raised about the discussions with the applicant regarding a Section 106 agreement. The Planning Officer confirmed that if the application were to be permitted, a Section 106 agreement would be required. It was clarified that the refusal reason to ensure the provision of off-site infrastructure works required by WSCC was required if there was a potential appeal.
It was confirmed that the applicant and the Local Planning Authority had worked to try to address various issues with the application but further information, such as responses to re-consultations, were received at a late stage in the process.
Other matters discussed were the provision of outside amenity space, underground parking, and the Travel Plan.
It was requested by Councillor Irvine that a recorded vote be taken on the application. The names of the Committee members voting for, against, or abstaining were as follows:
For the recommendation to refuse: Councillors Ayling, A Belben, Burrett, Irvine, and Jaggard (5).
Against the recommendation to refuse: Councillors Ali, Malik, Mwagale, Raja, and P Smith (5).
The Chair’s casting vote was used. The vote was cast for the recommendation to refuse.
Refuse for the reasons set out in report PES/373a, and further refusal reason 7 as follows:
7. The development would not provide any net gain in biodiversity or enhance features of nature conservation value within and around the site contrary to Policy ENV2 of the Crawley Borough Local Plan 2015-2030 and the National Planning Policy Framework.