Readers may wish to look at a previous post about this site (dated 10 July), this outlined the original application to provide an additional permanent one static caravan pitch at the rear of 74 Dickens Heath Road, Shirley, Solihull. Planning application 2013/137/S refers and the final report, which went to the Planning Committee on 30 October 2013 can be viewed via this link:http://www.solihull.gov.uk/akssolihull/users/public/admin/kab12.pl?cmte=PLA&meet=106&arc=71
There has been a change in the general circumstances since the original application in July. In addition, at the October planning committee meeting I was appointed as the council’s Planning Committee Vice-Chair. This brings extra responsibility when deliberating planning applications, however I have always sought to provide a balanced viewpoint with planning applications and look at the wider picture.
At the October planning committee meeting I voted to agree the recommendations of the boroughs planning officers in respect of this planning application. The main worry for me was that if the application was refused by the committee (contrary to the report from the council’s experts) then any appeal by the applicants may succeed and costs will be awarded against the council. The rationale behind this is the draft ‘Gypsy and Traveller Site Allocations Development Plan Document’. This was submitted to the planning inspectorate in July 2013 and the submission document can be viewed via this link – http://www.solihull.gov.uk/Attachments/DPD_001_Submission_Document_July_2013.pdf . Para 7.6.3 on page 24 refers to the site in Dickens Heath Road, also known as ‘UPLANDS’. It is also a concern that if the application was refused and if an appeal was viewed to be successful then the planning inspectorate may well declare the need for the traveller site to be placed elsewhere in the ward. Yes, there are a few if’s here, but these issues need to be taken into consideration.
Page 23 of the planning officer’s report is quite important and I copy a paragraph here “Whilst the DPD is not yet formally adopted, it has reached an advanced stage and is expected to be adopted later this year and can therefore be accorded significant weight. This application is fully in accordance with the emerging policy document and Policy P6 of the Draft Local Plan which can now be given full weight in the absence of any outstanding unresolved objections. The site performs extremely well when measured against the Council’s agreed criteria for determining such applications.”
On the same planning committee agenda as this application was one for an extension to one of two sites in Salter Street, Cheswick Green. This application can be viewed here : http://eservices.solihull.gov.uk/mginternet/documents/s1863/131483SALTERSTREET.pdf . This application was refused but it is important to state I understand the Secretary of the Independent Ratepayers Association (who saw fit to address the meeting in respect of the Dickens Heath Road site – thus preventing the local parish council from addressing the committee) did submit a report to the council last year suggesting one of the two Salter Street sites could be extended. I totally disagree with this suggestion, which could be interpreted by a planning inspector as highlighting some local support. The Salter Street sites are very close to a church and a large primary school and I believe any expansion here is inappropriate. This was also on of my considerations in agreeing to the Uplands application. There was also the clear danger that IF the Uplands site was not authorised then any appeals to extend the Salter Street may be viewed favourably by the Planning Inspectorate – whether we liked it or not. The situation at present is they are very small sites and the danger was of an enlarged site in Salter Street – something my political opponents will not tell you.
In concluding I wish to highlight that the previously ‘unauthorised’ site at Uplands has posed little problems for residents and even when I had an allotment next to the site I did not know it was a traveller site. I also suspect the vast majority of residents were also not aware of the site and a bit of scaremongering has waged in order to try and bring local opposition.