Braodway Farm Update
12th July 2018
The following email trail relates to activity made to address the Broadway Farm issue.
May I, on behalf of my community at large, thank you for writing this letter in the manner and tone that you have.
It would appear, from Dr. Gore's letter to Sir Geoffrey, that I was at fault to call out the planning officers for what I truly believe was misdirection. This at a time when we, Down Ampney Parish Council, had progressed in dialogue with the Sanctuary group in achieving mutual satisfaction related to our concerns at the Broadway Farm development.
I believe it would be good for both of us to meet with Sir Geoffrey to try and persuade him to contact Sanctuary on our behalf?
Kind regards and, again thank you.
I gather from Mark Annett that the two of you are meeting Dr Christine Gore tomorrow to discuss planning in general and I would be grateful if you would discuss the Down Ampney saga.
I have briefed Mark on everything.
I have a meeting with Christine on 12th when I will be saying how annoyed the DAPC, residents and I am about what happened over this application. To say ‘no one is at fault’ is unacceptable.
To be blunt I am very disappointed that someone as senior and as well paid as Dr Gore believes that her letter is sufficient to explain and justify what happened.
The letter attempts to justify what our officers did instead of accepting that it was the wrong advice to members.
The PC and I had a very positive dialogue with Sanctuary the developer after the original decision to defer which officers were fully aware of. The developer had agreed in principle to all the requests from DAPC particularly on site layout.
When the application came back to Committee a month after the decision to defer and Officers used the threat of appeal to persuade members to permit the application I was both stunned and extremely annoyed. The Applicant said to my face that he was also ‘stunned and surprised’
Council Officers are completely detached from the reality on the ground when it comes to planning decisions. They do not live in these communities it engage as we do. They do not have to answer to these communities every four years as we do.
I am hoping that someone will put their hand up and apologise for what happened and that through your efforts and contribution we might still get a positive outcome.
Our MP has kindly forwarded your very comprehensive reply to his enquiry concerning Broadway Farm Down Ampney. This enquiry was sent at the request of Down Ampney Parish Council following the two planning committee meetings and informal meetings that have taken place over this application.
I beg to differ from you over your conclusion in your penultimate paragraph about where the fault may lie and whilst I would never wish to criticise our officers, I am extremely upset at how this application was handled.
In this context I am particularly interested in your third paragraph from the end when you talk positively about further amendments.
Given the tour you had around the village when you first joined and therefore your personal insight into the Down Ampney Community, I would welcome a quick meeting with you to discuss your letter.
Dear Sir Geoffrey,
Frank Wilson passed your recent email regarding the above to me to investigate and reply, given my continuing responsibility for CDC's Planning Service.
Having undertaken that investigation I believe it is helpful to provide you with the chronology of the case in light of the Parish Council's concerns.
Outline planning permission (15/01567/OUT) was originally granted for this development following an Appeal, meaning that the conditions, and their express wording, were therefore imposed by the Appeal Inspector. These included a drainage condition that required submission and approval of details prior to the commencement of the development.
Pre-application advice was subsequently sought by the applicant in Spring/Summer 2017 prior to the submission of the Reserved Matters application (i.e. the matters of detail reserved at the Outline stage), during the process of which officers were informed by the applicants that engagement had been initiated with the Parish Council (PC) & wider local community. From that point onwards, it was for the applicants to decide how much further engagement they wished to undertake and, as such, we (the Council) have no powers to impose that engagement. We cannot insist that this happens as there are few development types where statute requires public consultation at the pre-application stage.
The Reserved Matters application was then submitted in mid-September 2017 (and was valid from mid-October). Later in September, a condition compliance application was also submitted seeking approval, amongst other conditions of the Outline permission, of the proposed drainage scheme. It is a matter of written record that, although officers expressed the view to the applicants (Sanctuary) that there was merit in dealing with layout (under the Reserved Matters application) and the drainage condition as one, this approach was not supported by the appeal decision (i.e. in the wording of the drainage condition). The Inspector did not require the reserved matters for layout to be submitted at the same time as the drainage details required by condition. The applicants therefore wished the Reserved Matters and the drainage details to be dealt with separately on their merits, although officers ensured that the applicant was aware that this might potentially result in the need to vary any approved layout at a later date if an amended drainage scheme required it.
The application was first considered by Planning Committee in April of this year and was the subject of lengthy debate by the Committee Members. The officers' perception of the debate was that Members would have liked to defer the application to ensure that layout and drainage details were dealt with at the same time, but understood that this may be difficult to defend. The application was therefore deferred only on grounds relating to proximity of proposed houses to existing, the inclusion of red brick in the mix of walling materials and the lack of footpaths. The application was expressly NOT deferred on the basis that it was flawed, as suggested by Mr Jenkins, or incomplete.
The Ward Member, Cllr Fowles, then facilitated a meeting between the applicants and the PC, which was held at CDC offices. Officers were not present at the meeting between the PC and the applicant, but subsequently received an email from the applicants confirming their position following the meeting. The interpretation of the applicants’ intentions vary between the parties concerned, but officers believe that, if the applicants had wished to pursue an alternative following their discussions with the PC, any such amendments would have been part of further separate applications and not made as an amendment to the (at that time) pending application. For clarity, the applicants' email was copied in the Committee papers for the subsequent May Meeting.
As Mike Napper (Development Management Team Leader) has been quoted by Mr Jenkins, I have asked him to relay his record of the events following Cllr Fowles's meeting. He has stated that as the meeting between the applicants and the PC ended, Cllr Fowles asked him to “come & say hello” to the attendees as they left the building, which he was happy to do. Cllr Fowles then asked Mike to explain the notification to the PC of the presentation of the application at the forthcoming May Committee Meeting. Mike stated that it was the same proposal as that presented at the April Meeting and that it was not a separate or further application that the PC were unaware of, as they apparently feared it was. Mike clearly stated that it would be the same report as in April, but with updates provided by the Case Officer to provide information of any progress on the matters on which the application had been deferred or any other issues subsequent to the April Meeting. At no point in that conversation did he suggest or intend to imply that no decision would be made on the application by the Committee. He assumed that this was understood by those present as he was not asked to clarify this by Cllr Fowles or the PC if either had been in any doubt.
At the May Committee Meeting, Members were made aware that they could again defer the application, but from the debate it was apparent that, whilst Members would have liked to see the drainage details, they believed that they could no longer justify a deferment or refusal based on the previous reasons for deferment. I understand that Kevin Field, the Lead Officer at the Committee Meeting, advised that Members could defer a decision, but from his professional viewpoint this was not something that he would recommend given the arguments that had so far been articulated. Kevin advises that he also mentioned that he could but speculate as to whether the applicants would choose to appeal or to negotiate further if the application was deferred again. We have no ability to respond to the speculation claimed by Mr Jenkins in respect of the applicants’ feelings or intentions after the Committee Meeting, although it had been made clear to the Case Officer that an Appeal against non-determination (or refusal) was being prepared.
Following Committee, Kevin was asked to attend a meeting by the Committee Chair, Cllr Hughes. At the meeting Kevin responded to the concerns raised by the PC, making it clear that officers are required to give impartial professional advice. He advised that it is ultimately for the politicians to make the decision with the benefit of the advice being given, but that it was the responsibility of officers to ensure that they should do so in full knowledge of the risks to the Council.
Notwithstanding all of the above, if the intention of the applicants and the PC are genuine and the requests were reasonable, then there is no reason why negotiations should not continue outside of the approval that has been given by Committee. If that results in amendments being submitted, the Council’s officers would be happy to consider them on their planning merits under the appropriate procedure. It should be noted, incidentally, that the Village Design Statement quoted by Mr Jenkins does, in fact, include reference to red brick within the village.
On the basis of the above, I do not consider that any conclusion to the effect that the actions of the Council's officers have been at fault or that the application could have been better handled, is reasonable. Although during the period that the application was submitted staffing issues were challenging for a time, I am satisfied that this was not reflected in the processing of the application, or in the quality of the advice provided at every stage by the officers concerned. It should be noted that Cllr Fowles, as Ward Member, was kept well informed throughout the application process and I think understands the position of officers in the matters raised by Mr Jenkins.
I hope that this is helpful, but as ever please let me know if I can provide any further clarification.
Cotswold District Council
I have read with care the detailed email you sent and it does seem to me that the application could have been handled better by CDC not least as a result I can only assume the Planning Department being understaffed.
To be of assistance, I have written a strong email to the Planning Department, Chairman of the Planning Committee and Leader of the Council asking what can now be done to resolve matters.
I will apprise you of the responses I receive.
I hope this is helpful.
Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, FRICS, MP
Member of Parliament for The Cotswolds