Objection to Planning Application 16/01492/OUT

Second Objection to Planning Application 16/01492/OUT

Land to the South of Northgate, Utkinton for the development of up to 22 dwellings

Introduction

This objection is being submitted in addition to the objection that I submitted on 25th April 2016. The original objection is already contained within the Documents section of the CWaC web page that relates to this application. This objection should be read in conjunction with that previous objection.

I have submitted this second objection in response to the new documents that the applicant recently submitted as part of their application, namely a planning statement, a highways statement, a housing needs survey, a revised site plan and an ecological scoping survey. My comments on the planning statement incorporate comments on the revised site plan and the ecological scoping survey, but I have addressed the issues raised by the highways statement and the housing needs survey in a separate sections.

Comments on Planning Statement

For ease of reference I have addressed the issues raised in the applicant’s Planning Statement in the order in which they appear, and have referred to the applicant’s section numbers. Where I have included quotations from my previous objection to this planning application, I have included them in a text box. Quotations from planning policies etc. are shown in italicised blue ink.

  1. s.1.6 arc4 Housing Needs Survey: Please see my separate comments regarding the arc4 survey in section 64 below.
  2. s.2.2 Incorrect statement about facilities in the village: The writer has exaggerated, or is completely wrong, about the facilities in the village:

(a) the ‘garden centre’ and ‘florist’ to which the writer refers are both just areas within Rose Farm Shop, and not separate entities at all, and

(b) there is not a church in the village and hasn’t been since 2009 when the Methodist Chapel at the corner of John Street/ Quarry Bank (which had been out of use for some time before 2009) was converted for residential use.

  1. s.2.3 Designation of Utkinton as a Local Service Centre: The writer’s statement that Utkinton is a Local Service Centre is wrong. Utkinton is not a Local Service Centre as no local service centres have been designated anywhere in CWaC yet, since the methodology for the designation of Local Service Centres has not yet been completed, and will be put through another public consultation procedure later this year before being sent to a Planning Inspector who will examine the methodology along with any comments made by the public, and assess if it is fit for purpose, whether it complies with the adopted policies in Part 1 of the Local Plan , and whether it should consequently be adopted into Part 2.

Until this process is complete it is, therefore, wrong to state that Utkinton or anywhere else in CWaC “is a Local Service Centre”, and no planning decisions should be made on the assumption that it is a Local Service centre until the methodology, in whatever form it takes after the next phase of public consultation, has been approved by the planning inspector and formally adopted into Part 2 of the Local Plan, and a final list of villages that have been designated as Local Service Centres by using the approved methodology has been compiled.

4. s.2.6 Trees and Hedges: The trees that are situated adjacent to John Street are not             protected by three separate Tree Preservation Orders, but by one TPO, number 12/00008/ORD, copy included in Appendix B of this objection.

The writer has failed to describe the Northgate boundary hedge and wall accurately. His statement that; “A hawthorn hedge runs along much of the site’s northern boundary. The boundary is also defined in part by a sandstone wall, and several mature trees of mixed species.” is incorrect in that:

(i) the very mature hedge which includes several species, not just hawthorn, runs along the whole of the northern boundary of the site ,

(ii) the hedge is located on top of / adjacent to a very substantial ancient sandstone retaining wall for the  from the gate of Bumblebee Hall , all the way down Northgate and around the corner and part way up the John Street boundary of the site,

Consequently the whole of this retaining wall and hedge is of considerable significance not only to the village landscape in this part of the village, marking as it does, the village boundary that has been in place for hundreds of years, but is of vital importance in its role as a retaining wall which supports this boundary of the site.

  1. s.27 Significance of Village Heritage Asset houses: The writer refers to “the small scatter of older traditional houses along Northgate, which include Bumblebee Hall, a sandstone house with a date saying it was built in 1750, none of these buildings is listed” vastly underplays the heritage significance of these houses; Thatched Cottage, is Grade II listed, and Bumblebee Hall is designated as a Locally Important Building. The writer fails to mention the fact that they are situated at a much lower level than the proposal site, (and would therefore be effectively boxed in by the proposed scheme – see also section 19 of this objection) .

I mentioned the significance of these older houses in s. 5.4 of my previous objection:

Lying immediately to the north of the proposal site, Northgate has been the natural boundary of the village for centuries, being as it is, substantially lower than the proposal site. On Northgate there are some of the villages best heritage asset houses, namely Thatched Cottage (Grade 2 listed) and Bumblebee Hall, a Locally Important Building, which is an excellent example of a sandstone cottage, which are deemed to be a key characteristic of Sandstone Ridge Area in the Cheshire Landscape Character Assessment.

Utkinton - Thatched Cottage

Thatched Cottage Grade 2 Listed, Built early 18th Century

Utkinton Bumblebee Hall

Bumblebee Hall , a Locally important Building

Primrose Cottage, Wayside Cottage and Beam End Cottage are also of significant historical importance on this lane.

Utkinton Primrose Cottage

Primrose Cottage and Wayside Cottage

Utkinton Beam End

The view up Northgate with Beam End Cottage  on the left and Thatched Cottage in the distance

All of these houses can be seen on the 1838 Tithe Map of the village , which proves that they were some of the first houses in the village:

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 15.41.05

  1. s.28 The Application Site is part of the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge Area as well as being in the Area of Special County Value, and

S.4.24 The Application is an important part of the ASCV

The writer fails to mention that the application site, in addition to being an Area of Special County Value, is part of the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge Area.

The 2016 Local Landscape Character Assessment – Landscape Strategy attaches a great deal of importance to the Sandstone Ridge landscape qualities, states that the Sandstone Ridge “stands prominently above the surrounding Plain and is visually one of the most distinctive landmarks in the Cheshire West and Chester landscape. “

It continues: “The ridge has a very strong cultural and natural character for example there is a concentration of prehistoric sites, woodland and heathland, sandstone quarries and exposures and sandstone buildings, walls and sunken lanes.” This includes Bumblebee Hall which the proposed development would totally dominate (see sections 5.1 and 5.4 in my previous objection and section 19 of this objection),and the long length of ancient sandstone retaining wall and hedge on Northgate which the applicant intends to destroy .

It continues: “Expansive long distance views provide an important element of this landscape type as they are widely available from the higher ground and contribute significantly to the distinctive character of the landscape. These vary between narrow views framed or filtered by high vegetation to spectacular panoramic views from open vantage points. Views extend over the surrounding plain as far as the Clwydian Hills in the west.” which is exactly the types of views from the proposal site, or from the east of the site looking across it. See section 35.

The Assessment goes on to say that two of the Sandstone Ridge’s key characteristics are: “Spectacular panoramic views from the ridge across Delamere and beyond to the northeast, over the open plains to the south-east, to the Peckforton Hills to the south, and to north Wales to the west“ and “Locally designated as an Area of Special County Value (ASCV) recognising its landscape and scenic quality and its historic, archaeological and ecological importance“

It goes on to say that four of the Sandstone Ridge’s key landscape sensitivities, qualities and values are:

“Prominent , distinctive , simple skyline”

“ Panoramic views”

“ The character area is visible from extensive areas of the borough and beyond making the ridge visually sensitive” (see section 5.1 of my previous objection)

“ The sense of peace and quiet away from main roads and the popular areas” See section 19.

It goes on:

The overall management strategy for this landscape should be to conserve the strong, prominent and simple skyline and panoramic views from the ridge”

and in its Landscape Management Guidelines states that six of its management strategies should be to;

“Maintain an intact hedgerow network through management of hedges and ensuring a young stock of hedgerow trees.“, this would be directly contradicted by the removal of the long length of hedge on Northgate, as the applicant proposes.

“Use ASCV designation to protect the character area from inappropriate development.“ which is what the scheme would be as it would destroy all the spectacular views from and across the site.

“Conserve the sense of peace and quiet away from the main roads, and maintain the sparse settlement and road network and limited visible development.” Changing an open elevated field into a suburban housing estate would hardly do this!

“Conserve the strong, prominent and simple skyline“ As discussed in section 5.1 of my previous objection, the scheme would dominate the skyline and would tower over existing buildings on the skyline .

“ Maintain panoramic views from the ridge across adjacent landscapes” . The scheme would totally block out the views from the site. See section 35.

“ Conserve existing panoramic views, “

The writer’s statement that: “the site does not contribute significantly to the overall character, openness and appearance of the ASCV since it is intrinsically part of the settlement framework of Utkinton being a triangle of land that is adjoined on all three sides by built development” is, therefore, completely wrong.

Firstly, due to its elevation above both John Street and Northgate the site is not “adjoined” in the conventional sense to built development, and it is an entirely separate and different site, being as it is , an open field outside the village boundary, and outside the built up part of the village. The adjoining land that has the largest impact on the character of the site is the land that lies to the east, which are open fields.

Secondly, as s.5.1 of my previous objection explains, there are spectacular open views across and from this site, and from the nearby footpath to the east of the site (and where the applicant’s Photo FP17(VP3) was taken from – see section 35) and the Sandstone Trail which runs to the west of the site from which walkers can look up to the Sandstone Ridge.

Policy BE1(ix) states: “development should take account of the characteristics of the development site, its relationship with its surroundings, and where appropriate views into, over and out of the site.”

It therefore surprises me greatly that the writer can dismiss the site as being of so little landscape importance when it has been not only included in the ASCV, but is also part of the Sandstone Ridge, which is praised and valued so highly in the Cheshire Landscape Character Assessment. I.e. the site is of high landscape value and importance. Personally I support the views of the experts who designated it as an ASCV, and who wrote the Landscape Character Assessment.

  1. s.3.2Wrong quotation from NPPF: Paragraph 13 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)does not, as the writer believes ,set out a presumption in favour of sustainable development.
  2. s.3.312 Principles of planning as set out in the NPPF: The writer refers to the 12 overarching roles that the planning system ought to play contained in paragraph 17 of the NPPF.

However it should also be noted that these 12 key principles also include statements that say:

(a) planning should be “be genuinely plan-led, empowering local people to shape their surroundings”

See my comments in section 51 of this objection regarding the inadequacy of the public consultation that the applicant carried out. Without feedback from local people, how could the applicant get a true idea of what the local people did or didn’t want on the proposal site?

(b) “take account of the different roles and character of different areas, promoting the vitality of our main urban areas, protecting the Green Belts around them, recognising the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside”

See my comments in sections 6, 20, 32 and 36 regarding the character of the proposal site

(c) contribute to conserving and enhancing the natural environment and reducing pollution. Allocations of land for development should prefer land of lesser environmental value”

See my comments in sections 6 and 20 regarding the landscape and section 36 regarding pollution.

(d) conserve heritage assets in a manner appropriate to their significance, so that they can be enjoyed for their contribution to the quality of life of this and future generations”

See my comments regarding the detrimental impact on some of the oldest heritage properties in the village in section 5, and in s. 5.4 of my previous objection, and the destruction of an ancient sandstone retaining wall in section 5.5 of my previous objection.

(e) actively manage patterns of growth to make the fullest possible use of public transport, walking and cycling, and focus significant development in locations which are or can be made sustainable

See my comments regarding the lack of public transport in the village in sections 40 and 55, the comments in section 7.6 of my previous objection regarding walking and cycling, and my comments regarding how unsustainable the village is in sections 4.0 to 4.3 of my previous objection.

  1. s.3.4 Transport Policies: The writer refers to section 4 (paragraphs 29 to 41 ) of the NPPF seeking to promote sustainable transport (which it does) , but then only specifically refers to part of one of the 13 paragraphs in the section, paragraph 32, quoting only a small part of it as follows :

“Development should only be prevented or refused on transport grounds where the residual cumulative impacts of development are severe.”

However, if paragraph 32 is considered in its entirety, the above statement is quite clearly irrelevant, as it reads: “32. All developments that generate significant amounts of movement.” 

(which the applicant’s highways report claims the proposed development wouldn’t (see below) i.e. this reference is already irrelevant)

“… should be supported by a Transport Statement or Transport Assessment. Plans and decisions should take account of whether:

  • the opportunities for sustainable transport modes have been taken up depending on the nature and location of the site, to reduce the need for major transport infrastructure;
  •  safe and suitable access to the site can be achieved for all people; and
  •  improvements can be undertaken within the transport network that cost effectively limit the significant impacts of the development. Development should only be prevented or refused on transport grounds where the residual cumulative impacts of development are severe.”

I.e. All of the above is irrelevant since the applicant has said in their highways report that , to quote from s.5.3 of that report:

“ … the trip generating potential of the development … will not have a material impact on the operation or safety of the local highway network”

To try to use the small part of paragraph 32 that the writer quoted in support of the current application is, therefore, completely wrong.

However, there certainly are other parts of part 4 of the NPPF (paragraphs 29-41) that are highly relevant to the current application, as follows, with the most pertinent points underlined:

(a) NPPF Paragraph 29.

“Transport policies have an important role to play in facilitating sustainable development but also in contributing to wider sustainability and health objectives. Smarter use of technologies can reduce the need to travel. The transport system needs to be balanced in favour of sustainable transport modes, giving people a real choice about how they travel.”

New residents of the proposed scheme would have no choice over how to travel since there is no public transport serving Utkinton, (see sections 40 and 55) and would have to use their own cars (if they have one) for all journeys, and walking and cycling in and out of the village is dangerous. See section 7.6in my previous objection .

(b) NPPF Paragraph 30.

Encouragement should be given to solutions which support reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and reduce congestion. In preparing Local Plans, local planning authorities should therefore support a pattern of development which, where reasonable to do so, facilitates the use of sustainable modes of transport.”

Again there is no public transport so new residents would be wholly reliant on using cars.

(c) NPPF Paragraph 35.

“Plans should protect and exploit opportunities for the use of sustainable transport modes for the movement of goods or people. Therefore, developments should be located and designed where practical to

  •  accommodate the efficient delivery of goods and supplies;
  •  give priority to pedestrian and cycle movements, and have access to high quality public transport facilities;
  • create safe and secure layouts which minimise conflicts between traffic and cyclists or pedestrians, avoiding street clutter and where appropriate establishing home zones;
  • incorporate facilities for charging plug-in and other ultra-low emission vehicles; and
  • consider the needs of people with disabilities by all modes of transport.”

The proposed scheme would achieve none of the above.

(d) NPPF Paragraph 37.

“ Planning policies should aim for a balance of land uses within their area so that people can be encouraged to minimise journey lengths for employment, shopping, leisure, education and other activities.”

Since Utkinton does not have any employment opportunities, no medical facilities, only one farm shop, no secondary school, no playing fields, no pubs/restaurants, no church, no banks, etc. residents have no choice but to travel to key service centres for these services. To locate more people in Utkinton would be to put them in the same position i.e. they would need to travel for all these services, and that travel would have to be by car.

In addition to the above comments, I have already raised most of the above issues in my previous objection in section 7.6

  1. s.3.5Sustainable Development:

Paragraph 49 of the NPPF states that: “ Housing applications should be considered in the context of the presumption in favour of sustainable development.”

But, as I have discussed in great detail in my previous objection, (sections 4.0 – 4.3) the proposed development cannot be considered to be socially, economically or environmentally sustainable for so many reasons. These three aspects of sustainable development are explained fully in paragraph 7 of the NPPF, but the writer does not appear to address these sustainability issues in his planning report in any depth at all. See section 51 of this objection.

  1. s.3.10 NPPF Paragraphs 109-125 Conserving and Enhancing the Natural Environment: 

The writer refers to paragraph 118 of the NPPF , which is indeed very relevant in this case. The following policies within section 11 of the NPPF (i.e. paragraphs 109-125) are also highly relevant, and I have referred to them in my previous objection:

  • Paragraph 109 (protecting valued landscapes, ecosystems biodiversity, noise pollution and land instability),
  • Paragraph 110 (pollution),
  • Paragraph 111 (using brownfield sites) ,
  • Paragraph112 (Use of agricultural land),
  • Paragraph 113 (wildlife and ecology)
  • Paragraph 114 (biodiversity and green infrastructure),
  • Paragraph 121 (land stability),
  • Paragraph123 (noise pollution, preservation of tranquil areas), and
  • Paragraph 125 (light pollution in intrinsically dark landscapes).
  1. s.3.14 Site does not adjoin the village boundary:

 The writer states that the proposal site “is shown as falling outside but adjoining the defined village boundary, and within an area of countryside”.

However, as can be seen from the extract of the Development Plan Proposals map below, the proposal site does NOT adjoin the defined village boundary (shown by the black line) for the vast majority of its length, since both John Street, where is runs adjacent to the proposals site, and Northgate, where it runs adjacent to the proposal site are both outside the village boundary and in open countryside, and furthermore most of Bumblebee Hall’s garden in outside the village boundary and in open countryside, and the south eastern boundary of the proposal site is very obviously in open countryside.

Utkinton VSB and Development

Extract from Part 1 Local Plan- Development Plan Proposals Map of the proposal site – village boundary shown in black running down the west side of John Street and the north side of Northgate . The site boundary shown in red is consequently NOT adjacent to the village settlement for the vast majority of its length.

The only very small part of the proposal site’s boundary that adjoins the village boundary is the part that runs between the proposal site and the back gardens of Wayside Cottage and Thatched Cottage.

See the implications of this with regard to policy SOC2 in section 15 of this objection, below.

  1. s.3.17 Local Service Centres: The writer refers to the future designation of Local Service Centres, thereby contradicting what he said in s. 2.3 that Utkinton is already a Local Service Centre. See Section 3 of this objection.
  2. s.3.20STRAT 10 Transport policy: STRAT10 of the Local Plan refers to CWaC’s Transport Policy, and reflects a lot of what is contained in paragraphs 29-41 of the NPPF, which were discussed in section 9 of this objection, above. Of relevance to this application are the following quotations from STRAT 10:

development and associated transport infrastructure should:

 (i) Reduce carbon emissions from transport and take steps to adapt our transport networks to the effects of climate change”

but there is no public transport in the village, and any new residents would have to travel by car.

(ii) “Contribute to safer and secure transport and promote forms of transport that are beneficial to Health”

Again, residents would have to travel by car . See section 7.6in my previous objection regarding walking and cycling.

(iii) “Improve accessibility to jobs and key services which help support greater equality of opportunity”

But as described above in section 9 of this objection, and in sections 4.1 and 4.2 of my previous objection, the proposed scheme would do just the opposite, and would isolate people from jobs and key services unless they have a car.

(iv) ”In order to minimise the need for travel, proposals for new development should be located so as they are accessible to local services and facilities by a range of transport modes.”

But, as noted in section 9 of this objection, the proposed scheme’s location would do the exact opposite, and would increase the need for travel, and such travel would have to be by car .

The policy goes on to say “New development will be required to demonstrate that:

(a) Additional traffic can be accommodated safely and satisfactorily within the existing, or proposed, highway network”

but it would not, for the reasons stated in sections 57-63 of this objection

(b)” Appropriate provision is made for access to public transport and other alternative means of transport to the car”

Again, as stated above, there is no public transport!

(c )”Measures have been incorporated to improve physical accessibility and remove barriers to mobility, especially for disabled and older people. The safety of all road users should be taken into account in the design and layout of new developments.”

See my comments in sections 57-63 of this objection

(d) “Opportunities to improve public transport facilities will be taken wherever possible, through improved services, interchange facilities and parking at railway stations.”

There is no reason to suppose that the proposed scheme would result in any new public transport provision being made in the village.

(e)”Proposals should seek to maximise use of sustainable (low carbon) modes of transport, by incorporating high quality facilities for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport.”

Again, there is no public transport, the proposed new footpath adjacent to the site leads nowhere and would result in pedestrians crossing John Street at a very dangerous place, as discussed in section 61 of this objection, and walking and cycling to and from the village are not safe options, as discussed in section 7.6 of my previous objection.

  1. s.3.22 SOC1 and SOC 2 Affordable Housing and Rural Exception Sites:

Policies SOC1 and SOC2 deal with the provision of affordable housing and rural exception sites, and stress the need for schemes to be supported by an up to date housing needs survey.

(a) Housing Needs Survey. While the applicants have submitted such a survey, the data contained therein is based on some large assumptions and unsubstantiated data, and is therefore lacking in credibility ,and is highly questionable, particularly in light of the evidence from the recently conducted Parish Council Housing Needs Survey. I have gone into a lot more detail on this issue in my assessment of the applicant’s housing needs survey in section 64 of this objection.

However, I am hoping that, as part of the Planning Department’s decision making process, any prospective tenants put forward by a developer wanting to build affordable houses would be interviewed appropriately (and obviously confidentially) to ensure that they are genuinely eligible, committed, and financially able to take on one of the applicant’s affordable houses if they were built.

If the Council do not do this as part of the assessment process, and simply took on trust that what a developer was telling them in their Housing Needs Survey was an accurate assessment of the true need for affordable housing in a settlement, it would obviously mean that it could result in affordable houses being built, but then the theoretical tenants might not materialise, and a developer could then ask the relevant planning authority to change their planning consent to be allowed to sell the “affordable houses” on the open market, which would completely defeat the intentions of SOC2 to provide affordable housing , and would result in market houses being allowed to be built on open countryside that are neither needed or wanted. This would obviously be totally unjust, and particularly so on what was supposed to be a Rural Exception Site, and residents who would have had their rural environment damaged forever for no legitimate reason would be understandably angry.

However, if it really is a developer’s intention to try to provide affordable housing in a community, this process may well assist a developer, as the Planning authority would be able to “weed out” any non-legitimate expressions of interest shown in the developers housing needs survey, and help the developer and the Registered Social Housing Landlord achieve a list of prospective tenants all of whom would be committed and financially able to buy the developers affordable houses once built, thereby helping the developer avoid building affordable houses only to find that some of their theoretical tenants fail to materialise.

Following on from that, it would be difficult to envisage a Registered Social Housing Landlord being willing to sign up to buy any affordable houses from a developer unless the developer could produce a cast-iron list of prospective tenants that the Registered Social Housing Landlord could let the houses to, as obviously they wouldn’t want to be saddled with houses that they couldn’t let.

(b) Maximum 30% Market Housing allowed to subsidise affordable housing on Rural Exception sites.

SOC2 clearly states that

“Residential development for affordable housing by registered providers, including a subsidiary element (maximum 30 percent) of market housing where this will facilitate the successful delivery of the affordable housing will be permitted”,

But since the proposed development includes 14 affordable homes and 8 market houses, the 8 market houses would constitute 36.4% of the total, which obviously exceeds the permitted amount.

(c) Requirement for Rural Exception Site to be directly adjacent to rural settlement.

SOC2 also clearly states that development will be

“permitted on small sites within or directly adjacent to the built up part of rural settlements”

As shown in section 12 of this objection, above, the proposal site is not directly adjacent to the built up part of the rural settlement, and is therefore technically NOT a Rural Exception Site. Consequently therefore the development should not be allowed to proceed at all.

(d) Need for Affordable Housing to remain affordable in perpetuity

SOC 2 also says that

“Schemes will only be permitted where it can be demonstrated that the properties will remain affordable in perpetuity”

I.e. they will need to be owned and managed by a Registered Social Housing Landlord.

At present the applicants have not identified which Registered Social Housing Landlord they intend to sell the affordable houses to, information which may of course be of interest to prospective tenants, although I note from s.4.20 of their planning report that they are “willing to accept a planning condition to ensure that properties will remain affordable in perpetuity”.

In such circumstances, i.e. where an applicant has not provided any evidence that they have a Registered Social Housing Landlord lined up to buy the houses once they are built, and in order to comply with the above quoted section from SOC2, in addition to imposing a planning condition such as the one mentioned above, it should be a requirement for a Planning Authority to obtain evidence from the developer about who they intend to sell the houses to in the form of a written and signed agreement between the applicant and the Registered Social Housing Landlord.

Obviously if the developer had a Registered Social Housing Landlord lined up to buy the houses this would be no problem for the developer, and indeed may well help them, since if their intention to provide affordable houses was genuine, they would not want to risk starting building works (with the inherent costs thereof) without being sure themselves that they had an appropriate market for their affordable houses once built.

This is of particular concern with the current proposal, since many of the Registered Social Housing Landlords in Cheshire currently have no funds available to buy any more affordable houses, having recently bought up large numbers of affordable houses that have been built in nearby Key Service Centres. If any more affordable houses are built without a developer having an agreement in place with a Registered Social Housing Landlord, a developer may find that they cannot sell them on, and may ask that the Planning Authority change the planning consent to allow them to sell the houses on the open market, which would, as stated above , defeat the objectives of SOC2, and would result in market houses being allowed to be built on open countryside that are neither needed or wanted, which would be unjust and would result in a lot of anger amongst existing residents .

As with my concerns above regarding the need for planning authorities to check very carefully the contents of an applicant’s housing needs survey, it would be very worrying if a planning authority didn’t check the existence of, and reliability of, a Registered Social Housing Landlord ready to buy any proposed affordable housing on a rural exception site before making a planning decision on an application for such development .

(e) Need for Viability Appraisal to justify need to build market houses to subsidise affordable houses.

SOC2 says that: “Any subsidiary element of market housing will be purely for the purpose of enabling the provision of affordable housing and any proposal must be accompanied by an open book viability appraisal.”

I would hope that in such circumstances a planning authority would examine such an appraisal very thoroughly, since if they did not, and the development was granted permission, but part way through the building phase the developer claimed they could no longer afford to build the affordable houses (as I understand happens quite often) a developer might again ask the relevant planning authority to change the planning consent to allow them to sell the houses on the open market. If a developer cannot estimate their costs sufficiently accurately, it should not be up to the relevant planning authority to “bail them out” and change the planning consent, particularly on a rural exception site, where only affordable houses are really supposed to be built anyway.

To avoid having to deal with such a situation i.e. having to give in to a developer and grant consent for a development which would not be appropriate for a site (e.g. allowing all market houses on a rural exception site, which would totally contradict Part 1), perhaps it would be wise for planning authorities to make such planning consents subject to a condition stating that the consent, if granted, would not be altered in the future if the developer then found that their estimated costs were wrong and that they could no longer afford to build the promised affordable houses.

(f) Schemes must be modest and in keeping.

SOC2 states: “Schemes must be modest and in keeping with the form and character of the settlement and local landscape setting.”

But the proposed development cannot be described as either modest or in keeping with the form or character of Utkinton or it’s setting. I have discussed this issue in more detail in my previous objection in section 5.1.

  1. s.3.23 Local Service Centres: Contrary to what the writer asserted in s.2.3 of his planning statement, the writer acknowledges in s.3.23 that Local Services Centres will not be designated until the relevant methodology has been approved and has been adopted into Part 2 of the Local Plan, which is exactly what I said in section 3 of this objection .
  1. s.3.24 Policies H4 and H16: As the writer himself says policies H4 and H16 of the Vale Royal Borough Local Plan 2006 have both been deleted, and they are therefore irrelevant and should be ignored.
  1. s.3.26 Policy ENV2: I am surprised that the writer has drawn attention to policy ENV2, as the proposed scheme does none of the things that the policy advocates i.e. it does not take account of the characteristics of the development site, its relationship with its surroundings or , which is especially appropriate, the views into, over and out of the site. Neither does the scheme “ recognise, retain or incorporate features of landscape quality into the design” (ENV2)in fact it does just the opposite, and I have discussed at length in section 6 of this objection , and in my previous objection in Appendix A of that document.
  1. s.4.3 The submitted revised site layout plan for 22 houses cannot be considered to be the same as the previously submitted plan for 16 houses:                                             The writer’s assertion that: “ The indicative site layout plan is essentially the same as the revised site layout plan submitted in support of the previous (withdrawn) proposal for up to 16 houses, albeit that it would accommodate up to 22 dwellings”Is self-contradictory – the plan cannot be the same as the previous one because it contains a different number of houses!

    While I understand that some of the previously shown houses have effectively been divided into more units, and that the total floor area may have been reduced, the number of people living on the site and the number of cars on site would definitely increase with these additional houses, and consequently the additional human activity there would be cause more noise pollution, more light pollution and would create  even more of a “suburban estate” ambience for the site than the previous proposal did, which would be completely incongruous on this open field.

    (a) Effect on Bumblebee Hall: Further to my comments in section 2.2, section 5.1 and section 5.4 of my previous objection regarding the detrimental effect that the scheme would have on Bumblebee Hall in particular, I note that that the revised plan now shows no fewer than 9 houses to be located backing onto the Bumblebee Hall site, (which is a big increase on the 5 proposed houses shown on the previous plan) , which,  for all the reasons stated in my previous objection, would result in a very severe loss of amenity for the Bumblebee Hall residents due to the large difference in site levels.  The scheme would result in  Bumblebee Hall, (which is designated as a Locally Important Building, and is one of the villages best heritage buildings), being completely boxed in, which would be totally overbearing and would  result in the residents suffering a huge loss of light through overshadowing, an increase in noise levels, (since the proposal site is currently a quiet and tranquil place by day and virtually silent at night), and a huge loss of privacy through being overlooked by the residents of the 9 houses. This would be totally unacceptable, and would directly contradict the following policies:

    Policy BE1(i) (development should not have a significantly detrimental effect on the amenity of people living nearby by reason of overshadowing, overlooking, visual impact, noise and disturbance etc.),

    Policy BE1(vii) (development should not increase land, air, noise, light or water pollution to unacceptable levels),

    Paragraph 123 of the NPPF which states:

    “Planning policies and decisions should aim to:

    • avoid noise from giving rise to significant adverse impacts on health and quality of life as a result of new development;
    • mitigate and reduce to a minimum other adverse impacts on health and quality of life arising from noise from new development, including through the use of conditions;
    • identify and protect areas of tranquility which have remained relatively undisturbed by noise and are prized for their recreational and amenity value for this reason.”

     

    The 2016 Landscape Character Assessment states that one of its aims is to:

    “Conserve the sense of peace and quiet away from the main roads”.

    (b) Effect on the Trees protected by Tree Preservation  Orders:   Furthermore, as discussed in section 20 of this objection, the Tree Officer who was consulted about the last application, Tim Williams, made it clear that to locate houses on the west of the site near the trees protected by TPOs would be unacceptable due to shading and loss of amenity value  issues (see section 20 for details), and to do so would be in contravention of best practice and retained policy NE9.

    I am therefore very surprised and critical of the fact that the applicants have completely ignored this advice, and have even increased the number of houses that they propose to locate under these protected trees from 5 houses shown on the previous plan to 8 houses in this plan.  Clearly none of these 8 houses should be permitted.

    Furthermore Sue Griffiths of the Landscape Team previously said that

    “The indicative layout appears cramped, does not respect the existing landscape features adequately or relate to the character of the area.” and this was when the plan under consideration showed only 19 proposed houses.

    (c) Proximity of proposed houses to farm buildings:    It is interesting to note that six of the largest proposed houses (and which are therefore presumably the market houses) are located nearest to the Farm Shop. The plan fails to identify, however, that next to the farm shop is a very large farm building in which large numbers of farm animals are kept at various times throughout the year. Is there any legal planning requirement for new houses to be located at a certain minimum distance away from buildings which house farm animals? If this minimum distance is not met  there could obviously  be conflict between the new residents of the houses and the farmer whose animals may disturb the residents due to noises and smells, which would obviously not be the farmer’s fault since he had his stock there first! This matter should be investigated. If the distance between the farm building and the proposed houses is shown to be too small, the scheme would contradict the intentions of paragraph 17 of the NPPF which states planning  should:

    “always seek to secure high quality design and a good standard of amenity for all existing and future occupants of land and buildings”                                                                                                 

  2. s.4.4 Officers DID raise objections to the revised layout that was submitted with the previous application:

The writer’s statement that; “officers raised no objections in principle to the revised layout that was submitted with the previous application” is wrong .

The Tree Officer, Tim Williams made several objections, saying amongst other things;

The majority of the trees which are protected by Tree Preservation Order (TPO) are to the West of the proposed development with plots 2, 3,4,5 and 11 being located very close to the largest of the trees on this boundary. This will have a significant shading effect in later afternoon and evening when the sun is lower in sky. This is likely to result in a pressure for significant tree work including removal. This pressure would be unacceptable in this location due to the prominence of the trees. BS5837:2012 gives guidance that all developments should take future impact into account in the design process failing to address this would also be against local planning policy NE9“

and

“Concern is also raised in regards to the proposed site access. The site is at a significantly different level than Northgate with the earthen embankment being retained by an attractive sandstone wall. The level drop is in the region of 2.5-3m with a mature hedge sitting on top. It is likely this hedge would be subject to the hedgerow regulations 1997 in regard to any required removal or creation of access.”

and

“the hedgerows along Northgate and John Street are likely to fall under the Hedgerow Regulations 1997 and may class as important under these regulations. They appear to contain a significant landscape feature and a number of woody species and therefore the applicant should carry out the relevant ecological and archaeological surveys for any required removal. An amended layout may possibly address a number of issues raised above and if the applicant wishes to amend the layout a full Arboricultural impact assessment will be required to show how the proposal affects the trees and hedge and also how this can be mitigated. At present this proposal would be in contravention of best practice and local planning policy NE9.”

As noted in section 19 above, Sue Griffiths of the Landscape Team also objected to the proposed layout saying, amongst her many objections to the likely detrimental impact on the landscape;

“The indicative layout appears cramped, does not respect the existing landscape features adequately or relate to the character of the area. No open space is provided that could provide a setting for the development and there is no adequate buffer to the boundary trees or adjacent properties. It not clear how the levels of the site would be altered and it is likely that significant grading would be required which would have landscape impact. The character of Northgate Street would be adversely affected too. Mention is made of mitigation to replace boundary walls and hedgerows, but this would take time to establish and would not integrate a scheme of this density.”

  1. s.4.7 Separation Distances between existing and proposed houses:

The writer asserts that; “the indicative layout would provide a reasonable street scene when viewed from the existing and proposed highway. It incorporates adequate separation distances between existing and proposed dwellings and reflects the layout of the surrounding existing built form, which is a mixture of suburban and rural character” this is completely wrong .

As stated in sections 5.1 and 5.4 of my previous objection, the proposed development would be an eyesore on the skyline, would be overbearing and intrusive to the houses on both John Street and Northgate due to the vastly elevated nature of the site (which the writer has failed to mention), and would have a particularly detrimental effect on Bumblebee Hall, which would find itself surrounded by no fewer than 9 houses, all of which would tower over Bumblebee Hall due to the 3m difference between the proposal site ground level and the Bumblebee Hall site level.

The layout of the surrounding existing built form cannot be said to be a mixture of suburban and rural character since the site is completely separated from the houses on John Street and Northgate by virtue of the huge aforementioned difference in site levels, and the relevant “surrounding existing built form” only consists of open fields and the farm shop.

Since the proposed development would consist of a very densely packed suburban estate, it would in no way reflect the completely rural nature of its surroundings.

  1. s.4.8 and 4.9 Consultation process:

See my comments about the consultation process in section 52 of this document.

  1. s. 4.12 Submitted Housing Needs Survey:

See my comments regarding the submitted housing needs survey in section 64 of this objection.

  1. s.4.13 Local Service Centres:

The writer seems to have changed his mind again as to whether Utkinton is or is not already a Local Service Centre or not! In s.2.3 he asserted that it was, which is wrong for the reasons I stated in s.3 of this objection, but in sections 3.17 and 3.23 of his report he indicated that he was aware that Local Service Centres would be designated in the future, as they will, after the methodology has been included in Part 2, but in s.4.13 he has reverted to his original view, which is wrong.

  1. s.4.14, 4.15, 4.16, and 4.17 Submitted Housing Needs Survey:

See my comments regarding the submitted housing needs survey in section 64 of this objection.

  1. s.4.18 No proven need for affordable housing:

The writer’s statements in s.4.18 regarding housing mix are irrelevant since there is no proven need the number affordable houses that the proposed scheme includes. See comments in section 64 of this report regarding the applicant’ housing needs survey.

  1. s.4.19 Proposed number of subsidiary market houses is 36.4% which exceeds the limit set in SOC2:

The inclusion of the “relatively small subsidiary number of market homes” in the scheme is not “in line with national and local planning policy” as the writer asserts, since SOC 2 clearly states

Residential development for affordable housing by registered providers, including a subsidiary element (maximum 30 percent) of market housing where this will facilitate the successful delivery of the affordable housing will be permitted”,

But since the proposed development includes 14 affordable homes and 8 market houses, the 8 market houses would constitute 36.4% of the total, which obviously exceeds the permitted amount.

  1. s.4.20 Planning condition to ensure properties will remain affordable in perpetuity:

See comments re planning conditions regarding this issue included in section 15 of this objection.

  1. s.4.22 Requirement for rural exception site schemes to be modest and in keeping:

SOC2 requires that rural exception site schemes must be modest and in keeping with the form and character of the settlement and local landscape setting, but the scheme is not modest at all, for all the reasons which I stated in my earlier objections (section 5.1) the proposed scheme would definitely not be in keeping at all with the character of the settlement or the local landscape setting, since the local landscape setting is open fields.

  1. s.4.23 The proposed development cannot be considered to be infill development:

The writer’s assertions that; “ the proposed development would represent a natural infill/ rounding–off of the settlement as it is enclosed to the north, east (although I think he must mean west), and south by built development” and that “the site’s surroundings are predominantly residential in character” are wrong because;

(a) since the site is so elevated above both Northgate and John Street, it is not “enclosed” in any way by the houses situated there, and the field is a completely separate and different entity from the houses on these roads. Therefore the site’s surroundings cannot be described as “ predominantly residential“ as it is a field predominantly surrounded by a lot more open fields which, being at the same level as the site, have a much stronger influence on the site’s character than the houses on John Street and Northgate.

Whilst the houses are within the village, the site is in open countryside, and cannot be, as has not been, classified as being part of a similar area to the nearby residential area – it is completely separate and different.

(b) The village boundary line runs along Northgate for good reason. Northgate is situated at the bottom of a natural defile at the bottom of the proposal site, and has been the natural edge of the village for centuries, as is indicated by the presence of the long length of ancient sandstone wall that runs up Northgate, (which the developer wants to destroy) and the presence of some of the village’s oldest houses, as shown on the tithe map of 1838 included in section 5 of this objection.

(c) As I stated in s.5.2 of my previous objection, it should be noted that planning consent for Rose Farm Shop was granted on an exceptional basis and consequently the proposal site cannot be considered to be an infill site. Rose Farm Shop was allowed to be built in the 1990s under very special circumstances, as a replacement for the only other shop in the village that was due to close. (Application number 4/31010). Planning condition 12 stated that;

“if within 10 years of the date of this permission the building becomes vacant for a period of one year it shall be demolished and the site shall be reinstated as part of an agricultural field.

REASON: The shop has been granted as an exception to the policies for the open countryside having regard for the need for shopping facilities in the village and in the absence of a continuing need, the retention of the building would cause harm to the open countryside.”

This shows that it was never the intention of the planners to include Rose Farm Shop in the built up area of the village, and this is obviously confirmed by the fact that it is shown as being outside the village boundary and in open countryside on the Part 1 Development Plan Proposals Map. Additionally the planners could envisage the damage that would result from allowing a building to be constructed on this area of open countryside in an ASCV.

(d) SOC 2 states that;  “Infilling is defined as the filling of a small gap (up to 2 dwellings) in an otherwise built-up frontage in a recognised settlement.”

Since there is no built up frontage on either John Street or Northgate along the site boundary, and consequently there are no gaps to fill, the proposed scheme involves 22, and not 2 houses, and the site is not in a recognised settlement the scheme very obviously does not constitute infilling.

The writer’s other assertion in s.4.23 that; “the scale and nature of the of the proposed development would be in-keeping with the form and character of the village” is again wrong for the numerous reasons that I have set out in section 5 of my previous objection. Again the writer seems to have overlooked the fact that the site is outside the village boundary, and therefore any reference to the scheme fitting in with the form and character of the village is irrelevant – the scale and the nature of the scheme very definitely would not be in-keeping with the form and character of an open agricultural field, which is what the site is.

  1. s.4.24 Proposed scheme does not fulfil the applicant’s own objectives:

To look back at the applicants objectives as the writer set out in s.4.10, to which s.4.24 refers, I would say that the scheme would not fill any of these objectives since

(a) there is no proper proof that a housing need has been identified for the reasons stated in section 64 of this objection regarding the applicant’s housing needs survey.

(b) anyone who knows Utkinton would know that the scheme would without doubt cause unacceptable harm to the character and appearance of the area, and would have a severely damaging impact on the ASCV , as described in detail in section 5.1of my previous objection. See also section 32 below for more comments on the ASCV.

(c) the scheme would undoubtedly harm the ecology of the site and its surroundings. See section 6.0 of my previous objection.

(d) the scheme would have severe detrimental impact on neighbouring residential properties due to the vastly elevated nature of the site compared with the nearby houses , especially Bumblebee Hall, a locally important building, as detailed in section 5.4 of my earlier objection.

(e) it has not been proved that safe access to and from the site could be achieved for drivers, pedestrians or disabled people . See sections 57-63 in my comments about the submitted highways report.

(f) the scheme doesn’t comply with the relevant planning requirements as

(i) the site is not “within or directly adjacent to the built up part of rural settlements” as is required by SOC2, ”

(ii) it includes 36.4% of market housing which exceeds the limit of 30% affordable housing on a rural exception site set in SOC 2, and form any other breaches of current planning policies, all of which are set out in my previous objection .

  1. s.4.25 See section 6 for comments on ASCV, and landscape character and value
  1. s.4.26 The revised indicative site layout plan for 22 houses is NOT the same as the site plan for 16 houses that was previously submitted: As discussed in section 19 above.
  1. s.4.27 Sub-division of previously shown houses: See section 19 of this objection for comments.
  2. s.4.28 Photomontages: see my comments in Appendix A of my previous objection.

The writer’s opinion that; “the proposed development would be partially visible in direct views from John Street“ is wrong as the scheme would be highly visible, and would dominate the skyline, towering over the houses on John Street due to the significant (not “slight”, as the writer puts it ) elevation of the site above John Street. The writer himself acknowledges that;

“ views would be possible of the upper parts and upper storey of the proposed homes”

The proposed development would be a lot more than “partially visible” in direct views from FP17 (VP3), as is shown in the viewpoint No.2 (Part A) photo included in the submitted photomontage:

Utkinton Viewpoint 2 002

Photo included in applicant’s photomontage which shows the site from FP17 (VP3), showing the view as it is now. NB the applicant has mislabelled the Peckforton Hills as “Clwydian Hills” – the Clwydian Hills are located further north, directly behind the area labelled as “Approximate location of site” on the photo.

Screen Shot 2016-07-30 at 12.47.01

Annotated version of previous photo showing how the scheme would completely obscure the view of the trees on the site, of the Cheshire Plain and the Clwydian Hills beyond. NB the red block shows the approximate height of the two storey houses in the scheme, based on the fact that Rose Farm Shop which is shown on the photo is only a single storey building.

The writer’s assertion that; “the layout of the proposed development would appear to reflect properties nearby” Is simply not true as the only “nearby” (i.e. on land at the same level and in the area in which the proposal site is located i.e. open countryside) property is Rose Farm Shop, that is a single storey building whereas the proposed development would be a dense suburban housing estate of two storey houses, which is entirely different. I assume that the “mature hedgerow surrounding the western side of the site” referred to by the writer is the area of hedging in the top northwest corner of the site, (visible in the far right of the photograph shown above) and it would indeed contribute to screening of the lower and middle elements of the development if it was to remain, but in order to construct the proposed 2m wide footway along Northgate, this hedging and the ancient sandstone wall on which it stands would be removed.

Again, the proposed development would be very visible from FP15 (VP5), contrary to what the writer says:

The view as it is currently from FP15 (VP5):

Utkinton FP15 VP5Screen Shot 2016-07-30 at 12.55.02

The view as it would be from FP15 (VP5), showing the views that would be blocked by the development in red i.e. all the trees on John Street, the Cheshire Plain and the Clwydian Hills beyond.

Again the only property to the east of the development is the farm shop that is not a two storey building, so it is untrue to say “(the scheme) would appear at a similar scale to the properties to the east”.

The writer refers to “the mature hedgerow surrounding the site would contribute to screening of the lower and middle elements of the development” but since there are no mature hedges on the south eastern boundary of the site (as can be seen from the photo of Viewpoint no.2 Part A above) i.e. it is open countryside, and the fact that developer intends to remove the entire length of hedgerow along Northgate, there would not be any mature hedges along these boundaries to do any screening.

The writer’s view that; “the proposed development would filter long–distance views towards the Cheshire Plain” is ridiculous – the long-distance views, that Cheshire Landscape Character Assessment (see section 6) consider to be such valuable features of the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge and the ASCV would be lost forever, if not by the proposed houses themselves then by the fences that the developer/ residents would erect for privacy around their gardens.

All the rest of the comments in s.4.28 of the planning statement have already been covered in my previous objection, and have been proven to be wrong, as anyone who knows the village at all would know.

  1. s.4.29 Unacceptably harmful effect on the character and appearance of the area:

I totally disagree with the writer’s statement that;

“ It is considered that the proposed development would not have an unacceptably harmful effect on the character and appearance of the area. It would therefore comply with the requirements of the NPPF and the development plan in this regard”

As I have discussed at length in my previous objection in section 5.1,and in sections 6, 15, 18, and 30 of this objection, the character of the site is that of a tranquil open country field with no buildings on it, which is quiet during the day, and virtually silent and completely dark at night, whereas the scheme would change the field into a suburban estate, with residents and their vehicles creating noise and light pollution 24 hours a day. I.e. The character and appearance of the field would be completely detrimentally changed forever, which does not comply at all with the requirements of the NPPF or of Part 1 of the Local Plan at all.

  1. s.4.30 Unacceptable harm to the amenities of existing neighbouring occupiers due to overlooking, overshadowing and overbearing:

The writer’s statement that; “The site is capable of being developed satisfactorily for the number of dwellings proposed without unacceptably harming the amenities of existing neighbouring occupiers due to overlooking, overshadowing or overbearing impact” is nothing short of ridiculous. As described in my previous objection in s.5.1, and in this objection in sections 19 and 21, due to the highly elevated nature of the site above both Northgate and John Street the proposed buildings would tower over the houses on John Street and Northgate, especially Bumblebee Hall which is one of the most historically valued houses in the village. The scheme would be totally overbearing and would be a totally inappropriate urbanisation of a country field.

  1. s.4.34 – s.4.41 Highways statement:

See my comments regarding the applicant’s highways statement in sections 53-63 of this objection.

  1. s.4.42 Shuttle bus service:

See my comments in section 55 of this objection.

  1. s.4.43 Rural Rider service:

I think the writer must be referring to the Rural Rider scheme in s.4.43, which the service operator has recently confirmed only now runs on Wednesdays and Fridays offering one return service to Northwich and one return service to Winsford at fixed times on Wednesdays, and one return service to Northwich on Fridays, again at a fixed time. The vehicles used are 13 seat minibuses. As stated in section 55 of this objection regarding The Tarporley Shuttle Service, as with that service, users need to pre-register, and then book at least 24 hours in advance, if spaces are available. As with the Tarporley Shuttle, the Rural Rider service is absolutely no use at all for anyone needing to get to a place of employment or education outside the village due to the hours at which the services run, the very limited number of seats available, the limited places that the service goes to, and since the service may well not be available if it is already booked. The service operator has told me that since the service has to accommodate people from Cotebrook, Oakmere, Little Budworth, Utkinton, Tarporley and Delamere, the service is always very busy.

It can be clearly seen from the above, and the details of the Shuttle service (in section 55) that Utkinton has no proper public transport at all.

  1. s.4.44 Change in public transport provision: The recent change in service provision does not demonstrate the need to support local services at all, since as discussed in section 48 below, the local services (shop, school and village hall) are not in need of support as they are all thriving, but what the reduction in services does show is that Utkinton has a deplorably feeble level of public transport, which doesn’t enable residents who do not have cars to access jobs, education, medical facilities, other public transport, a range of shops, sports and leisure facilities, banks, places of worship etc. in any other settlement at times when they need such facilities, and this very poor public transport service, amongst many other things, means Utkinton is a very unsustainable village. To encourage more residents into the village, particularly those on low incomes as affordable housing tenants would be, would be to isolate them away from jobs, education and all the services and facilities which they would need on a daily basis.
  2. s. 4.45 Ecology: Please see comments in my previous objection in section 6.0. As stated in my previous objection the ecological assessment submitted is dated 2014, and even with the brief update provided by Sarah Hacking, (who admitted herself that she just conducted a short walk-over survey) cannot be relied on to give an accurate account of the current situation on site.

However, it is interesting to note that the writer himself notes from the 2014 assessment that since the mature trees along the western boundary (John Street) have bat roosting potential, and that if works to these trees are planned, as a minimum an aerial inspection of the trees ought to be made to identify any signs of bat roosting activity. As many of the residents who live near the site have observed, there are often bats flying about at night/ dusk on this site.

Furthermore the writer has noted from the ecological assessment that; “the mature hedgerows at the site boundaries represent linear corridors that could be used by commuting bats, so should be retained wherever possible and external lighting should be designed to minimise potential impacts on bats.”

Why, therefore, does the developer plan to destroy the whole length of mature hedge that runs along the whole length of the Northgate boundary of the site?

The ecological assessment also recommends that a further detailed reptile survey should be done – has this been done yet?

  1. s.4.48 The proposed scheme would not comply with the ecological protection requirements set out in the NPPF or Part 1:

The writer cannot say that the development would comply with the relevant policies in the NPPF and Part 1 unless the developer completes the required survey work and takes notice of what has already been said in the 2014 assessment. e.g. regarding the retention of mature hedges.

  1. s. 4.49 -4.53 Development would affect trees on site protected by Tree Preservation Orders:

The developer cannot say that none of the trees which are protected by Tree Preservation Orders would be affected by the development since, as the Tree Officer pointed out during the last application. See section 20 above and section 5.6 in my previous objection regarding this matter.

  1. s. 4.55 Surface water from the proposed scheme would not drain into a stream: The writer is wrong to say the surface water from the scheme would drain via a culverted watercourse into a stream – the culverted water course which runs under Northbrook Road (to which the writer is referring ) eventually discharges across the surface of John Street near the electricity substation before draining into a soakaway on the opposite side of John Street. In winter this water sometimes freezes creating an icy patch right across the road, which is obviously dangerous for drivers and pedestrians alike. To add extra water from surface water drainage from the scheme would only exacerbate this problem, and may well also cause the existing culverted drain to become overloaded.
  2. s.4.59 Grazing land is not “non-productive”:

The writer contradicts himself here saying

“It is accepted that the proposed development would result in the loss of a small amount of non-productive agricultural land, which is currently used for grazing”

The field is by definition definitely not “non-productive” precisely because it is used for grazing! See the comments in section 5.3 of my previous objection regarding the loss of agricultural land.

  1. s.4.61 Housing needs survey:

See my comments in section 64 of this objection regarding the applicant’s housing needs survey.

  1. s. 4.62 The proposed scheme would not result in any benefits for the village:

As discussed in sections 4.0-4.2 of my previous objection, the scheme would not offer the village any benefits at all, since the affordable houses are not needed, and the addition of a large number of extra residents to the village would put a great strain on the village school which is already very oversubscribed, and Rose Farm Shop would probably suffer because it would be boxed in by the development, especially if the residents of the houses which share a border with the northwest side of the shop site put up 2m high garden fences to gain some privacy from the Rose Farm Shop car park, which they would be highly likely to do. This is shown by the applicant’s photos included in their Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment:

Utkinton Rose Farm Shop 001

Rose Farm Shop as it is now

Utkinton Rose Farm Shop 002

Rose Farm shop as it would be according to the applicant. NB the two mature trees shown on the photo don’t exist at present and trees of this size would take a considerable time to grow to the shown height. NB there would also be 2m high fences at the boundary of the farm shop car park and the new houses gardens. This would mean that the shop would be a lot less attractive for people to visit, with there being no open views anymore from the shop or the café, and this could well damage business, which could lead to the proprietor having to make staff redundant. I.e. The scheme could well reduce the economical and social sustainability of the village.

To encourage a large number of people on low incomes (as they would be by definition if they need affordable housing) to move into the village would be to leave them stranded away from the employment, education, and services that they would need on a daily basis , since there is no public transport in the village.

  1. s.4.64 Short term construction jobs:

Local jobs created during the construction period would be short-lived.

  1. s.4.65 No need to support local facilities:

As stated above there is no need to “maintain the viability of key services“ in the village as the village shop and post office is thriving, the school is very oversubscribed and the Village Hall is in regular use. As I also referred to above, any new residents would have to be able to access other more important services, e.g. medical facilities, employment and education by car in other larger settlements, since there is no public transport, which goes against so many policies in both the NPPF and Part 1 both of which seek to reduce car usage and to locate housing where employment, educational and essential services are accessible to residents either within the settlement or by public transport.

  1. s.5.1 Conclusion:

I disagree with every statement in the writer’s conclusion for the following reasons:

(a)  The proposed development does not comply with the relevant provisions of the NPPF, Part 1of the Local Plan, or the retained policies from the Vale Royal Local Plan, as it ignores the following policies, as I stated in my previous objection:

National Planning Policy Framework

Sections 7, 17, 29, 30, 32,58, 61, 70, 72, 109, 110, 112, 117, 118, 123, 129 and 162

Adopted Cheshire West and Chester Local Plan Part One

STRAT 1, STRAT 8, STRAT 10, SOC 2, SOC5, ENV 1, ENV 2, ENV 4, ENV 5

Old Vale Royal Local Plan retained policies

Policies GS5, BE1, NE1,NE7, NE9, and NE11

The writer makes particular reference to policy SOC 2, Rural Exception Sites, but the applicant has failed to notice that the proposed development does not comply with SOC 2 on the following 4 matters:

(i) SOC2 states

Residential development for affordable housing by registered providers, including a subsidiary element (maximum 30 percent) of market housing where this will facilitate the successful delivery of the affordable housing, will be permitted …”

but the applicant’s proposed scheme includes 36.4% market housing,

(ii) SOC 2 goes on

“on small sites within or directly adjacent to the built up part of rural settlements … ,“

But the site is not in or directly adjacent to the built up parts of the village, being separated as it is by John Street to the west and Northgate to the north, which are both classified as being outside the village boundary in open countryside as shown on the Part 1 Development Plan Proposals Map, and should the proposed development should therefore not be allowed to proceed.

(iii)SOC 2 goes on

“ … in order to meet local affordable housing needs.”

but the applicant’s housing needs survey is not statistically credible evidence of the need for any affordable houses in the village. See section 64 below.

(iv) SOC 2 goes on

“Schemes must be modest and in keeping with the form and character of the settlement and local landscape setting.”

The proposed scheme would see the urbanisation of an elevated field in open countryside which is part of the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge, and in an ASCV, changing it for ever from an area of beautiful open countryside into a suburban housing estate. Highly valued views of and across the site would be totally obscured and destroyed. This is so obviously not in keeping with the form and setting of the local landscape setting. Since the site is not in the village of Utkinton, and is so clearly a separate and entirely different entity from the built up part of the village, being as it is, a highly elevated open field, the character of the proposed development should not reflect the character of the built up part of the village, but should reflect the character of the open fields which it lies adjacent to.

(b) As I have stated four times in this objection, and as even the writer himself has acknowledged himself twice in his report, Utkinton is not a local service centre since the methodology for the designation of local service centres has not been adopted into Part 2, and is still under discussion – until that process is complete no assumptions should be made whether any village in the CWaC area will become a local service centre.

The writer’s statement that the development would be sustainable is totally inaccurate, for just the same reasons as why Utkinton as a whole is unsustainable village, for all the reasons stated in sections 4.0 to 4.3 of my previous objection, which are briefly that there are no jobs, no places of even secondary education let alone higher or further education, no medical facilities, only one shop, no banks/ building societies, almost no leisure facilities, no places of worship, no pubs or restaurants and most importantly no public transport to get to these facilities elsewhere.

The proposed development would not add to the sustainability of the village in any way, in fact quite the contrary is true – more children would be in need of places at the already oversubscribed village school, Rose Farm Shop’s business may be badly affected, due to it being boxed it by the development and losing it’s current lovely open countryside landscape setting, which may lead to redundancies at the shop, and would mean a lot of people on low incomes would be isolated away from the jobs and services that they need (as mentioned above) due to the lack of public transport. I.e. as stated above in s.48, The scheme could well reduce the economical and social sustainability of the village.

It is noted that the writer has not discussed most of the relevant sustainability issues in his report, even though paragraph 5.18 of STRAT 1 states

Policy STRAT 1 reflects the presumption in favour of sustainable development which is seen as a golden thread running through both plan making and decision taking, as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Sustainable development is at the heart of the Local Plan (Part One). The Council must ensure that development, regeneration and growth in the borough is sustainable.”

The writer makes no mention of the fact that there are no jobs in the village, and no essential services such as those mentioned above, which (especially affordable housing) residents would require on a day to day basis and which they could not access unless they have a car, since there is no proper public transport.

(c) As stated in (a) above, and as described and discussed in both this objection and my previous objection, the proposed development would have a massive and totally unacceptable detrimental impact on the character and appearance of the area, and on the ASCV, which has been designated as such for very good reasons, and the characteristics of which are so highly prized by both landscape experts and local residents.

(d) The houses on John Street and Northgate would be overshadowed and overlooked, causing severe loss of amenity and privacy, especially Bumblebee Hall, which is one of the villages oldest and most prized heritage asset buildings, and which would be boxed in by no fewer than 9 of the proposed houses .

(e) As the Tree Officer previously pointed out the trees protected by Tree Preservation Orders could well be damaged by the scheme, and important hedgerows could be lost, which even the applicants own ecological report stated could result in the loss of important habitats for the protected species which are known to live on the site e.g. bats.

(f) See my earlier comment re drainage in section 45

(g) As discussed in detail in my previous objection, and contrary to what the writer understands, the site is a productive agricultural field, and consequently the loss of this agricultural land would contradict STRAT 1 – see section 5.3 of my previous application.

(h) As described above in section 48 and in my previous objection in section 4.0-4.3, the scheme would put a strain on existing facilities in the village, and would result in the village becoming more socially and economically unsustainable.

It is therefore hoped that the planning authority will accept that, for all the many and varied reasons stated in this objection and in my previous objection that the proposed development would be totally unacceptable, and since it contradicts so many NPPF, Part 1 and Vale Royal Local Plan retained policies it should not be granted planning consent.

  1. Appendix A in applicant’s planning statement: Public Consultation.

s1.2 Having been invited by the Utkinton and Cotebrook Parish Council to attend, two members of the applicant’s company attended a Parish Council Meeting in August 2014 when the last application was submitted.

However, when invited by the Parish Council Chair to introduce themselves and to tell the assembled Parish Councillors and residents of the village about the proposed scheme, the two members of the development company refused to give their names or tell those assembled about the proposed scheme, saying they were only there to hear what people in the village were saying about the scheme. This could of course  be confirmed by all the Parish Councillors and the residents who were present at the meeting, and will have been minuted by the Parish Clerk.

S 2.3 The applicant didn’t bother to notify residents of the meetings to be held at the village hall in May 2016, themselves, for example by a mail drop or even putting posters up around the village, but just asked the Parish Council to put a note on the Parish Council website the week before.

As can be seen from the copy of the Parish Council website page for this matter, which included a copy of the e-mail from Vivio to the Parish Council Chairman (see Appendix A below), these sessions were not “drop in “ sessions at all, with the applicants offering one-to-one appointments only, and with a condition that these appointments were only available “strictly by appointment”, bookable online (i.e. no use to anyone not on the internet) for a 10 minute session with only the company’s architect. The sessions were held between 4pm to 6pm on Thursday 26th May.

This meant that;

(i) Only 12 residents from the whole village would have been able to get appointments,

(ii) Many residents were not able to attend since they were still at work or travelling home at the time of the appointments i.e. 4-6pm

(iii) There was no opportunity for a group discussion / a question and answer sessions between residents and the applicants.

(iv) Anyone without access to the Internet would not have known the meetings were happening, and couldn’t have booked an appointment. Hardly inclusive.

Additionally according to the seven people who did attend, since only the applicant’s architect attended, he was unable to answer most of the more general questions that were asked of him regarding sustainability, ecology, road safety issues etc., so some of the residents who attended felt that had not really gained anything from attending.

With regard to how the issues listed which were raised by those who did go, as listed in Appendix A, I would like to comment as follows:

s.4.1 The additional ecological survey that was carried out was described by its author to be as a “walk over survey” conducted on a warm sunny day in June, when several of the sites’ legally protected species would not have been active i.e. owls and bats.

Accordingly the survey correctly recommended that

Further Survey”:

Protected species are a material consideration when a planning authority is considering a planning application. The presence of protected species, the effect of the proposed development and suitable mitigation, if required, must be established before planning permission can be granted. Following the findings from the Extended Phase 1 Habitat Survey, the following survey may be required:

  • Nesting birds – if any work to the trees or hedgerows is to be carried out within the nesting season (Generally March to August) then a nesting bird survey may be required immediately prior to work commencing.”

S.42 The interface distances for overlooking have allegedly been checked but, as stated in sections 19, 35 and 37 above and in my previous objection in section 5.1, properties on both John Street and Northgate would be badly affected by what would be the overbearing nature of the scheme, and Bumblebee Hall in particular would be severely overlooked and overshadowed by the scheme, with the residents suffering a great loss of privacy.

s.4.5 The details on “bus” routes shown in the highways statement, and in comments made in the planning report about public transport provision, both of which were submitted after the public consultation meetings, are still wrong and are therefore very misleading.

The writer/ applicant has therefore not addressed all the other issues raised at the one-to-one appointments, which as they listed were:

  • The junction at Northgate is dangerous for traffic
  • Queries regarding the Housing Needs Survey
  • Does the sandstone wall and hedge get removed?
  • Importance of trees on the site – as discussed above in section 20 the proposed site layout still shows 8 of the proposed houses being located under the trees protected by TPOs, even though the Tree Officer specifically said that this shouldn’t be done during the last consultation
  • Queries about the submitted ecology documents, and Hedgerow report.
  • Great Crested Newts have been seen in the area i.e. a highly protected species – indicating another very specific survey should be conducted.
  • How would light from the proposed houses affect bats flying through the site
  • Effect on Barn Owls
  • Is the site sustainable?
  • There is no pavement on the road
  • Could the site access be from the main road?
  • The development will generate heavy traffic
  • The local school is at capacity
  • No doctor’s practice in the village
  • No dentist practice in the village

While the architect obviously returned to the office with a list of the questions that were asked, it is clear from the above list that a large number of these queries remain unanswered/unresolved by the applicant.

It is therefore my conclusion that the public consultation was very poor.

Comments on Highways Statement:

  1. Statement of out of date:

The statement still says March 2014 on the cover page, and the report is clearly a revamped version of the highways report that was submitted with the planning application for the same site in 2014, and a lot of its contents are out of date, as will be seen from the following points.

  1. s. 2.4 Reference to bus services which no longer exist:

This section of the highways report is completely wrong as the C87 and C89 bus services stopped running on 31.3.2014, which was even before the applicant’s last application was submitted in 2014. There have been no proper bus services running through the village since that time.

  1. s 2.5 Shuttle Bus service:

The Shuttle “bus” service referred to is operated using just one VW “Caddy” people carrier, with this single vehicle having one wheelchair space plus four other passenger seats. This is a photo of a VW Caddy, provided to me from the service provider:

Utkinton VW Caddy

Users need to pre-register, and then book a seat at least 24 hours in advance, if spaces are available at the time user wants. The timetable included in the applicant’s highways report is dated 2012, and is out of date, but the 2016 timetable is included in Appendix B of this objection. Contrary to the highways report statement that the service serves the rural area around Tarporley, “particularly Utkinton”, as can be seen from the current timetable in Appendix B the service serves no fewer than 9 villages around Tarporley and Utkinton doesn’t receive any preferential level of service over any of these other villages. Contrary to the applicant’s statement that the service operates between 9.15am and 2.30pm Tuesday to Friday, the service in fact operates 9.30am-2.30pm Monday to Friday.

It has recently been confirmed with the CWaC Specialist Transport Team who organise this service that there are only 3 registered users in Utkinton who make any use of this service, which is not surprising since the service is absolutely no use at all for anyone needing to get to a place of employment or education outside the village, to any medical appointments etc. (due to the limited hours between which the service operates, and unknown availability), anyone wanting to travel on a regular basis at a regular time even between 9.30am and 2.30pm, since the service may well not be available if it is already booked up , and timings cannot be guaranteed at all due to there being no set routes or timetables for the service.

As stated in section 40, which refers to the Rural Rider service, it can therefore be seen that because the village only has these two services, (which are effectively council run taxi services, but which only have very limited capacity, limited hours of operation and limited ranges of destinations, and which require users to register for, and pre-book 24 hours in advance, if spaces are available) the village has no proper public transport at all .

  1. s3.2 Site Layout Plans:

3.2 refers to a site layout plan being included in Appendix B of the highways report but such a plan is not included in the report, so it is not possible to comment upon it.

  1. S 3.3 Raised Table Junction:

s.3.3. refers to the proposed installation of a raised table at the junction of the new access road onto the site and Northgate, but the consultation document dated 18th July 2016 from Luke Peaker in CWaC’s Highways Department states that Highways Department doesn’t want such a raised table, and I am in total agreement with this for all the reasons stated in s.7.2 of the objection which I submitted in April 2016 , which reads as follows:

7.2       The proposed “raised table” on the junction would be inappropriate in that it would seriously impede the momentum of vehicles trying to get up both Northgate and Northbrook Road, which would be bad enough in dry conditions, but in icy conditions would make access up these roads impossible.   Furthermore, once on the “table” it would increase vehicles’ momentum as they slide down to John Street, or down Northbrook Road. The installation of a raised table would be an inappropriate urbanisation of the landscape; Northgate is one of the oldest lanes in the village, and CWAC Highways Engineers have until recently said that they didn’t even want to paint a line across the road at the end of Northbrook Road at its junction with Northgate, as they thought it unsuitable for a  lane in a rural area.

However, I note from s. 3.7 of the applicant’s highways report that the proposed visibility splays have been designed “in accordance with a design speed of 20mph”, and I would be interested to know if, without the (what would be totally inappropriate) raised table, the design speed should be 30mph, which, of course is the current speed limit for this lane. Having lived on Northgate for 24 years I can clearly say that traffic, including delivery lorries, bin lorries etc. as well as cars frequently reach speeds of above 30mph travelling up and down Northgate, and since the current sight line from the proposed site entrance looking up Northgate is badly obscured by Bumblebee Hall, I am wondering if the proposed sight line shown on the plan in Appendix C of the highways report would be adequate to provide drivers with a good enough view to see traffic travelling down Northgate at speeds of 30mph +.Furthermore the applicants plan does not show the two tall sandstone gateposts belonging to Bumblebee Hall, at least one of which may well lie within the site line. This is clearly a road safety issue which must be checked.

58. s.3.4 New crossroad junction: The comment in s.3.4 of the report that “the introduction of a crossroad junction is not anticipated to result in any safety issues” is wrong as it does not take into account either the steep gradients of Northgate, Northbrook Road, or the new access road onto the site, nor does it take into account the fact that NONE of these roads are gritted by the local authority in the winter, as discussed in s.7.1 of my previous objection, which reads as follows:

7.1       The proposed new access and junction would be dangerous, due to the very steep gradients of the new access road, and of Northbrook Road and Northgate, and the close proximity of the Northgate/ John Street junction. Since Northgate and Northbrook Road are not routinely gritted in icy weather vehicles have severe difficulty getting up these roads, and slide backwards, and also slide down these hills, which is particularly dangerous when vehicles slide onto John Street. This is also particularly worrying when large vehicles such as emergency vehicles, bin lorries, delivery lorries, etc are involved.

The addition of the proposed new access road, which would have to be steep because of the difference in levels between the site and Northgate, would mean that vehicles could easily slide from the site onto Northgate and across the junction and straight down Northbrook Road. The proposed access arrangements therefore contradict policy BE1(iii) of the Local Plan which states that development should not generate sufficient traffic to cause nuisance or danger.

 

Utkinton Down Northgate

The view looking down Northgate, with the junction with Northbrook Road shown on the right. Note the sandstone wall and hedge on the left which would be destroyed to accommodate the installation of the proposed new footway.

Utkinton Up Northgate

The view looking up Northbrook Road towards the junction with Northgate, with the proposal site in the background, with the ground level of that site shown. Note the steep gradient of Northbrook Road, and the difference in levels between Northgate and the proposal site.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 17.09.51

The view from John Street looking up Northgate, with the junction with Northbrook Road shown on the left at the brow of the hill. Note the short distance between the John Street/ Northgate junction and the Northgate/ Northbrook Road junction, and the steep gradient of the road.

 

  1. s.3.5 Proposed raised table junction has not been approved:

See section 57 above.

  1. s.3.8 Visibility splay at Northgate/ John Street junction:

s.3.8 notes the concerns raised by a highways officer about the visibility to the left for drivers on Northgate at the junction with John Street, but states that adequate visibility splays would be achievable “with the removal of foliage that falls within the visibility splay” However, it should be noted that some of the foliage which the developers would want to remove to achieve this adequate visibility splay could well belong to the trees on the proposal site which are protected by Tree Preservation Order number 12/00008/ORD, and which therefore couldn’t legally be removed if it would damage the protected tree(s) in question. I attach a copy of the TPO in Appendix B of this objection, which includes a plan showing the location of the trees which are protected, and how these trees are within the applicant’s proposed visibility splay, within which the applicants would want to remove the vegetation.

  1. s.3.9 Proposed footway: s.3.9 refers to the proposed new 2m wide footway that the applicants would construct on Northgate and John Street, and states that it would provide a “safe route to and from the site” but, as discussed in sections 7.4 and 7.5 of my previous objection, this footway will definitely NOT provide safe pedestrian access to the site, leading as it does just to John Street, where pedestrians would have to cross John Street at the most dangerous point i.e. between the Northgate/ John Street junction and Big Field Lane/ John Street junction. Additionally the proposed footpath would be impossible and highly dangerous for anyone who uses a wheelchair to navigate due to the steep gradient of Northgate , and the construction of the footway will necessitate the removal of a considerable length of ancient sandstone wall and a very mature hedge which grows next/ on top of it:
7.4       The development of the proposed new footpath from the new access road down to John Street would involve the destruction of a considerable length of ancient and very substantial sandstone retaining wall,  and the mature hedgerow and trees which grow on top/ adjacent to it. As discussed in section 5.4, the applicant’s plan shows that the wall would be reconstructed at the back of the new footway, but the wall could never be replaced in its existing form, and there are grave concerns over the possible instability of the land on the proposal site which might occur during / after the destruction of the existing wall and the replacement with a new wall.

The destruction of this wall and hedgerow, and the possible land instability   would contradict Policies:

Policy NE7 (need to protect landscape features such as walls and hedgerows),

Policy BE1(ii)(development should not harm the features or areas of particular historic, archaeological, nature conservation, geological or landscape value),

Policy BE1(xviii)(development should retain important trees, hedgerows and other valuable landscape features…) , and

s.109 of the NPPF ( need to prevent new development from contributing to land instability).

 

7.5       The proposed footpath itself would serve little purpose While it is clear from the applicant’s plan that the developer would need to install the proposed footpath in order to create an adequate line of sight from the proposed new access road down to the nearby junction of Northgate / John Street, the new footway would offer very little to pedestrians accessing the site, leading as it does only down to John Street, where pedestrians would then have to cross over John Street to reach the pavement on the other side. This crossing point would be at the most dangerous point i.e. between the John Street/Northgate junction and the John Street/ Big Field Lane junction on the other side. The installation of the proposed footpath would encourage not only adults, but   primary aged children from the Big Field Lane/ Rowlands View area (who walk up to school via Northbrook Road) to cross at this point, which would be especially dangerous.

           

Screen Shot 2016-07-30 at 13.06.02

 

This would contradict the following policies regarding the need for safe pedestrian access:

STRAT 10 which states new development will be required to demonstrate that

“Measures have been incorporated to improve physical accessibility and remove barriers to mobility, especially for disabled and older people. The safety of all road users should be taken into account in the design and layout of new developments.”

5.83 Developments should ensure that footpaths and cycle ways are included as an integral part of the design. Safe and convenient routes should be provided which link between main buildings and the surrounding local area and facilities. Measures to ensure safety of pedestrians include crossings, lighting and good overlooking of footways.”

Policy BE1(xvi) which refers need for adequate arrangements for access … and in particular provision should be made for safe vehicular access and egress arrangements and safe pedestrian access.

  1. s.5.2 Raised table and visibility splays:

See comments in section 57 above.

  1. s.5.4 Summary:

To summarise, having regard to all the above facts, I cannot see how CWaC could possibly approve the proposed highways arrangements since they would;

(i) Create dangers for both drivers and pedestrians accessing the site, and those using the surrounding roads, which contradicts policies BE1(iii), STRAT 10, BE1(xvi) and s.32 of the NPPF,

(ii) Result in damage to trees which are legally protected by Tree Preservation Orders,

(iii) Result in the destruction of a considerable length of ancient and very substantial sandstone retaining wall, and the mature hedgerow and trees which grow on top/ adjacent to it, which would contradict policies NE7 and BE1(ii).

 

Comments on arc4 Housing Needs Survey:

  1. Having had concerns about the credibility of arc4’s Housing Needs Survey, particularly since the number of affordable houses that it alleged were needed in the village was so vastly different from the number obtained from the recently conducted Parish Council Housing Needs Survey, I contacted a consultant statistician to ask his opinion on the statistical credibility of the methodology used, the data that was used to calculate the housing needs figures, and the consequent validity of the figures quoted in the report. This consultant statistician, Dr.Warne, asked me to put the matter in an e-mail to him, which I did, and he has replied by adding his comments (in blue) to my e-mail to him, copy attached in Appendix D.

Dr. Warne is a professional statistician of international standing, who advises medical companies such as Ciba-Geigy and Merck Serono how to set up and run pharmaceutical trials/surveys in the correct way, how to collect the right data, and how to use that data in a statistically correct way to produce statistically credible and accurate information. He is President of the International Society for Clinical Biostatistics, a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society,and lectures around the world at statistical conferences, and also lectures at Geneva University. If you would like to know more about him please see his LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidwwarne

As you will see, Dr. Warne does not think that the arc4 survey methodology or results are statistically credible, and thinks that the Parish Council survey is a more reliable indicator of the current level of affordable housing need in Utkinton.

For this reason I do not think the arc4 report should be considered to be sufficient evidence of a local need for 22 affordable houses, which is what it claims, and that the figures contained within the Parish Council survey should be accepted as being the true number of affordable houses needed in the village at this time.

As a consequence of the above the proposed development should not be allowed to proceed on this critical point alone since SOC 2 clearly states

Rural exception sites:

“Schemes must be supported by an up to date housing needs survey.”

But it has been proven that there is only a very small local need to be met, which couldn’t possibly be used to justify the construction of 14 affordable houses and 8 market houses, and that the housing needs survey submitted by the applicant has been conclusively found to be statistically unsound, and that the Parish Council survey results are considered to be a reliable indicator of the true level of need for affordable housing in the village.

Appendix A – Copy of posting on Parish Council website dated 19th May including letter from Marcol/ Vivio about appointments for public consultation

One to One consultations about the Northgate Development

Posted on May 19, 2016 by utkintonwebmaster

We have received the following email to residents who commented on this proposed development on the CWaC website. i am unable to forward the link to apply to Vivio for an appointment but their email is developments@vivio.co.uk

“Hi Francis,

I have obtained your details from the Utkinton Parish Council Website and write regarding the outline planning application on the Land South of Northgate, Utkinton (planning ref 16/01492/OUT).

We are interested to hear comments and thoughts from local residents on the design and layout of the development should the outline application be approved. Therefore we are planning a public consultation in the form of 10 minute one-to-one meetings with the architect of the development.

The meetings are being held at Utkinton Parish Hall between 4pm and 6pm on Thursday 26 May 2016.

All one to one meetings are strictly by appointment and they can booked online by clicking on the link <here> appointments are on a first come first served basis.

We would be grateful if you could let any residents that would be interested in a one-to-one meeting with the architect to make an appointment using the link above.

Don’t hesitate to email me if you have any questions.

Best regards,

Andrea Morris
vivio developments”

 

Appendix B – Timetable for Tarporley Shuttle Bus 2016

 Utkinton Tarporley Shuttle

Utkinton Traveline

 

 

Appendix C – Tree Preservation Order 12/0008/ORD

which showsthat the removal of vegetation within the applicants proposed visibility splay at the Northgate/ John Street junction would affect the oak trees in this area which are the subject of the TPO.

Utkinton TPO

Utkinton TPO 002

Utkinton TPO 003

Utkinton TPO 004

Utkinton TPO 005

 

Utkinton TPO 006

Appendix D – Consultant Statistician’s Opinion of the statistical credibility of arc4’s Housing Needs Survey and the Parish Council’s Housing Needs Survey

From: David W. WARNE (BW) [mailto:david_w_warne@bluewin.ch]
Sent: Thursday, July 28, 2016 1:44 PM
To: ‘Ann Pownall’
Subject: RE: Statistical Credibility of Housing Needs Surveys

Dear Mrs. Pownall,

Attached please find my comments.

Best regards,

David

David W. WARNE, BSc, MSc, PhD, CStat

From: Ann Pownall [mailto:pownall0@btinternet.com]
Sent: 28 July 2016 09:55
To: ‘David W. WARNE (BW)’
Subject: Statistical Credibility of Housing Needs Surveys

Dear Dr. Warne,

I write further to our recent discussion, and I would be obliged if you could give me your professional opinion in your capacity as a professional statistician about the following matter.

Background

As discussed, a housing developer has recently submitted a planning application to build 22 houses on a field near to the village where I live. The local planning regulations stipulate that where development is proposed on such as site that is outside a settlement boundary, only “affordable “ houses will be permitted (i.e. ones which will be owned and let by a “social landlord” at a rent less than open market rents), and that the developer must provide evidence that there is a real need for the proposed affordable houses, through a housing needs survey to be submitted with their planning application.

This being the case the prospective developer commissioned a housing needs survey from a company (ARC4) who compile and provide housing data.

Having read ARC4’s survey report I am concerned that the methodology which ARC4 used to compile their data is not necessarily correct, and that some of the assumptions that ARC4 made when calculating their housing needs figures are not appropriate. If the resulting housing needs figures are accepted it will have a strong influence on whether the planning application is approved or not, and if the houses are built or not, so it is obviously essential that the data which the developers are using to support their application is correct and statistically credible. At present I am concerned that the ARC4 figures may not be right, as the scenario which they indicate is the case in the village (i.e. lots of young people on low incomes, all wanting to stay in the village and therefore in need of affordable housing) is very different from the pattern of what we know actually happens in the village regarding people moving in and out, housing needs etc., as witnessed during the 24 years that we have lived here.

I would therefore be grateful if you could give me your opinion regarding whether you think the figures that ARC4 are now quoting to justify the developers statement that affordable houses are needed in the village are statistical credible, and I would be grateful if you could answer the questions shown below, with explanation/ justification for your answers where necessary.

Explanation and discussion about how ARC4 survey was conducted and how the data in their report was compiled

  1. ARC4 obtained the telephone numbers for 173 of the 296 households in the village.
  1. Out of those 173 households that ARC4 contacted via telephoneARC4, got 69 households to answer their survey.

This indicates that the remaining 104 households out of the 176 that ARC 4 contacted refused to answer the survey, and I am assuming that this was because they weren’t interested in affordable housing.

Question 1: Would you agree that this is a reasonable assumption to make on my part?

Answer 1: Yes. Also nothing is known about the other 123 households without a phone number, so they can’t be used in the calculations.

  1. From the 69 cold-call telephone surveys that ARC4 did complete, only 5 households expressed an interest in the possibility of needing an affordable house in the village within the next 3 years.
  2. From this “raw data” of 5 interested households, ARC4 then multiplied up this number (to use their expression “weight” the figures) as follows:

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 21.43.32

This appears to be something of a large assumption, particularly since 104 of the 176 households that they even contacted didn’t want to answer their survey, and, as noted above, therefore probably weren’t interested at all.

Question 2: Do you consider that this is an appropriate way to calculate the possible number of houses that would be required for the whole village?

Answer 2: No.

5.Arc4 then went on to say that by comparing the financial data collected from the 5 households that showed an interest against recent data about open market freehold and private rental house prices in the area, it was apparent that none of the 22 assumed households would be able to afford market value housing in the village (either freehold or rented) and would all therefore need affordable housing.

I was concerned that if the financial data obtained from the 5 households that expressed an interest was incomplete or lacking in any way that the average income figure used to make the above analysis of the 5 households, and which was then used for the assumed 22 houses might be artificially low, and therefore not reliable.

Obviously if all 5 households had given their details, the average income calculated for this group of 5 households would be accurate, but if only 1 or 2 of the 5 households had submitted their financial data the average calculated may well not be representative of even the 5 households, and would be even less likely to be accurate for the assumed 22 houses i.e. an error would have been made about the assumed income for the 5 houses, and this error would then have been compounded by assuming that all 22 of the assumed houses would have the same low income .

Consequently I asked the author of the report how many of the 5 households had divulged their financial status during the ARC4 telephone surveys, upon which ARC4 then made the assumption that all 22 households would have a low income. However the author steadfastly refused to tell me how many of the 5 households supplied this data, claiming that to do so would be in breach of the Data Protection Act, which is not correct as I was not asking for the names, addresses or financial details of the households concerned, just the number of households. If the author had given me this figure I would of course have been no wiser than I was before about the identity of any of the parties involved.

[Reviewer’s comment: This point is well made, but there’s also the question whether the data from 5 households can be extrapolated to the other 291, and it probably can’t be as it’s a very biased sample]

  1. From this I was concerned that only a very few, or even none of the 5 households provided ARC4 with any financial data, and that the author had based his analysis of average income and house prices on financial data from either only a very few of the 5 households, or even none.
  2. The above assumption doesn’t appear to make sense if you know what the people in the village are like, as there is a huge variation in the income levels of people in the village, from people living in social housing to several millionaires , and the young people forming what ARC4 refer to as “newly-forming” households (i.e. young people leaving the parental home and needing a home of their own) would obviously come from this wide range of backgrounds, and will have a diverse range of incomes i.e. some will have low incomes and no financial support from their parents, and might need affordable housing, while other young people will have good jobs and incomes, and financial support from their wealthy parents, and would not need affordable housing in the village.

If this were not the case, it would mean that all young people in the village growing up and leaving their parental homes would need affordable housing, which would have already produced a backlog of people needing affordable housing, but there isn’t a backlog, as has been proved by several other recent housing needs surveys conducted in by both the Parish Council, and a different developer, Dane Housing, (who obviously had a vested interest in trying to prove that there was a need for houses to be built) ; all these surveys have shown a very low number of people in need of affordable housing, and this number has not increased significantly over several years i.e. there is no growing backlog. See section 11 below regarding Parish Council housing needs surveys, and Dane Housing housing needs survey.

Furthermore if there was a backlog of people in newly-forming households needing affordable housing it would result in them having to either stay in their parental homes, which could lead to overcrowding, or even becoming homeless, but the ARC4 survey itself says that there are no households in the village that are considered to be overcrowded (and from where people would consequently want to move), and there are no homeless households in the village.

Question 3: Do you think that the author should be prepared to disclose how many households’ financial data was used to calculate the average income in order to make his assumptions credible?                                                                                                                         
Answer 3: Yes, that would seem sensible

Question 4: Do you think it is justifiable for the author to assume that all 5 households would have the same level of income based on the financial data obtained from what might be only a small proportion of these households?                                                                    
Answer 4:No, the confidence interval from even all 5 would be very large, and also it is probably not representative of any households other than these few
 

Question 5: Do you think the author’s assumption that, from the data given by some of the 5 households, all 22 of the assumed households would be on similarly low incomes and would all consequently need affordable housing is correct and credible?                          
Answer 5:No, that is making further unjustified assumptions
 

  1. Whilst the report itself says that only 4 of the assumed 22 households anticipated staying in the village during the next 3 years (which would amount to only 1 of the 5 households that were actually surveyed, reversing the previous sum), it then assumes that if more affordable housing were available in the village that all 22 households would want to stay in the village. However there is already affordable housing in the village, owned and let by a social housing landlord, who have said that over the past 4 years an average of 1.75 houses have become available each year, and again, because there is no backlog in the number of people needing affordable housing,this would indicate that the current level of affordable rented housing in the village is sufficient to meet the needs of those who need such housing.

Question 6: Do you think that the author’s assumption that all of the assumed 22 households would want to stay in the village if more affordable accommodation was available, and would , based on the previously assumed income levels, need affordable housingis a credible assumption to make, taking into account

(a) The ARC4 survey itself only found one household (raw data) that actually said they anticipated wanting to stay in the village,

(b) There is already social housing available in the village, and

(c)Given that the annual vacancy rate and the number of people who have been shown to be in need of affordable housing (from a number of recent housing surveys), correlate well, to prove that the existing social housing provision caters well for the existing need, which is proved by the fact that there is no significant backlog.

Answer 6: The existing available accommodation seems to have been ignored and the assumption that if 22 houses were available then more people would want them doesn’t seem to be justified

  1. The main reason that there is not a backlog of households needing affordable housing in the village, or any overcrowded houses or homelessness (and therefore no proof that there would be any significant increase in the size of the backlog in the future) is that the young people who form the “newly-forming” households, do not stay in the village, as, being as unsustainable as it is , there is nothing on offer for young people in the village and they move away to bigger towns or cities. I.e. there are no jobs, education facilities, medical facilities, public transport, shops, pubs, or sports facilities etc. in the village, all of which are obviously necessary for newly forming households.

If this were not the case, again there would already be a large backlog of newly forming households needing housing in the village – but there isn’t.

Question 7: Do you agree that the fact that there is no backlog of newly forming households wanting affordable housing in the village is proof that most newly forming households move away from the village to seek employment opportunities and the facilities that they need in larger settlements, and that consequently ARC4s assertion thatall of the assumed 22 households would want to stay in the village is not justifiable?

Answer 7: Yes

10.In summary, this indicates to me that ,

(a)the social housing provision (i.e. affordable housing) that already exists in the village is sufficient to meet the needs of most of those who can’t afford market housing, hence no backlog for this reason, and

(b) newly forming households move away from the village, hence no backlog for this reason, and

(c) the young people who form the newly-forming households cannot all be assumed to have the low levels of income (as has been assumed by ARC4) and consequently some at least would be able to buy houses on the open market , hence no backlog for this reason.

Question 8: Do you agree with the above summary? 

Answer8 : Yes

11.The local Parish Council recently conducted their own housing needs survey, which was conducted in writing with all 296 households in the village receiving a hand-delivered survey. Residents then had 4 weeks to weigh and consider whether they would be interested in an affordable house or not before replying to the Parish Council on a confidential basis. This would seem to be a much more reliable way of conducting a survey and gathering accurate data on an issue as financially important as whether someone would want to take on a house or not, than, as ARC4 did, cold-calling people and expecting them to make such a decision during a 10-15 minute phone call.

The results from this survey showed that only 3 people (in 2 households) in the village expressed an interest in taking on an affordable house in the village within the next 3 years. 68 out of 299 households returned their survey forms to the Parish Council, which was a 23% return rate, (ie extremely similar to the ARC4 survey’s return rate of 69 out of 296 households), but since every household in the village had been surveyed, it has to be assumed that those who did not reply were not interested in affordable housing, or they would have returned their survey forms.

Furthermore other Parish Council Housing Needs Surveys carried out in recent years have returned similar figures as follows:

2006 Survey: 86 replies received from 270 households that were surveyed (=32% response rate) which showed a need over the next 5 years of 5 households (NB not 3 years as the current ARC4 and Parish Council surveys have been ).

2012 Survey : 156 replied received from 296 households (=52% response rate)which showed a need for the next 3 years of 4 households.

The above information therefore shows that the level of people expressing a need for affordable houses has been at a consistently low level over the past 10years,and remains so now.

As mentioned above, a development company , Dane Housing, (who were interested in building affordable houses on the same site, and therefore had a vested interest in wanting to prove that there was a need for such houses ) conducted a written housing needs survey in November 2013 , which was posted to every household in the village, but they received no replies whatsoever.

Question 9: Would you agree that the recent Parish Council survey would appear to be more statistically credible than the ARC4 survey, and that the results thereof are more statistically significant than the results/ assumed figures from the ARC4 survey?

Answer 9: Yes

  1. Since the author of the ARC4 survey said he could not give his client, the developer, a list of the names and addresses of the 5 would-be tenants to present to the planning authority, as to do so would breach the Data Protection Act, it would seem to me that the developer has no credible evidence from the survey to support his assertion that there is a need for affordable housing in the village, even from the 5 households that expressed an interest. Obviously there will not be any evidence from the other 17 households, as they are only theoretical at this stage .

Since the Planning Authority needs to see proof that there is a real need for the proposed houses to be built before granting planning consent, it seems to me that they would need a full list of the names and addresses of all the prospective tenants who they could then check were genuinely interested, and financially able, to take on something as financially binding as a house. However, the ARC4 report doesn’t deliver this information, and quotes figures which have been calculated on unsubstantiated assumptions, and which are based on data that they are not prepared to disclose (with no good reason why they can’t do so), and consequently I cannot see how their survey data could be deemed to be sufficiently statistically credible for the Planning Authority to accept it as evidence of a housing need, and to grant planning consent accordingly.

The recent Parish Council Survey, however, contains all the necessary data of specific real households, which the Parish Council could pass on to the Planning Authority (obviously in confidence and with the householders’ consent) if the planning Authority wanted to investigate the how genuine the would-be tenants’ interest was.

Question 10: In summary, do you think the ARC4 survey is compiled from accurate and complete data,and presents enough statistically credible evidence, to enable the planning authority to accept that there is a need for 22 houses to be built?


Answer 10: No

Thank you for your assistance in this matter. I look forward to hearing from you in due course.

Yours sincerely,

Ann Pownall