Meeting between Bournemouth Councillors and local MPs, 26 January 2007 by dfhrf555fcg


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									                                     FILE NOTE

Meeting between Bournemouth Councillors and Members of Parliament to
discuss residential development and current planning issues

26 January 2007 at 2.00 pm at Bournemouth International Centre


Members of the Council
Councillor Mantock – in the Chair; Councillors Mrs Bagnato, Mrs Baxter, Beesley,
Davies, Mrs Filer, Filer, Mrs Gravgaard, Hayter, Mrs Ketchley, Ms Levell,
MacLoughlin, Ratcliffe, West

Members of Parliament
Sir John Butterfill, MP for Bournemouth West
Tobias Ellwood, MP for Bournemouth East

Council Officers
Bob Johnson, Planning Control Manager
Phil Robinson, Planning Policy, Conservation & Design Manager
Steve Garrett, Principal Planning Officer (Policy, Conservation & Design)

1.       Apologies

Apologies were received from Councillor Whittaker and Councillor Mrs Bishop

2.       Welcome and Introductions

The Chairman welcomed everyone to the meeting and initiated introductions.

He explained that the meeting was an opportunity for Members to talk with the
two MPs about residential development and other aspects of the planning
process affecting Bournemouth. The information given by Members could be
used by the MPs when campaigning on planning issues at a national level. The
meeting was intended to cover the following topics-

        The impact of current national planning policies on local decision-
         making, especially Planning Policy Statement 1(PPS1) and Planning
         Policy Guidance/Statement 3 (PPG/S3)
        The draft Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) and its impact on housing
         numbers and infrastructure
        Planning appeals performance
        Current planning issues being discussed in Parliament

3.    How planning works in Bournemouth

The Chairman gave an overview of the planning process in Bournemouth.
He reported that Members and officers carried out the statutory functions of
the local planning authority in a professional and apolitical manner. Members
of Planning Board were well-trained, experienced, and consistent in their
approach to decision-making.

The Chairman explained the active role of the Planning Board Agenda Group in
dealing with problems and ‘technical’ issues to ensure that the full Planning
Board operated effectively and efficiently. The Agenda Group was made up of
4 Members of the Board, one representative from each of the political groups
on the Council. Current membership was as follows –

Councillor   Ken Mantock, Chairman
Councillor   Ron Whittaker, Vice-Chairman
Councillor   Beryl Baxter
Councillor   John Beesley

The Agenda Group worked in a totally non-political manner. It met on a
monthly basis one week in advance of the Planning Board meeting to run
through the agenda with the planning officers.

Councillor Beesley, on behalf of the other Agenda Group Members, fully
endorsed the comments of Councillor Mantock.

4.    The impact of national planning policies on local decisions

The Chairman invited Members to explain how national policies were affecting
the local determination of planning applications, particularly for residential
development. This would provide the MPs with supporting evidence which they
could use when policies were discussed and reviewed in Parliament.

Members’ comments

a.    Overdensity of development

There were numerous examples of developers cramming too many flats onto
one site. These developments provided insufficient car parking, and a lack of
open space and amenities. This had an adverse impact on the quality of life for
the residents of the new development and their neighbours.

The Board was often unable to stop this type of development being granted
planning permission due to the restrictions placed on it by national planning
policies, particularly Planning Policy Guidance 3 (PPG3) on Housing which
stipulated what was acceptable in terms of the number of units on site.

Members’ views on what was ‘acceptable’ on a particular site did not always
agree with PPG3. If the Board refused an application on the grounds of
overdensity without having regard to the contents of PPG3 and the applicant
subsequently went to appeal, it was more than likely that the appeal would be
upheld and costs awarded against the Council. See also item 6 below.

b.       Type of new development and loss of family housing

Family housing stock was being lost at a time when the demand for good
quality family accommodation was increasing. This was happening in a number
of ways –

        Decent family homes were being converted into residential flats and
         student accommodation,
        Family homes were being demolished and replaced by flats on the site
        New builds were catering for the upmarket one/two bedroom flat
         market rather than providing accommodation for families.

It was acknowledged that a continuous renewal of housing stock was necessary.
However Members were very concerned that the mix of residential
development in the town was becoming more and more unbalanced. This was
evidenced by statistics which suggested that there would be more flats than
houses in Bournemouth by 2014. Changes in Planning Policy Statement 3 (PPS3)
– which was due to replace PPG3 – did place greater emphasis on the need for
family homes, but current national policy again restricted the Planning Board in
the reasons it could give for refusing this type of development.

It was suggested that the University should be encouraged to build more
purpose-built student accommodation to free up good quality family homes in
the Winton/Charminster area.

c.       Size of residential units

Overdensity of development often led to a reduction in the size of individual
residential units. Some units were made up of small sized rooms, mixed use
rooms (e.g. kitchen/lounge, bedroom/lounge), shared bedrooms, and very
little, if any, storage space. This particularly affected families and those on
low incomes. There was a lack of space inside the home for adults/teenagers
to relax and have some privacy, and for children to play. This type of
development often had no play space or garden area outside the property

Members felt that the inadequate size of individual units directly affected the
quality of life for those living in them. There were also wider implications in
that children and young people were understandably keen to escape their

limited surroundings indoors in order to ‘let off steam’ outside. This could lead
to an increase in neighbourhood nuisance and anti-social behaviour.

d.          Further development in areas already densely developed

Areas of existing high density in the town had difficulty in coping with further
new development. This was especially true in areas such as Springbourne which
were heavily developed but lacked sufficient off street parking, amenity space
and gardens. National planning policy restricted the Local Planning Authority in
such cases, for example in the number of parking spaces developers were
required to provide if the development was on a public transport route.
Members did not feel this was realistic. The majority of people were car users
and wanted a parking space where they lived. It also did not take into account
the frequency/quality of service of the public transport available in the area.

It was regrettable that the Council was no longer able to adopt ‘local zoning’
policies to restrict any further development in designated areas of the town.

Members were reminded that Planning Board on 15 May 2006 had already
recommended that an urgent review be given to the present planning policies
PPG3 and PPG13 for the following reasons –

     (i)          the social and environmental problems which high density
                  developments are bringing to urban areas such as Bournemouth;

     (ii)         the need to have developments that –

                     bring about a quality in design and range of housing
                      accommodation, fit for families, by providing adequate space
                      for recreation and potential for homeworking (this to include a
                      basic external amenity area for a family),

                     provide more realistic parking per dwelling irrespective of
                      transport links as the majority of households still need a car
                      for other social reasons, even if they use public transport at
                      other times e.g. to go to work;

                     have regard to the infrastructure of the area, particularly in
                      view of the issues raised with the South West Regional
                      Assembly in agreeing the final draft Regional Spatial Strategy
                      in March 2006.

Response of MPs

Sir John Butterfill, MP, acknowledged Members’ concerns and welcomed their
feedback. Both MPs required as much local evidence as possible when making
representations on planning issues at national and regional levels.

He stressed the importance of creating balanced communities. He considered
that the Government was overlooking the influx of families into the
Bournemouth area and the need to accommodate them.

He considered that alternative planning grounds for refusing development
could be used as long as these were backed up by evidence. He encouraged the
use of evidence and advice from other agencies/consultees. For example the
Environment Agency’s concerns about the likely increase in flooding could be
cross-referenced with the lack of garden provision in new developments and
the increase in run-off caused by insufficient soil to absorb the water. In terms
of transport and congestion it was obvious that Bournemouth was now
operating above its original design capacity, and with evidence to back this up,
the Council could say that further development in certain areas would increase
the burden on already overburdened roads.

Sir John suggested that a comprehensive study be undertaken to assess the
impact on the town, its environment and infrastructure, if the government’s
housing targets were met.

Sir John reported that Bournemouth University was working on proposals to
build more student accommodation on land owned by the Talbot Trust.
However this was not a straightforward proposal and would have implications
for the infrastructure and for neighbouring residents in Talbot Woods.

Tobias Ellwood, MP, also welcomed the opportunity to speak with Members. He
considered that further studies needed to be done to establish the demand for
housing so that Bournemouth itself could agree what it needed rather than be
told what it needed. He encouraged the Council to work further with
neighbouring authorities and not be afraid to discuss the pros and cons of more
formal joint arrangements. He also encouraged planning officers to adopt a
more thorough pre-application process to enable developers to meet as many
of the local planning authority’s requirements as possible.

Mr Ellwood agreed that poor quality accommodation, lack of space and amenity
could be linked to anti-social behaviour. Unsuitable developments affected
people’s quality of life and changed the character of an area and the town as a
whole. He was also concerned that the existing infrastructure was unable to
keep up with the pace of development and felt that this was a valid reason for
refusing further development in some areas. In this respect a study of
infrastructure would be helpful. If it was not adequate it would need to be

proven so that it could be used to prevent development – this would include
roads, sewers and flood risk.

5.    The draft Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) and its impact on housing
      numbers and infrastructure

Members and MPs went on to discuss their objections to the draft Regional
Spatial Strategy.

Sir John Butterfill reported that the feeling among parliamentary colleagues in
the South West region was that the RSS was fundamentally flawed. MPs from all
political parties opposed the proposals for further development in major
conurbations (with the exception of the MP for Plymouth, who considered that
the area’s particular circumstances would benefit from more development in
the city). The South West MPs felt that the existing infrastructure of the region
was underused. If people were encouraged to move into under-populated areas
it would regenerate the smaller market towns and villages, and ensure that
schools, post offices and bus services were retained. The MPs had put their
views to the RSS officers but had been completely ignored.

The Chairman confirmed that the planning officers had undertaken capacity
studies to compare with the RSS figures and these had shown them to be totally
unrealistic. Details would be forwarded to the MPs for information.

Tobias Ellwood queried how the original figures had been submitted, in that
officers had provided figures for the number of dwellings required per annum
in theory, rather than how many the town actually needed. He also reported
that the Government Office for the South West (GOSW) claimed that
Bournemouth had not received any grant funding for projects because it had
not submitted any worked up plans with neighbouring authorities.

The Chairman explained that the officers had had no choice but to provide
information in accordance with the instructions of the RSS officers at the time.
Planning officers were constantly responding and refining their studies in
response to ever-changing goalposts at regional and national levels. The
statement by GOSW was not consistent with the number of plans discussed with
neighbouring authorities at regional planning meetings, such as future access
for Bournemouth International Airport, and Park & Ride provision. These had
been jointly agreed and submitted to GOSW. Councillor Hayter, Cabinet
Member for Strategic Development & Transport, reported that local schemes
tended to be overlooked for funding in favour of other areas such as Bristol.
The Chairman confirmed that work was continually in progress to prepare and
submit fully-costed schemes.

The Chairman also assured the MPs that Members and officers were committed
to working in partnership with their colleagues in Poole, Christchurch and

Dorset to represent the area at regional level and get the best deal possible.
This included personally representing and supporting the market towns in North
Dorset which were actively seeking more development. As a result the Regional
Assembly had now indicated that it would be prepared to look again at areas
like Shaftesbury, Blandford and Gillingham.

Councillor West gave an update on the work of the Sustaining our Environment
Scrutiny & Review Panel of which he was Chairman. The Panel was taking a
lead role in the SE Dorset Regional Transport Plan and the Cycling Forum, and
was also working with the Environment Agency to look at the effects of

The Chairman invited Phil Robinson, Planning Policy, Conservation & Design
Manager, to comment on the points raised.

Phil Robinson explained that Members and officers from Bournemouth, Poole
and Dorset had been working together since 2005 to create a ‘vision’ for SE
Dorset. This had been jointly agreed and submitted to the Regional Assembly to
be used to inform the draft RSS.

Members and officers did not feel that the Regional Assembly had taken their
submission into account, and Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset had all objected
to the draft RSS. For example the Regional Assembly had added an additional
100 dwellings onto the annual requirement for new housing in Bournemouth,
and had indicated that this still may not be sufficient. It was important to keep
the average requirement as low as possible to take into account fluctuations in
the market/demand. The local authorities would continue to lobby to bring
back the original vision for the region which they had jointly agreed.

Phil Robinson also reported on a number of ongoing studies which the local
authority was involved in. This included a housing market area pilot study with
the Housing Corporation and the other local authorities in Dorset. This was
taking forward the work already done to assess the housing needs of the area.
The final report was expected in May 2007 and may still be in time to inform
the draft RSS. Delays had been caused by the government moving the goalposts
for the way in which housing was allocated.

6.    Planning appeals – the impact of decisions made by the planning

Members reported on a number of cases where the Planning Inspector had
found against the decision of the Local Planning Authority to refuse a planning
application. In some cases this also involved the awarding of costs against the

Members felt that national planning policy did not give them enough tools with
which to refuse planning applications which they considered inappropriate.
Members had a duty to ensure that the reasons for refusal were based on
planning policy grounds in case the applicant went to appeal. At the appeal the
Local Planning Authority had to be able to defend its reasons for refusing an
application in order to be successful. Members also felt that the Inspector’s
decision was sometimes made by looking at the case on paper without knowing
the area of town concerned, rather than looking at the grassroots reality of the

This situation was very frustrating for Members. Residents were often unaware
of the restrictions placed on Members when deciding whether to grant or
refuse planning applications. The Chairman did make a point of explaining this
to members of the public who were present at Planning Board meetings.

Despite all this the Local Planning Authority was refusing more planning
applications than the national average and was winning more appeals
compared with others. The Chairman stressed that applications could be
refused against officer recommendation if Members considered their reasons
for refusal were defendable at appeal. The same officer was able to attend the
appeal hearing and represent Members’ views without prejudicing the case.

Members highlighted the forthcoming appeal against the Planning Board’s
decision to refuse an application at 3 - 15 Cleveland Road in Springbourne. This
development had proposed 34 flats with only 10 parking spaces in an already
high density area of the town, and had prompted objections from Dorset
Police. The MPs had also been circulated with the Inspector’s decisions against
the Council in respect of 180 Belle Vue Road and 7 Church Road, decisions
which the Local Planning Authority had found very disappointing.

The MPs agreed that they had a role to play in supporting the Council in the
appeals process, particularly as appeals were ultimately made to the Secretary
of State. The MPs asked to be updated with appeals information on a regular
basis, and the Planning Control Manager agreed to provide them with the
appeals listing which appeared weekly in the Council Information Bulletin. The
MPs also asked to be forwarded copies of evidence on residential developments
and copies of residential appeal decisions.

7.    Update on the Private Members Bill on backgarden development

Tobias Ellwood reported that the Private Members Bill submitted by Greg
Clarke MP to protect private gardens from development had unfortunately been
talked out in the Commons at its second reading stage.

The Bill had proposed that gardens be removed from the definition of brown
field sites to stop the increasing trend of developers offering home owners with

large gardens inflated prices for their properties with the intention of building
flats on the land and making a large profit. Local authorities were often unable
to turn down these planning applications partly because they regularly lost on
appeal and partly because there was a presumption that the Government
favoured brownfield development.

Mr Ellwood reported that the proposals were now being brought forward
another way in the form of an Early Day Motion. The MPs agreed to keep
Members informed on the Motion’s progress and on other planning issues being
considered by Parliament.

8.       The way forward

The meeting had raised a number of important issues which would be taken
forward as follows -

        The MPs will continue to represent the concerns of the Local Planning
         Authority when planning issues are discussed and reviewed at a national
         level, particularly the effect that national planning policy has on local
         decision-making and local ‘best planning’
        The MPs will continue to campaign on behalf of local authorities against
         the draft Regional Spatial Strategy and its impact on housing numbers
         and infrastructure
        The MPs will continue to support the Council and make representations
         when appropriate in respect of the planning appeals process
        The Council will keep the MPs updated on the planning process in
         Bournemouth and any significant issues which arise
        The Council will keep the MPs informed of the progress and outcome of
         ongoing studies and research undertaken by the Local Planning Authority
         including work done in conjunction with neighbouring authorities.
        The Council will provide the MPs with a regular schedule of planning
         appeals and copies of evidence on residential developments and copies
         of residential appeal decisions
        Meetings between Members and the MPs to discuss planning issues should
         continue to be held as and when required

The meeting closed at 4.00 pm

Contact:       Jill Holyoake, Democratic Services Officer
                01202 454715


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