East Cambridgeshire District Council planning committee

Two planning applications on the agenda this afternoon – both controversial, both in my county council division, and one in my ward.

Ely Road, Little Downham

The first is an application for a ‘rural exception site’ of 39 affordable dwellings off Ely Road, Little Downham, next to the new Old Fir Close development. The vast majority of these are proposed to be for rent. The recommendation is for approval.

The access road to Old Fir Close is already an issue of concern to local residents, and if there’s a similar access road to the new development within metres of Old FIr Close, some way of managing and calming the traffic up and down Ely Road will be essential.

One resident speaks to the Committee about the risks of flooding and failure of sewage systems. The applicant refers to the housing needs survey carried out by Cambridgeshire ACRE and endorsed by the District Council, and describes it as a unique opportunity to address the acute shortage of affordable housing locally. The Parish Council objects, saying the development is disproportionate to the size of the village, and re-stating the comments about arrangements for foul water and traffic impacts.

The district councillor speaks about the need for affordable housing, but also the unresolved tree issue, the highways impact and the drainage risks. She questions the need for demolition of the existing farmhouse, and says the application breaches several policies in the Local Plan.

The application is approved by six votes in favour, two votes against, and two abstentions.

Garden Close, Sutton

The second is the latest attempt by Abbey Homes at an application for the detail of their proposed development at Garden Close Sutton. They already have outline permission.

Cllr Mark Inskip and I as local councillors are both present to speak against this application.

A neighbouring couple are called to speak as objectors, and tell the committee about the issues the application poses for themselves and their family, and the obligations of the council under the Public Sector Equality Duty. There will be an opportunity for committee members to ask questions of them at a closed session shortly.

The applicant’s agent speaks to the committee, saying the most recent application should be regarded as low density and predominantly single storey, and asks that the application be approved. He is asked about disability-accessible play equipment, drainage, housing mix, parking. He confirms that a ‘stunning’ weeping willow on the site will be lost.

Cllr Mark Inskip speaks next, about the Sutton Neighbourhood Plan, its policy on housing mix, the Sutton housing needs assessment, and how the development fails to meet local needs. There’s a discussion about whether it’s possible to create a development of one-bedroomed, single-storey homes.

I speak about the council’s Public Sector Equality Duty to the neighbour of the site, who has protected characteristics, and how in my view it has failed in that duty.

The applicant’s agent is given extra time to speak, because both Cllr Inskip and I have spoken. He’s asked about the proposals for fencing.

The meeting now goes into closed session.

The public session resumes, and the Planning Manager summarises the officers’ view.

A proposal to refuse the application is put to the meeting. It is defeated with two votes in favour, five against, and three abstentions.

A proposal is then put to approve the application, but with a condition about fencing. This passes with five votes in favour, two against, and three abstentions.

The meeting concludes at 6:30PM.

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