The Principal Planning officer reminded the Committee that, at its meeting on 15th December, it had agreed to defer consideration of the application to enable a site visit to be undertaken to allow the Committee to acquaint itself with the location and the proposals at first hand. The site visit had been scheduled to take place on 13th January, 2021, but no Members attended.
She provided the Committee with the details of the proposal for a new dwelling to replace the previous dwelling on site, with connection to all existing services to the site and the use of the existing vehicular access into the site. The site had previously contained a dwelling which was demolished between 2012 and 2015. She explained that the site was white land within the BUAP and was in the Dunmurry draft Area of Townscape Character as designated within dBMAP.
She explained the key issues which had been considered in the assessment of the application, including the principle of a dwelling in that location, the character, layout, design, private amenity, access/parking and the impact on neighbouring amenity.
She explained that the surrounding area comprised of dwellings which were set back from the road and contained driveways to the side. The proposed dwelling in the application was, in that regard, out of character. However, it was considered that the proposed dwelling was in a similar location to the previously demolished dwelling and it was therefore considered that, while the previous dwelling was demolished a number of years ago, it would attribute to the character of the area. She outlined that, in considering the previous dwelling, it was deemed that the proposal respected the surrounding context and was appropriate.
She added that, when the designation of draft ATC was applied, the previous dwelling would have been in situ and, therefore, the proposal would not impact the character of the draft ATC given its similarities in location and massing to the previous dwelling. The proposal therefore complied with policy ATC 1 of the addendum to PPS 6.
The Members were advised that the principle of a dwelling in the location was acceptable. The Principal Planning officer advised that the design and layout was compatible with PPS7 and would not impact on the character of the area or result in an unacceptable impact to neighbouring amenity.
However, she pointed out that an application could only be considered a replacement dwelling when there was a physical structure on the site to be replaced. PPS21 stated that the dwelling to be replaced must, as a minimum, have all external walls intact and that the access was also linked to the dwelling. She explained that, as the previous dwelling had been demolished, the development as a whole must be assessed as a new dwelling and considered under its own merits. The demolition of the previous dwelling meant that any new development and associated access had to adhere to current policy and guidance.
She advised thatDFI Roads had objected to the proposal, as it was contrary to policy Access, Movement and Parking (AMP) 2 of PPS 3, whereby the proposed access would prejudice road safety as the visibility splay to the west fell considerably short of the requirement and was deemed to be inadequate.
The Principal Planning officer explained that the previous dwelling contained a vehicular access bounded with a boundary wall and which contained a large gate. She explained that the previous dwelling and access had since been demolished. As the previous dwelling and access had been demolished, the Committee was advised that the proposal was treated as a new development and therefore paragraph 5.15 of AMP 2 of PPS3 applied.
She explained that Paragraph 5.15 required that applicants must have control over the land required to provide the requisite visibility splays and to ensure that they were retained free from any obstruction. The Members were advised that the proposal contained direct access from the driveway to Ashley Park. DfI Roads had advised that the visibility splays were inadequate. It stated that the neighbouring land contained a brick wall which would obstruct visibility and a representation received from the occupants at no. 10a confirmed that it was within their ownership.
Given that the applicant had not amended the red line to include the neighbouring brick wall, and subsequently not served notice on the landowner, it could not be considered that the applicant had any prospect of gaining control of the third party lands in order to carry out the works necessary to comply with the required sightlines, as the area required did not form part of the application.
The Committee’s attention was drawn to the Late Items pack, whereby correspondence had been received from the agent and the Members were provided with the Planning officer’s response to the points raised.
The Chairperson then welcomed Mr. T. Gourley, agent, to the meeting. He advised the Committee that:
· PPS 21 was not relevant to the application as it only applied to rural settings and the site was in an urban area;
· the existing site was derelict and vacant;
· the existing access was a key consideration – the previous dwelling had vehicular access, illustrated by a dropped kerb, and the site had been fenced off with an openable gate;
· there was no intensification on the site, in that it was a like-for-like replacement of a single dwelling;
· the previous vacant dwelling had been demolished at the request of the Council, as it had been subject to a fire a few years previously;
· it was a sustainable development as services were already on the site, and access already existed to the site;
· it was within a residential area;
· visibility splays were only required for new developments or intensification of developments, and this was neither;
· a number of the residents in the immediate area were keen that the development would proceed in order to bring the site back into use, given the unsightly nature of the derelict site;
· it complied with land use zoning and a number of planning policies, including reducing dereliction; and
· there had been no history of vehicular accidents on the site and no access issues had arisen previously.
In response to a Member’s query as to whether the applicant was seeking to gain access or control of the brick wall in question, Mr Gourley advised that there was a limited frontage to the site and no opportunity to undertake the works required. He reiterated that there had been no issue in terms of traffic safety previously.
The Chairperson advised the Committee that Mr. G. Lawther, DfI Roads, was in attendance and he was welcomed to the meeting. He explained that the application was considered a new dwelling and, as such, Development Control advice note 15 applied, which required a wide distance of 45 metres and the applicant was unable to achieve that. The other issue was the width of the footway, which was required to be 2 metres, and that this had also not been met.
A Member queried whether an existing access to a site was extinguished even if a site had not wilfully been abandoned.
Mr. Gourley advised that he believed the case law was clear, and, as there had been no wilful abandonment and there was an extensive planning history on the site, therefore the access still existed. He stated that the applicant and the previous owner always had the intent of retaining the use of the site as a dwelling with access to the road.
The Planning Manager advised the Committee that the case law provided that, as soon as a building had been demolished, the use of the land had a nil use, as opposed to the issue of abandonment, where the use was given up. He added that the applicant was proposing to introduce a new use, a dwelling, with the use of an access which was quite severely substandard in one direction and which would create a road safety issue.
Mr. Gourley stated that he disagreed with the Planning Manager and that the key to this application was that it was an established use on the site, in a residential area, and that the use endured until someone wilfully abandoned it or changed its use. He also reiterated that there had been no history of traffic accidents at the site.
The Divisional Solicitor urged the Committee to be mindful of the fact that the statutory agency had highlighted that there was a road safety issue with the application and also that the intentions of any previous owner of the site were not wholly relevant to the application. She explained that she could not advise the Committee in relation to the legal position in respect of the current status of the site, regarding willful abandonment and demolition, and would need some time to consider it.
After discussion, the Committee agreed to defer consideration of the application in order that clarification on the legal status of the site would be provided to the Committee.