At the meeting on 1st August, the Council had a pre-application discussion with CPA Property about development plans for land at the Twitten. Following the meeting, the Council provided a full response to CPA which can be accessed below.
Bury Parish Council’s response to the pre- application presentation by CPA Property for land at the Twitten
The site immediately to the north of the Coffin Trail and to the east of the A29 is of considerable significance to the village of Bury. It has been bought by a small consortium of neighbours with the declared intention of maintaining its ownership with the best interests of the village in mind. Bury Parish Council (BPC) welcomes this initiative and is grateful that the owners have resolved to involve BPC in the development of its proposals for the site in the form of a pre-app enquiry. On behalf of the consortium, Andrew Aldridge presented their outline proposals to BPC at its meeting on the 1st of August 2022.
These proposals include a single detached house, two smaller semi-detached houses and a row of three two-bedroomed houses loosely arranged around a yard which was described as a layout similar to a farmstead. The six houses would equal the number required under the Neighbourhood Plan to be constructed by 2033. Access, which has met with initial approval from the county highways engineer would be direct from the A29 and the vehicular section of the Coffin Trail may be extended to provide a hammerhead turning arrangement for the house served by that road. All the highway’s arrangements would be subject to review. Should the proposal proceed to a formal planning application, it would be ‘outline’ and not ‘detailed’. The intention would be to obtain a planning approval for the site which would then be sold on at a profit to a developer who held the same interests as the consortium. To date, the consortium has incurred £20,000 in costs in addition to the purchase price for the land, and it is obliged to pay the vendor an ‘overage’ of 30% in the event a profit is made.
BPC had several immediate concerns over the neighbourhood plan, the historic assets of the village, the land use, and the character of the proposals. It was also concerned about the adjacent site to the south now that has new a five-bar gate wide enough for vehicles to pass across the Coffin Trail. BPC acknowledges that the provision for six houses designated on the Robin Hill site within the Neighbourhood Plan is no longer possible, but it would need to take a view on the appropriateness of the Twitten site as the best substitute. It was also concerned that, should the Twitten development be approved, it would be regarded as contributing to the required six-house provision and not as a ‘windfall’ development. Though BPC is obliged to support the conclusions of the Neighbourhood Plan until such time it may be amended, it nevertheless considered it would be helpful to offer an opinion on the proposals as they stand. It has therefore resolved to express its advice in the form of a sequential test so that, if its opinion on one item is rejected by the South Downs National Park, it would logically be consulted on the next. There are ten tests.
1.The Neighbourhood Plan
This confirms the site is currently outside the settlement boundary and on agricultural land. As such, the expectation is that no development should be allowed. In the event, however, that permission was considered appropriate by the planning authority, the neighbourhood Plan suggests that unallocated sites should have no more than three houses allowed. As the Twitten site is outside the settlement boundary, on agricultural land and unallocated, BPC would therefore be obliged to object to the application.
2. The historic assets
The two recorded historic assets that directly affect the site are the historic orchard (that would become the back gardens of the two semi-detached units) and the Coffin Trail. Both historic assets have a measure of protection in the Neighbourhood Plan that the proposals will threaten. If the application presumes that the historic orchard has a mistaken designation, evidence will need to be provided to support that claim. The coffin trail is the more visible and more frequented asset and here the issue is the preservation of its qualities. The site plan as proposed shows a new tarmac drive placed parallel to the trail and, notwithstanding the proposal to plant along its length, it is the adjacency that creates the problem. Even if the new planting is maintained, cars will still be moving within a few feet of the coffin trail. BPC would prefer a scheme that, at the very least, caused no harm to the coffin trail and it considers this as an opportunity to offer an enhancement. Without an appropriate amendment that secures the quality of the Coffin Trail and without the evidence that supports the status of the historic orchard, BPC would be obliged to object.
3.Change of use
The site is currently designated for agricultural use and, without an agreement for a change of use, it is not suitable for residential development. Without a successful change of use application, BPC would be obliged to object.
The site plan shows a new access off the A29 close to the Coffin Trail as it emerges on to that main road. Though this may achieve a technical approval in terms of its width and its vision splay, BPC is concerned about the potential qualitative change to the A29 landscape. At the same meeting on the 1st of August, BPC received a presentation on the improvement of the A29 which assumed no further breaks in the vegetation until the road widened. It also assumed a new crossing for the Coffin Trail. BPC would like to see these matters convincingly considered with the new access moved further north away from the Coffin Trail. It would also like to see the plan amended to omit the hammerhead arrangement at the western end of the vehicular section of the Coffin Trail. Until these amendments are confirmed, BPC would be obliged to object to the proposals.
BPC welcomed the initiative from the consortium whose stated purpose was to secure the site for the benefit of the village. It is therefore sympathetic to the view that the consortium ought not to lose money on the costs of the transaction. That sympathy extends, however, only as far as the consortium’s investment and not to the motive to make a profit. If tests 1 to 4 reach a satisfactory outcome with the planning authority, BPC would therefore be interested to know if the value of the land had been market tested and, if so, how many units would be required to see the minimum return on the investment. Given the nature of the levels and the constraints of the historic assets, BPC takes the view that the six units proposed might be too many and wondered if there might be a more comfortable layout resulting from a layout that tested a smaller number than the six proposed. In its present form, BPC would be obliged to object.
6.Type and mix
A mix of unit types is welcomed but BPC considers that a semi-detached house or a row of houses may seem too ‘street-like’. A smaller overall number might offer the opportunity for wider frontage units that would sit more comfortably on the levels of the site. In its present form, BPC would be obliged to object.
The starting point of the layout as a small farmstead is promising as this has the potential to produce a coherent group of varied buildings – a farmhouse, a cottage, and a barn for example. All BPC has to go on is the impression created by the site plan and, from that reading, the scheme seems to fall rather far short of the mark. There is too much tarmac and the symmetry of the proposed buildings seems at odds with a more romantic composition in which the farmstead narrative would be convincing. In its present form, BPC would be obliged to object.
8.The adjacent site
BPC is very concerned about retaining the current qualities of the Coffin Trail. The proximity of the new wide vehicular gate on one side of the Coffin Trail to the new access from the A29 on the other has caused some alarm. Though there may be no intent to link the two sites, BPC would much prefer a scheme which was demonstrable that this was not the intent. In its present form, BPC would be obliged to object.
9. CIL and the Section 106 agreementin relation to the outline approval
Though the applicant has no direct influence over the distribution of the CIL, it may suggest a project that is either consequential to its proposals or that enhances its context. In this case, BPC would like to see a recommendation from the applicant that the CIL funds go towards the new proposed Coffin Trail crossing on the A29. It would also wish to see the applicant enter into a binding Section 106 agreement in which any or all the parts of the above items 1 to 8 is committed within the outline approval.
10.Precedent and windfall
Should an outline approval be granted, it is in the interests of both BPC and the applicant to address the issue of the number of new units the village must provide by 2033. It is in the interests of the applicant to link their application to that obligation, and it is in the interest of BPC that, however many units are granted approval, they count, ‘not as a ‘windfall development’, but against the designated obligation in the Neighbourhood Plan.