A VERY BAD DAY AT THE OFFICE FOR ALL RESIDENTS OF WOKINGHAM
Our Councillors are supposed to be the guardians of good standards as defined in painstakingly drawn up rules and procedures to maintain the character of our leafy suburbs.
This attention to the council rules and policies was seemingly lacking at the last WBC Planning meeting on 10th July, due to a series of decisions which will have a negative impact on our environment and opens the door for further uncontrolled development which will give short term financial gain to property developers, at the expense of long term damage to the green and pleasant suburbs valued by the established residents.
Application 191011 30 Pitts Lane
A further extension of the back garden development at the rear of 30 Pitts Lane was approved despite it being acknowledged that this was on land within the designated ‘Site of Urban Landscape Value’ (SULV) and was not supposed to be built on. The committee was fearful that a refusal would bring an Appeal by the developer, which they presumed the developer would win due to an adjacent back garden development on the SULV which was previously approved by a Government Inspector. No attempt was made to object to the Application based on height, in view of the new bungalow which had been built opposite in order to keep a low profile in this sensitive area. This was a missed opportunity by the Committee, which will by default, allow two storey buildings to be built, which are predicted to seen through the tree line at the edge of the SULV and also from Pitts Lane, as well as dominating the back gardens of private properties further down the road.
Application 190990 128 Church Road
This Application was to demolish an unobtrusive bungalow at an exposed corner of the SULV and replace it with a block of six double bedroom flats. Although it was significantly less obtrusive than the previous application for ten flats, it was pointed out the a second floor flat at the rear was particularly exposed, which would therefore dominate a large part of the SULV and be very visible from Woodlands Avenue and Parklands estate as well as a large area of the SULV , therefore degrading the ‘Site of Urban Landscape Value’.
In addition, although the parking provision of one allocated space per flat was considered inadequate and unrealistic by all speakers, the Committee chose to ignore the reminder of parking guidance as specified on page 129 of their Management Design and Development document (MDD). The MDD states a minimum of 2 allocated car parking spaces for each flat with a further 1.1 unallocated spaces. This would have been a justifiable reason for refusal , but instead the plans were approved, which, past experience tells us, will lead to overspill parking on the grass verge and parking in front of other properties in neighbouring streets, which are already at saturation point.
Application 191090 30 Hilltop Road
This retrospective Application was to allow a ‘Granny Annex’ to be used as a separate dwelling following Enforcement action by the Council. It was pointed out that the owner had disregarded their own stated intent to retain existing trees and shrubs and disregarded Planning Conditions, which were to ‘use matching bricks’ and to take measures ‘to retain the character of the area’, in addition to not using the annex as a separate dwelling. It was pointed out that the property now stood out like a sore thumb in the road and there was no need to go to Specsavers in order to appreciate this fact. Notwithstanding the appearance, which was particularly upsetting to the neighbours, the Committee were instructed that only the change of use to a separate dwelling required a decision, and that the appearance was not relevant, despite the overreaching strategic policy statement CP3 ,which states development must be appropriate to the area in which it is located.” It was pointed out by a councillor that there had been a disregard for existing constraints and to approve this application would set a dangerous precedent, i.e. that planning conditions could be disregarded with impunity. Suggestions made to place green vegetation in front of the mismatching brickwork to conform with the character of the area were not taken up as a condition by the committee. The plans were approved by a majority decision. ‘Do whatever you like and you will get away with it’ appears to be the message from our Planning department. –
WBC Planning committee meetings are all video recorded and can be seen on the WBC website.