Plans for 336 homes approved despite fears they will 'tower over Thornbury'
UNPOPULAR plans for 336 homes in Thornbury have been approved, despite residents’ insistence they “breach” conditions set by a planning inspector.
The detailed designs for the Cleve Park site were submitted by Miller Homes after it bought the land, along with outline planning permission, from another developer last year.
The outline consent came with conditions governing the height of the houses to be built on the prominent 22-hectare site overlooking the town.
The consented plans also included a woodland strip for wildlife at least 15m wide, the importance of which was noted by the planning inspector who set the conditions when he granted permission at appeal in 2018, overturning a rejection by South Gloucestershire Council.
Residents and local councillors previously objected to Miller Homes’ designs claiming they did not adhere to these specifications, with homes that were too tall and a wildlife corridor that was too narrow.
They repeated their concerns at a second planning meeting to consider the proposals yesterday, after councillors decided to delay their decision in August to visit the site for themselves.
When they reconvened, members of the ‘strategic sites delivery committee’ heard that Miller Homes had reduced the height of the tallest apartment block in the centre of the development so that it now met the 12m height limit for that part of the site.
Six homes were still “slightly” higher than the height limit in the 9m zone, by up to 0.4m, the planning officer who recommended the design plans for approval said.
But, she said: “Overall the proposal does not result in a departure from the aim and purpose of the [inspector’s] condition, and the small increases over and above the [height limits] would have no significant impact and this impact is offset by design quality benefits.”
Likewise, she said, ecology and landscape officers had not raised any objections about the wildlife corridor, which Miller Homes plans to make between 9.3m and 12.3m wide.
The developer’s planning director, Helen Dawkins, told the committee the entire landscaped area, including the woodland strip, ranged from 32m to 35.3m “in full accordance with the approved parameters”.
She noted the purpose of the height restrictions was to “protect wider views to and from the town” and that the planning inspector had concluded that any harm to views caused by the tallest buildings was “very limited indeed”.
But, speaking on behalf of Thornbury Town Council, Cllr Jayne Stansfield said: “This site is towering over Thornbury. So the inspector had very good reasons for insisting there was an absolute height restriction on the properties that are built.”
Colin Gardner from campaign group TRAPP’D (Thornbury Residents Against Poorly Planned Development) said their analysis showed “almost half” the properties exceeded the height restrictions.
“Residents expect to receive the protection of this committee to defend the condition set on appeal and it is clear to us that you must reject this application, both on grounds of height infringement and on the inadequacy of the wildlife corridor,” he said.
Local councillor Maggie Tyrrell said the campaigners’ evidence raised “grave concerns” and joined Mr Gardner in calling for an “independent professional assessment” of Miller Homes’ designs.
The nine-strong committee voted six-three in favour of the plans, but added a condition on the consent requiring officers to check the houses during construction to ensure they comply with what was agreed.
Conservative councillor June Bamford said: “I am happy with the report, that now there is not going to be any dwellings above 12 metres.”
Liberal Democrat member Tristan Clark said he found it “remarkable” that officers could be “so nonchalant about conditions not being complied with”.
By Amanda Cameron, Local Democracy Reporting Service