Report on the Planning Committee meeting 9th December 2020

Background

The Planning Officers report which was submitted for application 141736 51 Station Rd (the Hawthorns) was found to contain serious inaccuracies. 
Errors included;

  • References to Bardney Meadows, which does not exist.
  • The site is not separate from the village and is in a residential area close to the centre of the village.
  • Noise from the site can be heard over half a mile away.
  • Some of the residents are very vocal due to their disability.
  • The distance between no. 49 Station Rd and no. 51 Station Rd is approx. 1 metre. 
  • The fence between the two properties is only 3’ high and not separated by large mature trees.
  • The carehome accommodates between 27 and 30 residents and this complies with Design and Access statements for previous applications and the carehome is expanding not reducing.  Not 17 as stated.
  • Although there was an application in July 2017 for change of use from office to residential facilities for two residents, this work was not carried out.
  • This application is actually retrospective as the work has already been completed and residents have been moved in.  Although the carehome claim that there are only two residents, there is strong indication that at least three residents reside in no 51.  The building now contains the layout of application described in 141736 and not the previous application, which does make it retrospective.
  • No 51 forms part of a large site, which is not equivalent to a residential property.
  • The site operates on a 24/7 basis and has been an active building site since 02.07.20.
  • The site also has a history of noise complaints registered with WLDC Environmental Protection dept 

The Planning Officers report did not fully reference the extensive objections by local residents, some of which were shown on the planning portal whilst others were held back due to GDPR.  WLDC stated in previous correspondence that all the information would be considered by the planning officer and Committee members, however the report did not appear to indicate to this.

The Planning Officers report would have been presented to Cllr Fleetwood as he, as Chair of the Planning Committee,  has the final say as to which applications are heard.  BGPC are unsure as to how the errors were not discovered and rectified at this stage.

BGPC contacted WLDC three times asking for the Planning Officers report to be corrected and re-issued prior to the meeting.  WLDC Customer Services dept acknowledged the errors in relation to Bardney Meadows and again, there were requests to amend the document.

Last week, members of the public were informed that it was the duty of BGPC to notify residents of applications progressing to Planning Committee.  This is wholly incorrect and three requests have been made to WLDC, including Cllr Fleetwood, as to when and where this policy change was made and when were BGPC notified.  We are still awaiting this response.  Please note it is the responsibility of WLDC to inform consultees about planning applications, as the application fee is paid to cover the cost.  The application fee is paid to WLDC not BGPC.                                                

At the Planning Meeting

Agenda item 4 Declarations of interest.

  • Cllr Patterson spoke and made a declaration of interest claiming that he had visited the site when Chairman of WLDC.  He did not state that in April 2017 he had visited a BGPC meeting asking to advocate on behalf of HfHC.  It is believed that an advocate is a paid position.
  • Cllr Milne also declared an interest as she had visited the site with Sir Edward Leigh, however she did not disclose the fact that she has attended corporate events such as opening the Dorrington site wearing the WLDC Chains (there is photographic evidence in the Sleaford Standard)
  • BGPC were severely criticised for allegedly ‘lobbying the Planning Committee’.  Cllr Cotton stated that BGPC should be subject to rebuke by the Monitoring Officer for their actions.  However, Cllr Cotton was incorrect, as lobbying is not illegal unless it is accompanied by payment.  Lobbying is openly encouraged as it is giving a voice to residents and their representatives.  The email wasn’t lobbying and simply pointed out the errors in the Planning Officers report.  Later, George Backovic, Manager of the Planning Officer, also referenced a flaw in the legal statement in the Planning Officers report.
  • Planning Committee members came forward individually to claim that they had been lobbied but had not opened the email with the exception of Cllr’s White, Patterson and Rainsford.  Cllr Paterson said that he had read the document but it had not changed his decision regarding the application (an admission of predetermination).  Cllr White stated that she had forwarded the document to Cllr Fleetwood (who had previously claimed that he had not seen the document).  Cllr Rainsford stated that she could not vote as she had read the document, however this contradicted the comments of Cllr Patterson.  Cllr Cotton vociferously stated that he had not received the document; however he had been sent it twice.
  • Although comments were made about the BGPC correspondence, there appears to have been some confusion as two councillors referenced receiving a video.  BGPC had not issued a video however HfHC had submitted a video to the Planning Portal.  We are unsure as to how this confusion arose unless HfHC had also contacted Committee members.  BGPC are aware that individuals had contacted members however this wasn’t referenced either.

Agenda item 6a application 141736

  • It is custom and practice for the Planning Officer to outline to the planning Committee the application being discussed, along with details of the site location and plans, as well as advising of previous applications at the site.  The Planning Officer does this as they are expected to have carried out a site visit and be familiar with all aspects of the application. 
    However George Backovic spoke rather than the Planning Officer and the application was never presented to the council. 
  • Mr Backovic spoke to claim that the Bardney Meadows issue wasn’t relevant.
  • Cllr Robin Darby spoke on behalf of BGPC outlining our objections along with photo’s of the a) the distance between the two properties, b) Station Rd blocked by deliveries,  c) cars parked along Station Rd, d) vehicles belonging to HfHC in the Village Hall Carpark.
  • The applicant spoke on behalf of HfHC.  He stated that the home had received awards and then went on to call objectors to the application ‘Nimby’s’ and made claims regarding comments on social media.  BGPC are not aware of any derogatory comments on social media, other than the one by their own staff towards residents of Bardney on a Metheringham page. He also stated that he did not recognise any of the places shown on the photographs. 
  • Two local residents also spoke eloquently about the application and considered material planning conditions.
  • George Backovic stated that the property is a HMO and not a carehome.  However it must be noted that the Stallingborough application for the same referenced it as being under CQC however this isn’t the case in Bardney.
  • Cllr Patterson stated that he had considered the application and wished to propose it.
  • Cllr Milne stated that she believed that COVID was having a detrimental impact on mental health and as such there was greater demand for facilities (however no one interjected to explain that the carehome residents have more physical conditions.).

       * Cllr Milne also stated that ‘car doors’ banging is a fact of life and people should put up with it’.She then seconded the proposal.

  • Cllr Cherrie Hill spoke stating that she was in favour of the application and that she believed that objectors were ‘Nimby’s.  She stated this several times.
  • Cllr Fleetwood spoke stating that he was opposed to the application as the facility had outgrown the site.  He also stated that he had discussed the application at a pre-meeting two or three meetings ago. He showed a picture of the road without many vehicles.
  • George Backovic then went on to state that a HMO is restricted to up to six residents, however a carehome is not capped in relation to numbers.  This is not actually correct and a HMO can be any number of residents as long as it has a licence.  When the application was first received BGPC contacted WLDC several times with regards to the issue of HMO licences and numbers.
  • Overall councillors did not state planning considerations as the reason for their decision.
  • Central Lincolnshire Local Plan policy LP26 regarding HMO was not considered despite it was used twice by the Committee to reject an application in Sudbrooke.   The Sudbrooke application was rejection is based upon the presumption of noise and parking problems, whereby this application has a long history of problems.
  • The final vote stood as 1 x against, 1 x abstention and 12 x in favour.

 

Other issues

At the start of the webcast it was stated that the two legal advisors were in attention, however their screens were switched off and they did not interject at any stage, despite the derogatory language and serious legal errors.

Neither did the legal team point out that two councillors who had made declarations had spoken, proposed and voted on an agenda item where they had not been granted dispensation.