Update for

Chorleywood Residents

Re: Planning Permission Requests
 

As part of our work on behalf of local residents, we have undertaken an analysis of the two applications to develop residential property on the fields to the east of Green Street between Orchard Drive and St Clement Danes. In doing this we have used the information provided in the various documents submitted by the developers along with local knowledge and publicly available statistical data for the area.

The analysis considers key planning matters as dictated by the government’s planning rules (the National Planning Policy Framework or NPPF) and the district council’s planning rules (the current Local Plan). Whilst residents can submit any comments they wish on the applications, decisions made by the council can only be made on valid planning grounds as laid down in these documents.

It should be noted that the applications are in outline only with all matters other than the access being reserved until further detailed applications are submitted. This means that only the size of the site, the overall number of dwellings and the access routes is fixed by this application with all other elements of the design only becoming fixed in later applications. This application is about agreement in principle to develop. That said, the outline should provide an indication as to what the design of the development might look like and what its impacts on the area may be.

The applications will be considered by the Parish Council at an extraordinary meeting on the 14th July, 7:30pm. The Parish Council cannot decide the application, this can only be done by Three Rivers District Council (TRDC), but they will make observations and comments that must be considered in TRDC making the decision. This includes requiring the application to be decided in public by the full TRDC Planning Committee. Up to three people will be able to speak for and against the application at the meeting. Anyone wishing to speak at the meeting needs to register through info@chorleywood-pc.gov.uk at least two days before the meeting and speaking slots will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. Details of the meeting can be found at:
https://www.chorleywood-pc.gov.uk/full-council-agenda/

If you or any residents have any comments for TRDC on either of the applications below, these can be submitted:
  • through the "Comments" tab in the application on the TRDC Planning Portal,
  • by email through enquiries@threerivers.gov.ukor
  • by writing to Planning Department, Three Rivers District Council, Three Rivers House, Northway, Rickmansworth Herts WD3 1RL.
The applications are open for comment until 19th July 2020.

 
Summary of Analysis of Applications
  • Both developments are in Green Belt and would be considered “inappropriate development” so only allowed in “very special circumstances”. The developers contend that these exist under the “presumption in favour of sustainable development” due to the shortage of new housing stock across Three Rivers but this is not an area of certainty.
  • Both developments are in the Chiltern Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Planning rules state that major development is prohibited except in “exceptional circumstances”. The developers contend that these exist under the “presumption in favour of sustainable development” due to the shortage of new housing stock across Three Rivers but this is not an area of certainty.
  • Both developments are adjacent to the Common Conservation Area. By virtue of extending further up the hill, the development of 800 dwellings would be likely to have a significantly greater impact on views from the conservation area than would the 300 dwellings, which is limited to the lower part of the site and partially obstructed from view on the Common by trees.
  • The site is on a two lane road with pavements and sufficient width to allow for cars and cyclists to pass each other safely. The site is within 1km of public transport, primary & secondary schools, shops and GP’s which is broadly in line with Three Rivers criteria for these.
  • The development of 800 dwellings could cause delays of around 10 minutes at the Green Street / A404 junction. These reduce to around 1 minute for the 300 dwelling option.
  • No assessment has been undertaken on the impact of the development on the exits from Chorleywood other than the A404. These are mainly single track country lanes susceptible to gridlocking.
  • The development of 800 dwellings are expected to result in 336 new primary school students and 240 new secondary school students whilst 300 dwellings would result in 126 new primary school students and 90 new secondary school students. There are currently no spare primary school places and 35 secondary school places in the local area. The developer suggests that they would make a contribution to fund the additional school places.
  • The development would require approximately 1 additional GP for 800 dwellings or one third of a GP for 300 dwellings.
  • Both applications include the provision of a new park area and children’s play area in proximity to the centre of the village. The developer contends that the development would also facilitate the provision of football pitches on the west side of Green Street and allow the golf course and its clubhouse to be made available to Chorleywood Golf Club.
  • The developments provide a mix of smaller housing suitable for first time buyers and downsizers along with larger family houses. Between 45% and 50% of the housing is proposed to be Affordable. In this context Affordable housing can socially rented or for market sale (in which case the price for qualifying buyers must be at least 20% below market prices or on a shared ownership basis).
  • The site is in an area of low flood risk (Flood Risk 1) with surface water issues being mitigated through a variety of means.
  • 300 dwellings would increase the number of houses in Chorleywood village roughly in line with the expected population growth for the area over the next 15 years (11%) whereas 800 dwellings would significantly exceed this.
  • The developers have  made the commitment that "should the council consider that the 300-unit scheme is preferable and resolve to grant planning permission for that scheme, the Applicant will withdraw the 800-unit scheme, and not seek planning permission for any additional units for ten years." The developers are offering to enter into a full and binding agreement to this end with TRDC.
Detailed Analysis

Natural Environment - Both Applications
Both developments are within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The NPPF states that “Great weight should be given to conserving and enhancing landscape and scenic beauty in National Parks, the Broads and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which have the highest status of protection in relation to these issues” and this is supported by the current Three Rivers Local Plan. This does not completely prohibit development in the AONB but the NPPF does say that development should only be allowed in “exceptional circumstances”
 
The developers argue that “exceptional circumstances” do exist by virtue of the fact that Three Rivers does not currently have a plan to deliver the required level of new housing in the area, which puts TRDC under the “presumption in favour of sustainable development”. There are cases that development has been allowed in these circumstances (which the developer quotes) but there are also cases where such development has been declined. We are not aware of any truly identical cases to the current one from which to clearly understand what any legal decision on this may be.
 
The best way for this to be resolved is for TRDC to have an approved new Local Plan in place, which properly addresses the local housing need.  However, the finalisation of TRDC’s new Local Plan has been delayed until at least 2022. Developers are allowed under the rules to submit planning applications to bridge the housing shortfall.
 
With regard to the ecology of the area, a survey has been undertaken by consultants for the developers which shows no fundamental reason for the area not to be developed, in terms of rare or endangered species. Where necessary, the developers propose mitigating actions such as green corridors around the site, a green “park” area to the south of the site with lakes and they will undertake a DEFRA biodiversity metric plan to increase biodiversity by at least 10%. It is essential that if the development goes ahead, the developers are held to these mitigating actions and undertakings which the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust also support. 

Green Belt - Both Applications
Both developments are in the London Green Belt. The NPPF states that “The Government attaches great importance to Green Belts. The fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open; the essential characteristics of Green Belts are their openness and their permanence.” It then supports this by saying “Inappropriate development is, by definition, harmful to the Green Belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances.” From the definitions provided, both of these developments amount to inappropriate development. These points are also clearly supported by the current Three Rivers Local Plan (Core Policy 11). 
 
Similarly to the AONB constraints, the developers argue that “very special circumstances” do exists by virtue of the fact that Three Rivers does not currently have a plan to deliver the required level of new housing in the area, which puts TRDC under the “presumption in favour of sustainable development”. There are cases that development has been allowed in these circumstances (which the developer quotes) but there are also cases where such development has been declined. We are not aware of any truly identical cases to the current one from which to clearly understand what any legal decision on this may be.
 
However, in a paper on the Green Belt for the new Local Plan, council officers recognised that the shortage of housing supply could be considered as the exceptional circumstances required to amend the Green Belt boundaries in the new Local Plan.
 
It must be noted that, as with development in the AONB, the best way for this to be resolved is for TRDC to have an approved new Local Plan in place, which properly addresses the local housing need.  However, the finalisation of the new Local Plan for Three Rivers has been delayed until at least 2022.  Developers are allowed under the rules to submit planning applications to bridge the housing shortfall.

Historic Environment - Application 20/0882/OUT - 800 Dwellings
The development is adjacent to the Common Conservation Area. The NPPF states that “when considering the impact of a proposed development …. great weight should be given to the asset’s conservation (and the more important the asset, the greater the weight should be)“ and this is supported by the current Three Rivers Local Plan. When considering the impact on the conservation area not only development in the area must be considered but also its setting and views into and out of the conservation area should be considered.
 
The site is visible from the conservation area, including from the Common itself. By the development covering the whole field, including the higher elevations at the northern end of the field, it will be clearly visible from the Common. As the Common Conservation Area is characterised by its “open rural nature” this will clearly harm the views from the conservation area.
 
The developer recognises that the development will harm the conservation area but have stated that, in their expert’s opinion, the impact is low to moderate causing “less than significant harm” – the lower end of the scale. This is clearly a judgement issue.  Being so obviously visible from the Common and with the defined importance to the area of its “open rural nature”, many will feel that the harm is likely to be more significant than this.
 
This does not preclude development but would mean that the developers have to be able to demonstrate substantial benefits to overcome this

Historic Environment - Application 20/0898/OUT - 300 Dwellings
The development is adjacent to the Common Conservation Area. The site is visible from the conservation area, including from the Common itself but, by virtue of being limited to the lower area of the site, the development will be concealed somewhat from view from on the Common by trees in the area.
 
The developer recognises that the development will harm the conservation area but have stated that, in their expert’s opinion, the impact will be low to moderate causing “less than significant harm” – the lower end of the scale.
 
This is clearly a judgement issue, with the development being lower and the shielding of trees this may be reasonable.
 
In such a case, the developer must demonstrate public benefit to outweigh the harm.

Traffic & Transport - Application 20/0882/OUT - 800 Dwellings
The site is on a two lane road with pavements and sufficient width to allow for cars and cyclists to pass each other safely. The site is within 1km of public transport, primary & secondary schools, shops and GP’s which is broadly in line with Three Rivers criteria for these.
 
The traffic assessment provided by the developers covers the impact on Green Street, the A404 to the M25 and Shire Lane. Despite requests, it does not extend to other exits from the village which are largely single lane country roads with passing places. Not does it consider the cumulative impact on the A404 beyond the M25, which already suffers from significant queues.
 
The traffic assessment identifies increased delays of up to 10 minutes at the Green Street / A404 junction due to the additional traffic from the new houses. It is proposed to introduce traffic lights at the junction, presumably paid for by the developers. However, due to the existing traffic jams on the A404, it is unclear whether this will significantly reduce these delays.
 
In the light of the increase in delays at the A404 / Green Street junction it is extremely likely that a sizeable proportion of the additional traffic will attempt to use other exits from Chorleywood. In this case, the absence of any modelling of the probable impact on these roads, which already have a propensity to gridlock, seems to be a significant omission with potentially serious consequences for the village.

Traffic & Transport - Application 20/0898/OUT - 300 Dwellings
The site is on a two lane road with pavements and sufficient width to allow for cars and cyclists to pass each other safely. The site is within 1km of public transport, primary & secondary schools, shops and GP’s which is broadly in line with Three Rivers criteria for these.
 
The traffic assessment provided by the developers covers the impact on Green Street, the A404 to the M25 and Shire Lane. Despite requests, it does not extend to other exits from the village which are largely single lane country roads with passing places. Not does it consider the cumulative impact on the A404 beyond the M25 which already suffers from significant queues.
 
The traffic assessment identifies increased delays of up to 1 minutes at the Green Street / A404 junction due to the additional traffic from the new houses. It is proposed to introduce traffic lights at the junction, presumably paid for by the developers.

Schooling - Application 20/0882/OUT - 800 Dwellings
The development of 800 dwellings is estimated to result in 336 new primary school students and 240 new secondary school students.
 
According to the developers Environmental Statement, there are currently no spare primary school places and only 35 spare places at secondary school within reasonable distances. To accommodate this number of students would require a new two-stream primary school and a new form stream to be added to a local secondary school. The developers could fund this through a s106 agreement with the council, though the standard formula may not provide full funding.

Schooling - Application 20/0898/OUT - 300 Dwellings
The development of 300 dwellings is estimated to result in 126 new primary school students and 90 new secondary school students.
 
According to the developers Environmental Statement, there are currently no spare primary school places and only 35 spare places at secondary school within reasonable distances. To accommodate this number of students would require a new stream to be added to an existing primary school. For secondary schooling, there are potentially sufficient spare places between St Clement Danes and the Reach School. However, it is not possible to walk to the Reach School from Chorleywood village.
 
The developers could provide funding through a s106 agreement with the council, though the standard formula may not provide full funding.

Healthcare - Application 20/0882/OUT - 800 Dwellings
According to the developers Environmental Statement, approximately an additional 1 GP would be required to service the additional residents from the development. The statement argues that there is already surplus capacity in the village but this is based on an apparently flawed analysis as it includes all the GP’s from the Gade surgery, most which work at the Rickmansworth surgery not Chorleywood.

Healthcare - Application 20/0898/OUT - 300 Dwellings
According to the developers Environmental Statement, approximately an additional one third of a GP would be required to service the additional residents from the development. The statement argues that there is already surplus capacity in the village but this is based on an apparently flawed analysis as it includes all the GP’s from the Gade surgery, most which work at the Rickmansworth surgery not Chorleywood.

Community Facilities - Both Applications
The development would not remove any existing facilities and would provide additional facilities in the form of a park and children’s play area within walking distance of the village centre. The developer contends that the development would also facilitate the provision of football pitches on the west side of Green Street and allow the golf course and its clubhouse to be made available to Chorleywood Golf Club.

Affordable Housing Provision - Application 20/0882/OUT - 800 Dwellings
It is proposed that up to 50% of the housing (400 dwellings) provided by the development would be Affordable. This level is in excess of the requirement of the current Thee Rivers Local Plan but will not be finalised until further applications as part of an agreement with the council. The form of the Affordable housing (for sale or socially rented) will be agreed at the same time.

Affordable Housing Provision - Application 20/0898/OUT - 300 Dwellings
It is proposed that up to 45% of the housing (135 dwellings) provided by the development would be Affordable. This level is in line with the requirement of the current Thee Rivers Local Plan but will not be finalised until the FUL application as part of an agreement with the council. The form of the Affordable housing (for sale or socially rented) will be agreed at the same time

Flooding - Both Applications
The site is defined as being Flood Risk 1 (the lowest level of flood risk) but there is a recorded risk of surface water flooding to the south west of the site. The developer proposes mitigation to the increased risk by development which includes the proposed ponds in the park area to the south of the site.

Density of Housing - Application 20/0882/OUT - 800 Dwellings
The proposal is for a density of 35 dwellings per hectare. This is above the current density in Chorleywood of about 18 dwellings per hectare, but below that proposed in the new Local Plan of a minimum of 50 dwellings per hectare.

Density of Housing - Application 20/0898/OUT - 300 Dwellings
The proposal is for a density of 31 dwellings per hectare. This is above the current density in Chorleywood of about 18 dwellings per hectare, but below that proposed in the new Local Plan of a minimum of 50 dwellings per hectare.

Design of Development - Both Applications
The final design of the development will not be finalised until further application(s) are submitted. The current design outline does not appear to be inappropriate for Chorleywood with the maximum height of buildings being 3 storeys (in line with the requirements laid out in the draft Chorleywood Neighbourhood Development Plan) and with the taller buildings being away from overlooking neighbouring properties.
 
The mix of the dwellings proposed is well aligned to that reported in the latest housing needs analysis for Three Rivers and the requirements of the draft Neighbourhood Development Plan. The housing to be provided is focussed on the smaller dwellings (1,2,3 & 4 bedroomed) needed to supply local housing for first-time buyers and down sizers.




If I can help with regard to these applications or any other planning matter,please do not hesitate to contact me through jon@chorleywoodresidents.co.uk or planning@chorleywoodresidents.co.uk.

Regards

Jon Bishop
Chorleywood Residents Association
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