Officers clarified that the Application had been brought to the Planning Committee for consideration at the request of Councillor H. J. Jones, Ward Councillor.
Officers reported that an additional letter of objection was received from the recent purchasers of 191A Old Birmingham Road raising concerns with regard to visual amenity. The objection, along with the officer’s response were detailed in the Committee Update Report; copies of which were provided to Members and published on the Council’s website prior to the commencement of the meeting.
Officers presented the report and in doing so informed Members that the application followed a previously approved planning application at the site, and therefore remained extant, as detailed on page 34 of the main agenda report.
The current application before Members sought to amend the landscaping on site, so as to remove the existing hedgerow along the western boundary and to replace this with an alternative boundary treatment.
The proposed boundary treatment would comprise of 1.8 metre high “Green Screen” panels towards the front of the site, as detailed on page 48 of the main agenda report, 1.8 metre tall close boarded fence towards the middle of the site and existing timber post and panel fences to be retained at the rear of the site.
The implications of these changes required the variation of two conditions and the removal of two conditions that were placed on the original planning permission, as detailed on pages 34 and 35 of the main agenda report.
Officers further informed Members that the Council’s Tree Officer had originally raised an objection to the removal of the existing hedgerow and the replacement with a ‘Green Screen’ feature.
However, following the change to the proposed ‘Green Screen’ species and the receipt of supporting information from the applicant’s independent tree consultant and consultant ecologist, as detailed on page 36 of the main agenda report; the Council’s Tree Officer had removed his objection.
Members were further informed that the applicant had stated that the existing hedge was required to be removed in order to create adequate turning space on the site to allow vehicles to access and egress the site in forward gear. Members were asked to note that Worcestershire County Council (WCC) Highways had raised no objections to the original proposal which retained the hedge, however, they had acknowledged that the turning area was constrained and only just acceptable.
With regards to the residential amenity of the neighbouring property, 191A Old Birmingham Road, given that the height of the proposed replacement boundary treatment would exceed the existing hedgerow, there would be no adverse impact to privacy.
Officers reiterated that whilst it was appreciated that the existing hedgerow offered a more natural boundary feature of a greater width, it was also noted that this feature was not protected by a preservation order and therefore could be removed independently from the approved scheme at any time.
At the invitation of the Chairman, Mr. S. Bahia, addressed the Committee in objection to the application. Mr. K. Lawrence, the applicant’s agent and Councillor H. J. Jones, Ward Councillor also addressed Committee Members.
The Committee then considered the Application, which had been recommended for approval by Officers.
Officers responded to Members questions with regards to biodiversity and land ownership, and in doing so, drew Members attention to pages 36 and 37 of the main agenda report.
Members expressed their concerns with regard to the removal of an existing hedgerow, which the applicant was willing to leave in place as detailed on the original planning application. Members commented that WCC Highways had not raised any objections in respect of the original proposal, which retained the hedge, but had acknowledged that the turning area was constrained.
Officers clarified that WCC Highways had not been consulted with regard to the variations proposed by the applicant, as they had not raised any objections to the original planning application, and there were no changes proposed to the original parking layout.
Members further commented that the replacement ‘Green Screen’ was in their opinion, a poor substitute for a natural habitat for wildlife. Therefore, as highlighted earlier in the debate, Members were still concerned with the existing hedgerow being removed.
In response to Members questions, officers reiterated that domestic hedgerows were not protected under legislation. The existing hedgerow could be removed in its entirety by the applicant before the extant planning permissions were implemented. The new application offered the opportunity to secure a landscaping scheme, using ‘Green Screen’ panels; as the applicant could erect a boundary treatment under permitted development, which could be a close boarded fence or wall.
In response to further clarification sought by Members in respect of the removal of the original Conditions 10 and 11 and variation of Conditions 2 and 12, officers drew Members’ attention to pages 34 and 35 of the main agenda report.
An alternative recommendation was proposed and seconded that planning permission be refused due to the ‘Green Screen’ panels being an inadequate substitute for wildlife and biodiversity, therefore causing environmental damage.
On being put to the vote, the alternative recommendation was lost.
RESOLVED that planning permission be granted subject to the Conditions and Informatives, as detailed on pages 37 to 39 of the main agenda report.