Officers reported that following the publication of the main agenda report, the applicant had made two further submissions, as follows:
· Reference to an appeal decision in Solihull Metropolitan Council from March 2022 and the Planning Inspectorate’s decision.
· A Committee Briefing note, received on Friday 8th April, which detailed information related to heritage and the site’s Green Belt location.
as detailed in the published Committee Update, 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 the Committee that the proposed development was a full application for the demolition of existing buildings and the development of a three-storey, 72-bedroom care home with communal amenity areas and an extensive resident’s garden and associated parking for 20 plus spaces.
The application site (0.72ha) consisted of the former Mount School which was a three storey Victorian building that was now in office/training use by KeyOstas who provided health and safety and environmental training.
The Mount School was surrounded by several single storey outbuildings that were disused. The buildings were in a depilated state.
The site was located in the Green Belt on the edge of the residential area of Bromsgrove. A new development had been completed to the south of the site with a run of residential dwellings located to the north. Fields bound the site to the west. The site was served by a single driveway off the Birmingham Road.
The proposed development would also include facilities such as dining rooms, lounges, hair salon, cinema, family rooms, balconies and clinics.
Burghley Care (part of Torsion Care) had entered an agreement to deliver the scheme, the nature of development proposed was that of a care home (C2 use) to be registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for the provision of care to the elderly. The care home would therefore cater for users including the elderly, dementia patients and nursing patients. The development would employ up to 75 Full time Equivalent (FTE) employees.
Members were further informed that with regards to the Green Belt, in addition to its inappropriateness, the development would result in a sizeable degree of harm to the openness of the Green Belt and would conflict with three Green Belt purposes. In accordance with the NPPF, such harm to the Green Belt should be afforded substantial weight and that this weighting would form part of the planning balance.
Openness was capable of having both spatial and visual elements. Spatially, the development would result in more built form across the entirety of the site compared with the existing situation. The height, footprint and volume of new buildings would greatly exceed the existing building, as summarised in the table on page 77 of the main agenda report. There would be a significant loss of openness in spatial terms particularly for the undeveloped parts of the site.
With regard to planning balance, the applicant had outlined benefits of the proposed redevelopment, which were summarised as follows:
· Provision of care accommodation – provision of 72 beds of care accommodations, especially in the context of a wider lack of housing land across the district, which had been furthered due to the identification in January 2022 via the HDT 2021, that the LPA had only been able to deliver 44% of its housing need over the past 3 years
· Provision of care accommodation against the identified shortfall of this specialised use, as set out in the HPC assessment and Carterwood analysis.
· Knock-on positive impact on the local housing market area, resulting in the freeing up of homes due to the ability of those in need of care to be moved into such a facility.
· Net gain in local employment opportunities, both immediate and long term.
· Resultant impact on the reduction of pressure on local health care facilities, together with the improvement of elderly people’s lifestyles, who may be in and out of hospital or living alone. The development of the care home would also reduce ‘bed blocking’
The development would also produce further economic and social benefits in terms of construction jobs, and longer–term employment and training opportunities in the caring professions and related services. These considerations weigh heavily in favour of the application.
Officers referred to the impact on 277 Birmingham Road (Mount School) as a non-designated heritage asset (NDHA). Non-designated heritage assets were on the lowest rung of the hierarchy of heritage assets, they did not have statutory protection and their loss required a balanced judgement (NPPF paragraph 203). The NPPF did not seek to prescribe how that balance should be undertaken, or what weight should be given to any matter.
277 Birmingham Road was a three-storey red brick building in the English Bond. The gables were detailed with decorative timber framing on white background. The building was designed by the notable Birmingham Architect Julius Alfred Chatwin and constructed between 1876 and 77. The building was originally built as the vicarage to All Saints church, some 800 meters to its south. The Church itself was erected slightly earlier, between 1872 and 1874.
The building was a vicarage until 1957 and then served as a school until 2004.
Members’ attention was drawn to the applicant’s heritage consultant’s comments and the reasons why they were not in agreement with officers, as detailed on pages 79 and 80 of the main agenda report.
Following on from the site visited carried out by Planning Committee Members, officers were able to confirm the bedroom sizes. The existing access route would be reviewed and renewed, with a pedestrian access (footpath) to keep pedestrians off the main access route. The vast majority of trees would be retained.
Officers drew Members’ attention to presentation slides, ‘Existing layout with proposed overlay’ and ‘Existing and proposed roof heights.’
Members were further informed that the Conservation Officer had advised that the proposed alterations would cause harm to the non-designated heritage asset through the complete demolition of the building. The proposals had failed to comply with the relevant sections of the NPPF and Bromsgrove District Plan.
Officers further commented that, as detailed in the report; that on the other side of the planning balance, there was no doubt that there was a clear local need in Bromsgrove for all forms of elderly persons’ accommodation, and that this need was both urgent and growing.
However, in conclusion, despite the applications considerable merits, their inherent conflict with both the development plan and national policies, with regard to the harm to both the Green Belt and non-designated heritage asset, had led officers to conclude that the application could not be supported, and they would recommend refusal.
At the invitation of the Vice-Chairman, Ms. C. Parmenter, Planning Agent, on behalf of the applicant addressed the Committee. Councillor R. Hunter also addressed the Committee.
Members then considered the application, which officers had recommended be refused.
Members further questioned the bedroom sizes and couples being catered for and that the room sizes could not be referred to as homes, as they were relatively small. Officers clarified that the bedrooms would be approximately 20m2 with en-suite facilities. Ultimately the issue of exactly who the care home catered for was up to the care home owners. The rooms were substantially sized and in excess of the requirements of the CQC.
Members also queried the care home catering for dementia patients, as there was nowhere in the text of the report detailing more specialist type of care being provided.
Officers referred to page 76 of the main agenda report with regard to the information provided by Burghley Care.
Members agreed that this was a difficult application to consider, as there was a need for care homes in the Bromsgrove area. However, Members understood that the proposed development would have an impact on the openness of the Green Belt and that a non-designated heritage asset would be lost, should the building be demolished. Officers had given great weight to this.
RESOLVED that Planning Permission be refused for the reasons as detailed on page 87 of the main agenda report.