Agenda item



Erection of 3 storey building to provide 9 x 2 bed flats; conversion and extension of store to 1 bed house and new vehicular access off of Station Approach (as amended by drawings received 12th and 25th October 2017).


Audio Recording of Meeting – Session 1 – Start of Item - 5 minutes 58 seconds


RESOLVED:  That, in respect of application 17/01622/1, the recommendations contained in the report of the Development and Conservation Manager be agreed.


The Chairman announced that there would be a short break to allow members of the public to leave the meeting.


Audio Recording of Meeting – Session 1 – Start of Item - 5 minutes 58 seconds


Erection of 3 storey building to provide 9 x 2 bed flats; conversion and extension of store to 1 bed house and new vehicular access off of Station Approach (as amended by drawings received 12th and 25th October 2017).


The Development and Conservation Manager updated Members regarding the appeal timetable.


Confirmation had been received from the Planning Inspectorate that the planning inquiry would take place on 4 December 2018 at 10.00 am and it was anticipated that it would last for four days.


The rest of the timetable remained as detailed in the report.


The deadline for the Council to submit its Statement of Case to the Inspectorate was 28 September 2018 and the Save Our Station Pub Group was confirmed as a Rule 6 party on 12 September 2018 and the deadline for them to submit their Statement of Case was 10 October 2018.


A Rule 6 party could participate fully in the inquiry and could provide their own evidence, experts and advocates and could be cross examined.


Proofs of Evidence would be exchanged 4 weeks before the start of the inquiry this being 6 November 2018. This was the date at which the Council had to provide the evidence being used to defend each of the reasons for refusal.


The Development and Conservation Manage presented a report in respect of planning application 17/01622/1 supported by a visual presentation consisting of plans, drawings and photographs of the site as presented at the meeting held on 19 April 2018, when the application was originally refused permission.


Mrs Alison Young, Save Our Station Pub Action Group, thanked the Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee in objection to application 17/01622/1.


Mrs Young informed Members that she was a planning consultant appointed by the Save Our Station Pub Action Group, incorporating the Parish Council, to appear at the forthcoming public inquiry into the proposals.


The pub was a designated Asset of Community Value and was the only pub within the village of Knebworth and therefore had a vital role to play in the social sustainability of the village, which should not be underestimated.


This was a family, dormitory village and as such any operator of this, the only pub, would need to be able to accommodate a wide variety of patrons, including children and the elderly in order to be viable. This would not be possible with the restrictions that the proposed plans would place on the long term viability of the pub.


When the proposals were considered in April 2018, Members quite rightly recognised that the loss of much of the pub garden, parking, noise and odour problems together with the loss of proper servicing and the outbuildings, would very seriously reduce the ability of the public house to be run as a viable business. The result would then likely be the loss of the public house as a community asset.


The reasons for refusal, set out in April 2018, should not be either diluted or deleted.


In relation to the fist reason for refusal, it was right for the Council to amend the reason with the updated paragraphs of the new NPPF, however it was incorrect to say that the new NPPF had introduced any new clause or criteria that impacted on the proposals. There was no change in National Planning Policy in relation to the protection, retention and support of local community facilities such as the Station Public House,


Policy ETC7 of the emerging Local Plan was still relevant to these proposals and remained fully compliant with the new NPPF. This had recently been though examination and found sound so there was no reason for Members not to rely on it.


Whilst the proposals may not result in the direct loss of the pub, it was clear that it would ultimately result in its loss. It was also clear that Policy ETC7 sought to prevent any form of development that would lead to such a loss. This was entirely consistent with National Policy and there was no need to remove reference to it from this decision. To do so would undermine the Council’s policy at the first hurdle and set an unfortunate precedent for the future.


In respect of reasons 3 and 4, the reduction in parking provision for the pub together with noise, odour and general disturbance that would result to the new residential flats, would cumulatively make running of a public house extremely difficult. So much so that it would ultimately result in its loss.


Elsewhere this had been called a Trojan Horse type development, one that appears to retain an important community facility, but in reality, one that sets the public house up to fail and has the same result of the ultimate loss of the pub.


The Inspectorate had on many previous occasions dismissed appeals for similar schemes for the very same reasons being, that the pub was valued by the community, that parking conflicts would arise because of insufficient spaces being provided, noise from the pub would be harmful to the amenity of the new proposed occupiers and that no evidence had been submitted that an acceptable scheme for odour control had been agreed. This meant that conditions to deal with noise and odour could not be acceptable.


Taken together, all these factors would make the pub the most unattractive to pub operators.


The reasons for refusal that the Committee gave previously were wholly defensible at appeal and the Action Group intended to do so and had appointed experts accordingly.


Mrs Young concluded by asking the Committee to remain resolute, defend the reasons for refusal robustly and continue with the inquiry route.

The Chairman thanked Ms Young for her presentation.


Councillor Steve Deakin-Davies and Lisa Nash, Councillor Advocates, thanked the Chairman for the opportunity to address the Committee in objection to application 17/01622/1.


Councillor Nash advised they were representing the Save our Pub Action Group, Knebworth Parish Council and residents of this rural community.


There was much in the NPPF 2018 around economic, social and environmental objectives and local planning policy to defend this case.


The pub ran successfully from 1883 until its sudden closure 18 month ago, with the developer making no attempt to run it as a business, suggesting that Market Homes had no intention of reopening it.


Market Homes, who did not own or operate pubs, stated that to preserve it they needed to build on the land. It was clear that having a pub was not a consideration. There was no acknowledgement of the pub in their design or access statement and this was a grave concern.


This was a Trojan Horse development, designed to fail for many reasons including:


·                No refuse collection strategy:

·                the proximity of neighbouring residents would lead to complaints about noise;

·                lack of internal and external space necessary for a pub operation.


The NPPF recognised the need for the delivery of goods to service the pub, this was not possible with this application.


The entire planning unit, the pub, its associated gardens, outbuilding and car park were listed as an asset of community value. The impact of the sub-division of the planning unit on the pub, as an asset of community value, was a material planning consideration and should be considered in this application. The land and outbuilding could be used to support the viability of the pub


This application presented a gross under provision of car parking. In the immediate vicinity of this proposal there was limited on street parking with 6 other development either built or being built, all with insufficient parking, so where would residents park?


Hertfordshire County Council were currently consulting to have double yellow lines along that stretch of road, which will remove the current on street parking, further exacerbating the problems.


The proposal reduced the pub car park by half in order to overcome objections from Highways regarding the visibility splay and gave no consideration to parking for the disabled.


The NPPF stated that local car ownership levels should be taken into account and the quality of parking improved. NHDC were well aware of the high car ownership levels in the District and recognised the worsening inherent parking issues experienced in Knebworth, which was again discussed at the Parking Strategy workshop on 8 August 2018 and which this proposal ignored.


It would be wrong for NHDC not to defend their own policy, which stated that the norm was that minimum parking provision would be met in all cases, nor the Knebworth parking survey of 2013.


Knebworth Parish Council and Save Our Station Pub Action Group had been awarded Rule 6 status and were employing a team of professionals to defend all aspects of this case.


Mrs Young had corrected NHDC’s misunderstanding of the new NPPF and NHDC were using the car parking standards in their defense of the Cabinet at Reed, so why not use this for Knebwoth. It was important that NHDC take a consistent approach.


This case was defensible with the reasons for refusal, decided at the meeting, being sound. All aspects including parking, noise and odour should be defended.


They wanted the appeal to be heard at inquiry so that all issues could be thoroughly explored.


This case was important, not only for the Station in Knebworth, but for all other pubs in the District, where developers would try to chop up pub sites in the same way.


A robust dismissal from the Inspectorate would give NHDC the ammunition to resist such schemes in the future.


Councillor Nash concluded by asking that, on behalf of the campaigning group and the Parish Council, the reasons for refusal be upheld.


Councillor Deakin-Davies suggested that Members may wish to go to the pub on the way home, but Knebworth had not got one.


There were 5,000 people living in Knebworth and no pub.


Over 1,000 people wanted a pub in Knebworth and they had campaigned for nearly two years, raising money and arranging well attended events.


If Market Homes massacred the garden of the pub, they were setting it up for failure.


Councillor Deakin-Davies concluded by stating that, if Council waved the rules regarding how much parking was allowed it would set a precedent for all wards, causing more parking problems and congestion.


Members asked whether the turnover of the pub, prior to closure was known and whether pub chains had been approached about purchasing the pub.


Councillor Nash advised that the turnover had not been disclosed and that Market Homes had been approached and had advised that the pub was not for sale.


The Chairman thanked Councillors Deakin-Davies and Nash for their presentation.


The Development and Conservation Manager advised that the NPPF gave ammunition that the development of the site may lead to the loss of the pub in the future.


He did not agree with Mrs Young regarding Policy ETC7. This was not an application for the loss or change of use of a pub and therefore ETC7 did not apply.


The recommendations would remain as per the report, although the background to reason for refusal 1 would change.


The Rule 6 party was an active participant in the public inquiry and could present their own evidence. They were not at risk of an award of costs against them if the evidence was not accepted or was not correct, however the Council was at risk of an award of costs from the appellant if evidence was found to be unsound or insufficient at the inquiry.


He had taken the view that there were two defendable reasons for refusal that could be professionally supported at the inquiry. The Consultant employed by the Council agreed with this assessment and did not believe there was sufficient evidence to defend noise, odour or a severe Highway impact.


If Members decided to retain all reasons for refusal they would have to provide their own evidence to defend them and would be going against the advice of the Environmental Health Officer and the Highway Authority.


Even if the appeal was successful but the Inspector did not find all of the reasons sound, the Council would still be at risk of the award of costs against them.


The recommendation did not undermine the refusal, but clarified what was defendable at the public inquiry.


He strongly recommended that Members accepted the recommendations in the report.


A Member queried whether the Council’s representative would continue to represent if Members voted to retain all reasons for refusal. He expressed concern regarding the statement at Paragraph 4.3.4 of the report and questioned whether this could be stated with any certainty. He further questioned the amount of parking allocated to the residential units, which would likely result in residents parking in the pub car park and questioned why a viability assessment had not been carried out and why ETC7, that had been found sound in other appeals, was not being used.


Members sought assurance that the previous decision would not be changed, but that the Committee was being asked to change the reasons for refusal.


The Development and Conservation Manager advised that, if recommendation 2 was agreed, he would write to the Inspectorate and ask for the inquiry to be downgraded to a hearing, as the Council would then no longer be providing evidence on noise, odour or 5 year supply. The Council’s Planning Consultant would only be able to give evidence on reasons that he supported.


In respect of the recommendations the Development and Conservation Manager confirmed that the decision to refuse could not and would not be changed. The decision Notice would remain unchanged and would be presented to the Inspectorate, but recommended that the reasons that would be difficult to defend be dropped and thereby strengthen the reasons that were defensible.


Members debated the application and made the following observations:


·                The Rule 6 party would be represented by professionals at the inquiry;

·                There were still two defensible reasons for refusal;

·                Members must be mindful of rate payers money and be aware of the risk of an award of costs;

·                Members remained of the opinion that the application should be refused.


Upon being moved, seconded, and put to the vote, it was


RESOLVED:  That, in respect of application 17/01622/1, the recommendations contained in the report of the Development and Conservation Manager be agreed.


The Chairman announced that there would be a short break to allow members of the public to leave the meeting.

Supporting documents: