Agenda item

Questions By Members Under Notice

To answer questions asked after notice in accordance with the provisions contained within the Council’s rules in Part 4 of the Constitution on any matter in relation to which the Council has powers or duties or which affects the District:


(a)                  to the Chairman of the Council;


(b)                  to the Leader of the Council;


(c)                  to any Member of the Cabinet; or


(d)                  the Chairman of any Committee or Sub-Committee.


The Council’s rules provide that answers to questions under notice may take the form of:


(a)             direct oral answer;


(b)             where the desired information is in a publication of the Council or other published work, a reference to that publication; or


(c)             where the reply cannot conveniently be given orally, a written answer circulated later to the questioner.


Answers to questions falling within (a) and (b) above will be made available to the member asking the question one hour before the meeting. Answers to questions falling within (c) above will be circulated to all councillors.


Questions, if any, will follow if not received in time to be incorporated into the agenda.


Question by Councillor J M Whitehouse for the Planning and Sustainability Portfolio Holder, Councillor N Bedford


What assessment has the Council made of the impact on the district of recent and forthcoming changes to use classes and permitted development rights? These changes were wide-ranging and among other revisions appear to allow, subject to certain restrictions, the construction of up to two new storeys above houses and blocks of flats (and one new storey above bungalows) without requiring a full planning application. In particular:


(a)             will the Council consider what steps it could take, such as Article 4 directions or similar measures, to protect streets where the current uniformity of design makes a major contribution to the special character of the area (for example The Orchards in Epping)?


(b)             what were the implications for policies in the emerging local plan including policy H 1 F which seeks to resist the loss of bungalows?”


Answer to Councillor J M Whitehouse from Councillor N Bedford, Planning and Sustainability Portfolio Holder


(a)      Several new changes were being introduced firstly, as part of the Governments stated intention for reform of the Planning System and secondly, as a response to the challenges posed by COVID-19 and the need to ensure that the system can continue to operate effectively and support the recovery. It was too early for an assessment to be made at this initial stage, but in the case of building up additional storey’s, a large proportion of properties in the district will not be affected.


For example, among the changes, it will be permitted in principle to allow the construction of two additional storeys on the topmost storey of buildings of two storeys or more, or one additional storey on a detached house of one storey, above ground level. But, not in conservation areas, areas of sites of special scientific interest, listed buildings or properties built before 1 July 1948 or after 28 October 2018. These will still be subject to the usual planning permissions and consultations. The rest would need prior approval from the Council after notifying adjoining owners or occupiers, which will consider certain matters relating to the proposed construction of additional storeys. These included:


·        consideration of the impact on the amenity of neighbouring premises, including overlooking, and

·        privacy and overshadowing; the design, including the architectural features of the principal elevation of the house, and of any side elevation which fronts a highway.


The Council could consider imposing an Article 4 direction where necessary, which basically removes the permitted changes and therefore still required planning permission. This though cannot be imposed immediately because it needed to go through a due process that can take 6 to 12 months. The prior approval though still retains the need to consider amenity of neighbours and also design, so if there were streets where the uniformity of buildings was a character of that area, then there will still be control where the neighbour raises objection.


In addition, the Use Classes Order was being altered to create a new broad category of ‘commercial, business and service’ uses (Class E) incorporating shops, restaurants, offices, day nurseries, indoor sport and recreation among other uses, such that planning permission will not be required to move among these uses. Changes to hot food take-aways or betting shops will still require full planning consent. Given the reason was to make it easier for high street uses to change use without the need for a planning application, any potential further restrictions through an Article 4 Direction will need very careful consideration.


(b)        Policy H 1F of the current emerging Local Plan Version states that the loss of bungalows will be resisted. This was because they support the needs of people with accessibility needs, including older people. The policy will still be a material consideration where planning permission was required, but only on amenity and design grounds where the adjacent neighbour raises such an objection on the new prior approval application.

Supporting documents: