Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Local control lost on vet site redevelopment

Local residents have lost control of the decision on redevelopment of the vets site at 89a Cherry Hinton Road, after the applicants went straight to appeal over the Council's failure to determine the application in time.

The application, 08/1501/FUL, was for the erection of fourteen apartments following the demolition of the existing veterinary clinic. The application was made in November 2008, but there was local opposition from residents concerned about overdevelopment of the site, and overlooking of neighbouring properties, and a development control forum was held in January 2009.

The Council held some meetings with the developers, and thought they had agreement that the application would be withdrawn to be resubmitted with amendments to address the concerns.

I have followed up the whole sorry saga with the planning department which did shed some light on why the applicants are now appealing, but the result is that the decision on the first application has been taken out of local control and will now be decided by the planning inspector - I hope it is rejected and the decision on any future application taken locally.

Whilst I appreciate the Council may have grounds to feel it has been let down by reassurances from the developer here, I am concerned that in these situations the Council is too ready to take assurances from developers that they will withdraw an application, and don't just go ahead and determine the application, with the effect in this case that a contentious and unpopular application has now been taken out of control of local decision making completely.

Coleridge residents have been down this road before, with the one (minor) application that was actually submitted for Tiverton House, where the application was down on the Sept East Area agenda, the decision was postponed to give the developer time to correct problems with the application. The developer indicated they would withdraw, but again this seemed to go on for ages with the promised withdrawal not happening. No-one could understand why the application didn't go to the next area committee in Oct, it did find its way on to the Dec agenda, at which point minds were focussed and the application was finally withdrawn. In this case there was a real risk that the developer could have taken a similar course of action and gone to appeal.

Notwithstanding the effects on the Council's performance indicators in terms of determining applications in time, appeal due to non-determination just takes the decision out of local hands, which is clearly regrettable.

I have written to the Council to suggest that in situations like this where the applicant has indicated they will withdraw an application to fix it, the Council takes control and sets a deadline for withdrawal or it will take the decision at the very next available committee.

The current situation is unfair on all parties, and I suspect local residents are going to be none too impressed.

If residents would like to add to the objections at the appeal, the deadline is the 4th March - be in touch for more details of how to do this.


Frugal Dougal said...

I'm sad to see they're going - we've used the vets there; they're a good team.

Chris Howell said...

They're not gone yet, I would hasten to add - not sure what their plans are either, I assume they will move somewhere else...