Agenda item

PL/2022/03760 - Former Wiltshire College, Cocklebury Road, Chippenham, Wiltshire, SN15 3QD

Erection of Retirement Apartments (Category II Type) with Communal Facilities and Car Parking & Erection of Assisted Living Accommodation (Class C2) with Communal Facilities and Car Parking.


Public Participation

Gian Bendinelli spoke in support of the application.

Andrew Conroy (Head of Planning) spoke on behalf of Chippenham Town Council.


Senior Planning Officer, Rose Fox presented a report which outlined the proposed erection of retirement apartments (Category II Type) with communal facilities and car parking & erection of assisted living accommodation (Class C2) with communal facilities and car parking.


Details were provided including issues raised by the proposals, including the principle of development; highway impact; drainage; impact on heritage assets (including loss of non-designated heritage asset); design, character, and appearance of area. Additionally, residential amenities of adjoining neighbours; ecological considerations; affordable housing provision and designing out crime.


Members of the Committee had the opportunity to ask technical questions regarding the application.Details were sought on, but not limited to whether the office building which had been granted permission adjacent to the respective site could be implemented, to which it was clarified that theoretically the office could still be built with no linkage between the permitted multi-storey carpark to compel it to happen. Additionally, reference was made to the additional provision of the stated form of accommodation and whether there was a measurement for market need anddesirability, to which the Chairman noted that there was a general need in the county for such accommodation. Questions were also asked regarding what the resale conditions of the properties could be with examples cited of families unable to sell vacant flats designed for elderly residents. Furthermore, it was questioned whether part of the application would constitute affordable housing, to which it was noted that the Anchor element of the application would be affordable as well as meeting an objectified need in the locality.


Further technical questions included but were not limited to whether the application included staff accommodation, to which it was noted that this would not be included in the McCarthy Stone part but would be within the assisted living section. It was questioned whether the old college building had been considered as a heritage asset as part of the previous planning application which had been granted permission, to which it was clarified that the same assessment would have taken place and that the building had been submitted for listing, but a decision was made not to list it. Further clarity was provided that regarding the decision-making process and the heritage asset, the weight of the asset attributed to any decisions made would be down to the Committee with nothing in statute proposed. Additionally, reference was drawn to the report, in which it was acknowledged that the conservation area had identified key buildings and conservation areas and that the respective building made a positive contribution to the townscape and that the proposal would add a wall and railings, which the conservation statement suggested might be of benefit.


Members of the public then had the opportunity to present their views to the Committee as detailed above.


The neighbouring Local Unitary Member, Councillor Liz Alstrom then spoke regarding the application. Cllr Alstrom provided the Committee with two statements, one of which was provided by an individual who wished to voice their experience of McCarthy Stone, the other the experience of a resident in Chippenham who had struggled to sell their retirement property due to the current market. Cllr Alstrom stated that she believed that the application was in breach of the following Core Policies of the Wiltshire Core Strategy. The application would be in breach of CP9 (5.1.1) as having done market research online, there were currently 50 empty retirement properties, therefore suggesting that the application would make use of land in an unsustainable way and consequently exclude young people and that the needs of older people had clearly been met due to the number of vacant properties. CP9 (5.5.4) was cited as a breach as within the Chippenham Central Masterplan, as the site would sit within a designated civic and academic zone though it would be exclusively designed for elderly residents.


Cllr Alstrom suggested that the application would also be in breach of CP10 as the application would not support local economic growth, nor would it provide a mix of housing types, or the infrastructure needed in Chippenham to support growth. CP45 was referenced as a breach as the application would not address local housing need, with the housing market suggesting that Chippenham was currently saturated with retirement properties. Reference to CP57 (4) was made with it suggested that the proposed development would be a breach as the design would not be in keeping with the historic area and would not be complimentary to the local area.


Further points raised by Cllr Alstrom included, but were not limited to, that the application would conflict with CP58 which would aim to protect, conserve, and preserve historic environments and heritage assets, with weight placed on the undesignated historic building currently located on the site. Reference was also made to CP6 with it suggested that the application was within a conservation area which had been designated within the Chippenham Central Masterplan and would therefore not enhance local distinctiveness.


The Local Unitary Member, Councillor Dr Nick Murry then spoke regarding the application. Cllr Murry stated that the site had been increasingly derelict since 2015 and had been placed on the market at least twice, though no applications for youth facilities or social housing, or any other type of development had been brought forward. It was noted that though the previous application for this site had been granted permission for retirement homes, at the time lobbying had taken place for the preservation of the grammar school element, which could not be listed.


Cllr Murry noted that the two previous applications reflected the fact that there was a need for retirement accommodation in Chippenham, with it cited that the elderly population of Chippenham was set to double in proportion by 2036. It was also referenced that having spoken to residents in the Monkton Park area, there was a desire for the old college building to be replaced with something of good quality and in keeping with the residential area. As well as a desire for minimal increase to traffic, an increase in local jobs and that any potential residential accommodation might assist to curtail the anti-social behaviour in the Sadlers Mead carpark.


Cllr Murry noted that there were several elements within the proposal which had concerned people, such as that the demolition of the grammar school would harm the Chippenham conservation area and that the previous application granted in 2018 had a much higher design quality and materials; with the current application falling short of what would be expected from the Neighbourhood Plan set to be published later in 2023. It was also acknowledged that though the application had made minor amendments to the existing scheme, this had not removed objections and would not be sufficient to justify the loss of a heritage asset.


Concerns were raised by Cllr Murry in relation to the provision of sustainable transport infrastructure and reducing the reliance on motorised vehicles, with it noted that the Chippenham Cycle Network Development Group had provided recommendations which had not been taken up in the revised application; including to ensure car-free access from nearby cycle ways to onsite cycle parking to comply with the NPPF paragraph 112. Additionally, it was suggested that there be a zebra and parallel cycle crossing over Sadlers Mead as well as to provide at least 15 residential cycle parking spaces; all of which would allow for compliance with Wiltshire Core Strategy Core Policy 61.


A third set of concerns raised by Cllr Murry was in relation to the overall sustainability and energy strategy of the proposed development, with it suggested that with there being a national target of a reduction of 78% greenhouse emissions by 2035 and net zero by 2050, which the application would fail to comply with. Reference was also drawn to the use of solar panels on the application, which would not be sufficient as well as there not being a statement provided regarding minimising embodied energy and carbon.


Cllr Murry concluded by stating that the application would not be in keeping with Wiltshire Core Strategy Core Policies 57, 58 and 61. Additionally Cllr Murry suggested that proposed Condition 9 be amended to ensure secure cycle parking could be provided for at least 15 spaces and that Condition 15 be amended to include greenhouse gas emissions under the definition for pollution. Furthermore, it was suggested that a condition be added regarding renewable onsite electricity production, and that the applicant contribute to the construction of a zebra and parallel cycle crossing as part of a Section 106 agreement.


Following the conclusion of Cllr Murry’s speech, the Chairman read out a note provided by a resident of the Monkton Park Area, which had been received in support of the application.


At the start of the debate a motion to reject the officer’s recommendation for planning permission to be granted subject to conditions was moved by Cllr Gavin Grant seconded by Cllr Nic Puntis. The reason for refusal was that the application would conflict with Core Policies 57 (3), 57 (4), 57 (6), 58 and 61. A friendly amendment of Core Policies 9 and 10 were added by Cllr Puntis and accepted by Cllr Gavin Grant, however Core Policies 10 and 61 were later removed from the reason for refusal,


During the debate, issues were raised, but not limited to that there was a need to balance both the policies in support and policies in conflict with the proposal, with it noted that the overriding policy in support of the proposal was public benefit, however there was other policies within the local plan which mitigated this. Additional reference was drawn to how the Urban Design Officer had placed an objection to the application. It was suggested that there would not be a public benefit to the application being granted due to an oversupply for retired people in Chippenham, which could be evidenced through online property market searches. It was suggested that given the location of the site within the town centre and proximity to the railway station, a proposal which included old and young residents might be better, especially given the recent investment on the station to enable access for all abilities and commute times to London. Furthermore, it was suggested that consultation had not been considered properly, with Chippenham Town Council, who would have known what developments were needed and where.


Further issues that were debated included that though the developer had conducted their own assessment of the demographic, they had not considered the challenge that had been provided by Councillors at the Chippenham and Villages Area Board, nor from the Environment and Transport Committee, which had suggested an oversupply of such properties. Further reference was made to how an application which included both elderly and young people would have greater benefit to the health and sustainability of the Chippenham community. The need to protect the architecture and history of Chippenham in the form of the grammar school building was also stressed.

Additionally, points raised included that the pressures experienced by Early Years settings had been raised with the Children’s Select Committee and that having a mixed residency of elderly and young people might enable such provisions as a nursery whilst assisting with the wellbeing of older people. It was further suggested that the developer communicate with the Town Council and people of Chippenham to enquire about what is required within the town.


A discussion took place in relation to the previous application which had been permitted in 2018, with it stressed by the Planning Officer that the previous application should not be used as a yardstick to compare and determine the current application. Reference was drawn to the materials which had been used for the 2017 application and how the Core Policies and treatment of the grammar school building had been the same within the report. It was noted that the building had changed in appearance since 2017, with the addition of red brick, in reference to the heritage building, and a lower roof.


During the debate it was acknowledged that the application would contribute to the housing land supply due to meeting an identified objectified need, with it also noted that the permitted block of offices was within the conservation area.


A further point was reiterated that robust discussions had taken place at the Area Board between Members and the developer and that it did not seem as though the developer had taken notice of the points that had been raised. Regarding the heritage asset, it was suggested that the building could be integrated into a new development and to destroy such buildings would set a precedent as a planning authority.Additionally, that a mixed-use site would provide the facilities needed by the town and would enhance the area and that the current derelict status for the site should not be a reason to allow development but rather development in the right way.


Regarding the reason for refusal, it was suggested that the application would conflict with CP9 ( as the development would not add to the development of Chippenham town centre and would not meet with high quality standards of design as well as not being mixed use. The use of CP10 was discussed, however it was decided that this would not be a reason for refusal as it was suggested that there was a need for such accommodation in Chippenham and the county as a whole and that the proposal could not be more sustainable.


It was stated that the application would not comply with Core Policies 57 (3 and 4) as the proposal was inferior due to a linear roofline and lack of distinctiveness; additionally; the look and feel of the proposal was not appropriate with additional reference to the application sitting within a conservation are and there being a need to preserve historical landscapes. CP57 (5) was not cited as a reason for refusal as the application had provided an energy statement which would meet Part L of building regulations.


Core Policies 57 (6) and 58 were cited due to the need to protect, conserve and where possible, enhance non-designated heritage assets, which it was suggested that the development would not do, with the harm outweighing any benefits of granting permission. The use of CP61 was discussed, however it was removed due to the location being high sustainable.


At the conclusion of the debate, it was, 




That the application be refused for the following reasons:


  1. On this highly prominent site and by reason of its layout, built form, building line, elevational design, materials, streetscape, as well as its lack of any included commercial and community uses, the proposed development is not considered to be of a high quality design and does not display exemplary public realm or take account of its local context. Accordingly, the proposed development is considered to be contrary to Core Policy CP57 (iii and vi) and Core Policy CP9 of the Wiltshire Core Strategy.


  1. On this highly prominent site in the Chippenham Conservation Area, and by reason of the layout, built form, building line, elevational design, materials, street-scape of the proposed building, as well as the resulting loss of the historic school building on the site, the proposals are considered to harm to the character and local identity of the Conservation Area and do not protect, conserve or enhance the historic environment. The public benefits associated with the development do not outweigh that harm and the development is contrary to the requirements of core policies CP58 and CP57(iv) to the Wiltshire Core Strategy and section 16 to the NPPF.


Chairman called the Committee to a break at 15:55pm and then resumed at 16:05pm.

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