Revised planning applications submitted by Kimberley Developments

Leighton Jones, Deputy Chairman of The Knowle Society and Chairman of its Planning Committee will now be working with his committee to study the many substantial documents included in the three planning applications submitted in connection with the proposed Waitrose store development in Knowle.

These applications may be viewed on the Solihull Council website as numbers 2011/1555 2011/1556 and 2011/1557 (the first two are for parking spaces, the third is the main foodstore application).

The Society will not be making any formal comment until these applications have been given a full and careful review by the Society’s planning committee, note taken of any comments made by members in person, by letter or on its website’s Forum and a public meeting is also held. Arrangements for the public meeting are being made and will be announced on this website as soon as details are known. Finally the Society’s Trustee Directors will review the results of all the above findings and will issue a formal statement.

Leighton Jones was quoted in the Solihull News of 7th October saying “I think I would be willing to say that the developers have made a significant improvement [over the initial application which was withdrawn] but there are still a lot of details we need to look at. We need to study the application as it’s a major application as far as Knowle is concerned.”

Revised response to LDF proposals

[Note this is now known as the Solihull Local Plan.]

Long term plans for providing additional housing within the Borough of Solihull and how this affect Knowle are covered in the Local Development Framework core strategy consultation document produced by Solihull Council. The Knowle Society has been working on its response to these proposals and the attachment here is the result of consideration of the issues.

‘Read more’ for an addendum (29 September 2011) from Leighton Jones with a list of suggested ‘Local Green Spaces’.

Addendum

As mentioned in my submission of 28 September 2011, I now submit a list of locations that we would wish to register as ‘Local Green Spaces’. Further details of the locations and exact boundaries are available from Ian Simmonds, the chairman of The Knowle Society’s Natural Environment committee. His email address is environment@knowlesociety.org.uk and phone number 01564 778692.

The list is:-
Knowle Park
Middlefield Park
The Green outside the Guild House
St Johns Village Green
Wychwood Woods
Jobs Close Nature Reserve (3 sections)
Knowle Park Allotments
Knowle Library Knot Garden
Knowle Green (Station Road/Warwick Road)
Warwick Road Roundabout and land between Wychwood Avenue and Arden Vale Road
Route of proposed bypass
Kixley Lane recreation ground
Footpath land and ponds from Browns Lane to Pool End Close Ponds
Land from Kixley Lane going north to boundary with Grimshaw Hall (shown on the UDP map as being a Site of Importance to Nature Conservation).

Kixley Lane recreation ground is owned by The National Trust but we have no idea of who owns the last item. All other land is SMBC owned.

CORE STRATEGY RESPONSE Sep 2011 – submitted

Response to Sainsbury’s 2nd Planning Application

The Knowle Society has responded to the second planning application submitted by Sainsburys to redevelop the Forest Court shopping precinct in Dorridge; the text of that response follows:

G. Palmer, Dip.TP, MRTPI
Head of Design and Development
PO Box 11652
Council Offices
Solihull
B91 9YA

Dear Mr Palmer,

SAINSBURY PLANNING APPLICATION, DORRIDGE (2011/1107)

The Society recognises the need to redevelop Forest Court in Dorridge, in the process improving facilities for shopping for inhabitants of the village. This is particularly so as most of the original traders have understandably left since the original plans were announced.

We recognise the modifications made to the previous application, most of which are positive. The developers have also responded to some extent to our concerns over the routing of the delivery vehicles. We are grateful for that. We see the potential benefits to Dorridge of a modest sized food store as an anchor for the retail offering. Despite the reduction in size the current proposal is still far in excess of what is needed to provide a local store for Dorridge residents. We have great concerns that the size of the proposed development is still so large that it will have a significant impact on Knowle and the amenity of its inhabitants. The specific issues that we feel will impact on Knowle are detailed below.

The size of the proposed supermarket

The point we wish to emphasise about the size of the planned store is its size which is the key factor which will drive the requirements for the volume and frequency of deliveries and which will provide the attractiveness of the store to shoppers from outside Dorridge, resulting in yet more traffic much of which will pass through Knowle.

The Design & Access Statement (p20) gives the gross external area of the store (excluding the proposed independent retail units and the car parking which is on the upper storey) as 5,741sqm. While this does include the service yard it indicates the major size of the supermarket building. The net sales area is given as 1,812 sq m.

The size of the whole development means that if this site (Gross external area 7,343 sq m.) were being identified for development by the Council it would have to be assessed for its impact on existing centres (PPS4, [Planning for Sustainable Economic Growth] Policy EC14). While it is to some extent replacement of previous retail offerings, the proposed development is very different in scale and type and it is our contention that this development will adversely affect the vitality and resilience of Knowle.

PPS4 defines Supermarkets as: ‘Self-service stores selling mainly food, with a trading floorspace less than 2,500 square metres, often with car parking.’ (PPS4 Annex B p27) The previous application (2009/1746 Planning and retail statement) identified the sizes of comparable stores in the area:-

Morrisons, Solihull – 2,180 sq m; Sainsbury, Solihull – 1,990 sq m both only slightly larger than the current proposal, both described as ‘medium size format’ stores and both clearly town centre stores, not the size that would be appropriate for Dorridge.

The whole of Knowle (described in the UDP (8.5.1) as a ‘local centre’) is recorded as having 2,385 sq m convenience floor space. PPS4 describes ‘Local centres include a range of small shops of a local nature, serving a small catchment. Typically, local centres might include, amongst other shops, a small supermarket, a newsagent, a sub-post office and a pharmacy. Other facilities could include a hot-food takeaway and launderette.’ (PPS4 Annex B)

Dorridge is not and cannot be considered as anything more than a ‘local centre’ and arguably is not even this. The Solihull Retail, Leisure and Offices Study carried out by DTZ for SMBC in 2009 didn’t even recognise Dorridge as a significant retail centre. The introduction of such a large store into Dorridge is therefore clearly out of scale. The application gives the true reason for the size of the store in the D&A Statement p17 when it says that the sales area is ‘the minimum necessary to make the proposal financially viable’ in other words, in order to make enough profit for Sainsbury. This is a very poor reason to inflict this development on the area. A more realistic proposal would be less expensive to develop and therefore more sustainable.

The proposal should be assessed in the light of the whole of PPS4, but particularly EC15 and EC16 and specifically EC 16.1e. Our contention is that the proposed store is so large that it fails to pass this test.

The proposed development will actually reduce the shopping opportunities in Dorridge. The plan includes six small retail units and two kiosks to replace the 20 existing retail units. This will adversely affect the nature of the centre of Dorridge, converting it into a place where one retailer will monopolise, while the variety and local nature of the existing offerings will be lost, to the detriment of local shoppers.

The impact on traffic flows and the environment

One of the main justifications for a store of the proposed size is the alleged ‘leakage’ of retail expenditure from the Hockley Heath, Dorridge and Knowle areas and the assertion that the planned store would very largely eliminate this. No measure has been given of the retail expenditure that is expected from shoppers living outside these areas and coming to Dorridge in place of shopping at other sites. Shoppers do have personal preferences for the stores they use, supported by the stores’ ‘loyalty schemes’. Sainsbury shoppers from some distance outside the area would therefore travel to Dorridge to use the new store. This would be particularly so for those who currently use the Poplar Way store in Solihull. The proposed store in Dorridge would be much more convenient for these shoppers, with its dedicated parking away from the congested Solihull Town centre, however in doing so they would undoubtedly increase congestion in Knowle & Dorridge.

On the other hand, traffic flows of shoppers currently leaving the study area to shop at the existing supermarkets are diffuse, leaving from a multitude of locations and taking a variety of routes to a number of different locations. In contrast, the traffic flows of shoppers going to the proposed store from within and without the immediate area will be focussed onto a very small number of roads, all concentrated on the proposed site. In particular, Station Road will take the major increase in traffic flows. This will have a significant effect on the Station Road/Grove Road/Widney Road junction, with most traffic from Bentley Heath and Knowle passing around the roundabout which is forecast to be operating at close to capacity.

Delivery vehicles

The impact of delivery/service vehicles on the road network and traffic flows is notably completely absent from the Transport Assessment. The only document that mentions them is the Service Yard Management Plan. This is a major omission as the impact of heavy goods vehicles, especially full size articulated vehicles, is much greater than that of light vehicles.

We recognise that the intended route for Sainsbury delivery vehicles would avoid Knowle High Street, for which we are grateful. However they will then travel along Station Road to Dorridge, passing through the very tight roundabout at the Station Road/Grove Road/Widney Road junction, which will be under great pressure. Observation of the very few large HGVs that currently use this roundabout will readily identify the problems they have negotiating it.

As is well known, most students at Arden School walk to and from school. The great majority of them walk along Station Road which is very narrow for a main road and has particularly narrow pavements, especially on its southern side, resulting in a great risk of students spilling out onto the roadway. This significant increase in heavy vehicles and shopper traffic traversing the narrow Station Road at the time it is in use by students is a clear hazard which must be avoided or, at the very least, greatly mitigated.

If permission were granted for this development we would request a Condition that the timings of delivery vehicles would avoid the start and finish of the school days at both Arden Academy and the Dorridge schools. A similar condition should be applied on Sunday mornings due to the congregation at St George & St Teresa’s Church parking on Station Rd.
We note that permission is sought for deliveries to be made between 05:00 and 23:00. This is a completely excessive period in a residential area, with the lorries travelling along Station Rd. possibly even before and after these times, which are when the service yard would be open. If permission were granted for this development we would request a Condition that the Service Yard should only be open between 08:00 and 21:00 during weekdays and 09:00 and 16:00 on Sundays and Bank Holidays,

Impact on the Knowle Conservation Area

The expectation of the developers is for 9 main deliveries per day (including Saturday and Sunday) from Sainsbury’s depots plus an unknown number of ad-hoc deliveries. Each of these will involve a return journey through parts of Knowle, resulting in some 18+ trips through the village. Part of the route of these lorries would be through the Conservation Area on Station Road. Much of the increased shoppers’ traffic would also pass through this Area on both the High Street and Station Road. The application has taken no account of the impact of the increased traffic on the (whole of the) Knowle Conservation Area and therefore should fail under the terms of PPS5, Policy HE6.

All these factors point to a real need to eliminate or at least drastically reduce the impact on Knowle of the additional traffic caused by any major development, such as that proposed, even if that means a radical reduction in the size of the development.

While the current plans for delivery vehicles avoid Knowle High Street, they still involve significant disturbance and hazard to the residents of Station Road and to pupils of Arden Academy and Dorridge Schools. The best option for mitigation of these problems is for all delivery vehicles to travel from Junction 4 of the M42, down the Stratford Road and into Dorridge from Hockley Heath. This would be a simpler and shorter route for the delivery vehicles and would avoid them passing through Balsall Common and Chadwick End. The Stratford Road is suitable for such vehicles and they would have minimal impact on Hockley Heath and Dorridge. We understand the reason given for not favouring this option is the height of the railway bridge at Dorridge. However this has a reasonable 4 metre height limit which would be sufficient for vehicles which met the European standard for HGVs and which could be used for all deliveries. While this might cause some inconvenience for Sainsbury in that they might have to use slightly smaller vehicles, we do not see why all the inconvenience (and danger) should be imposed on Knowle and residents of Station Road. If the problems for Sainsbury in using such smaller vehicles are said to be too great, then the clearance under the railway bridge should be increased at their cost.

We reiterate that we see the need to improve Forest Court and a modest supermarket there might well be an acceptable option. However the total impact of the current proposal on Knowle and its surroundings would be such that it cannot possibly be allowed to go ahead as currently planned and we therefore formally object to the planning application.

Yours sincerely,

Leighton Jones
On behalf of The Knowle Society
Cc Ward Councillors.

Society hits BBC1 1pm news

Leighton Jones, chairman of the Society’s planning committee was interviewed by the BBC at Knowle Locks in response to the government’s announcement yesterday (26 July 2011) of new national planning policies.

This interview took place at Knowle locks because of the current appeal hearing against the recent planning refusal for a new marina to be constructed at the locks. Also interviewed was the appellant, Medhi Modiri of Somerville Homes.

Organisations like the National Trust felt that these new policies may lead to a presumption too far in favour of developers to the detriment of the countryside and against the wishes of local communities.

Leighton’s in his much cut-down interview stated “It will be very much the role of local authorities to prove that development is inappropriate rather than the other way round and I fear that might swing the balance too far.”

Stripes Hill Marina – Appeal hearing update

Alan Beadle of Stripes Hill Farm has supplied this commentary on the progress of the enquiry to date. Although The Knowle Society is itself opposing the appeal against refusal of the Planning Application, the views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Society.

This commentary has been edited and reduced, with permission, from that kindly supplied by Mr Beadle. Anyone wishing to comment is welcome to respond directly in the Forum on the right of this page.

The enquiry into the proposed marina at Stripes Hill Farm started on Tuesday 12 July.  On the first day the general public/local residents submitted hard copies of a number of papers to the inspector summarising what we wished to speak about.  Over the four days several more people expressed an interest in speaking and added their notes to the files of papers to be considered by the inspector.

Towards the end of the enquiry the inspector said that residents will have the opportunity to make a closing statement, preferably a joint statement so that it is coherent and does not repeat too much; however, it is not an opportunity to bring in new evidence or new questions. 

There has been so much evidence provided that time ran out and the enquiry has been adjourned. It restarts on 7 September for three days till 9 September.

 

During this time there will be two more expert witnesses for the appellant: Mr Cobb on planning matters and Mr Duckenfield on need.  Lawrence Osborne for the Council also has to complete his evidence.  Others will be speaking on Need and other matters.  Ms Sharif the barrister for SMBC will also have some time for cross examination of the appellant’s witnesses.  There may be a chance for anyone who has not yet spoken to do so if they wish.  There will be “summing up” statements from all parties.  There will also a session on “conditions” which may be attached to planning approval if the inspector decides to allow it.  These cover the details of the way the scheme would be implemented as well as controls on what is allowed to happen after it opens.

 

The Enquiry Part 1

 

Proceedings started with the inspector explaining the rules (who can speak, when and how, etc.).  She then set out what she understood where the key issues to be addressed by the enquiry.  The council and the appellant had submitted a paper describing what they call “common ground” – issues and facts which both sides accept and therefore do not need to be addressed further; that is not to say that the public cannot question these topics but, with the two main parties having agreed them, any new evidence from the public would need to be very compelling.

 

Opening statements where then made by the barristers for the Somerville Homes (the developer/appellant), Mr Cahill, and for Solihull MBC Ms Sharif.

 

Mr Eastwood, who was appearing as an expert witness for SMBC then started his evidence on impact on the green belt, the landscape and “openness”.  He gave a good account of the council’s position on these aspects making particular reference to the urbanising effect, the size and height of the development and how it will impact on properties around the site and the public views from Knowle Locks and elsewhere.

 

After lunch, Mike Beach, who lives on Kenilworth Road presented the slides of the before and after views of what will be seen by whom and from where.  These were very impressive being put up on a large screen for the inspector to see.  There was also a 2.4 m long panorama mounted on a board strategically positioned in the room for the whole 4 days.  At the end of his presentation Mike was questioned by the appellant’s barrister, Mr Cahill.  He tried to diminish the images, suggesting they did not show true views.  It was however, agreed that the inspector would visit “receptors” (those places which can see the marina site) and decide for herself what the true impact will be.

 

The first day finished with Lawrence Osborne, SMBC’s second expert witness who would talk on planning issues, and the “very special circumstances” put forward by the appellant.  He brought in the decision and evidence used at the unsuccessful Grove Farm enquiry, described how the marina fails to meet various planning policies and guidelines, he questioned a number of points made by the expert witnesses for the appellant, particularly the need case being put forward in his written evidence by Mr Duckenfield (he has not yet appeared).  Lawrence also mentioned that a 199 berth marina has recently been approved on the Worcester & Staffs canal, thus reducing the need for a marina in Solihull. A distinction was drawn between need and generating demand – a bit like building a new road – if you build a new road people will use it.

 

At the start of day 2 Mr Cahill raised a request for an adjournment complaining that the appellant had not been given time to consider the evidence on “need” submitted by Alan BeadleHe had produced a 60 page report on the case put forward for “need”.  In particular, he had undertaken a survey of nearly 100 marinas around the West Midlands and asked how many mooring vacancies they had.  The results of this survey in March 2011 showed that there are more than 1300 empty berths around the area and this could completely undermine the case of the appellant on an important point of their case.  The inspector agreed to an adjournment – hence, all evidence on “need” will now be heard in September (07/09 to 09/09). 

The running order then turned to Residents:

Mitch Withey from Heronfield Animal Rescue Centre on Warwick Road then spoke about the fauna on the site which will be displaced by the proposed development, in particular the Badgers who live there.

Steve Verrall, the owner of Batts Hall gave a personal statement about the considerable impact the view from his new home will suffer.

Stella Jarman was next to talk on the flora on the site a harm on the historic landscape and hedgerows which the landscaping and planting proposals will have.

Leighton Jones representing the Knowle Society gave a very reasoned argument explaining why they and the greater residents of Knowle thought the marina was a bad idea and would be of little benefit to our local community.  Leighton was able to draw in facts gained from a survey of local businesses, a survey of boat owners at the Black Boy Cruising Club and a survey of boats using the locks.  One of the tests which this development must pass is that the benefits outweigh the harm.

Ian West who lives at Bottom Lock Cottage gave a short presentation – he is a boater himself and but appeared to be ambivalent about a marina at this location – yes he felt moorings were needed but he was concerned about the noise this development might generate and the impact this would have on his home.  His intervention may well be key in gaining a concession on the use of power tools at the site.

In the afternoon Mr Greenway, the appellant’s expert witness on landscape and visual impact, started his evidence. He struggled during the cross-examination by Ms Sharif to justify some of the proposals and suggested that some of the plans would need amending, perhaps after permission was granted.

 

Day three and Mr Greenway was back for “re-direct” questioning by Mr Cahill. This didn’t take long 

Public witnesses then continued – Mr Johnson from Heronfield hire spoke passionately about his concerns for flooding, dismissing the EA statements of reassurance on the subject as people who didn’t know what actually happens on the ground.

 

Gill Akehurst who lives near the site, spoke of her strong concerns for safety and security, particularly for her two young children who currently are able to use the yard and access track to the farm as a play ground – it is currently a cul-de-sac leading to three houses, but with the development it will have 50 – 70 vehicles an hour going up and down it at a weekend.

 

Gill Griggs a resident of Knowle gave a detailed and in some places technical argument about how the proposed development would be harmful to the green belt and how the evidence submitted by the appellant did not meet the various planning policy statements and guidelines. 

 

Anne Wilson Ramsey who lives on the Warwick Road spoke next.  She gave a very reasoned argument about how the appellant’s case did not meet planning guidelines; she mentioned the need for inclusive access, which the developer has failed to show; she argued how, living at the end of the village and immediately adjacent to the start of the green belt, horses are part of the pleasant agricultural scene (the developer had been trying to argue that the gallops in the field adjacent to the marina site were urbanising and hence, would set a precedent for development in the area.  She drew the inspector’s attention to the 160 signature petition which she organised and which demonstrates the strength of local opinion.  Other points raised by her included the locally listed Knowle Locks as well as the other Nationally listed buildings, The Manor House, the cottages on Kenilworth Road, etc. 

 

Roger Buxton was the last person to speak.  He presented a paper on local need within Solihull for moorings and compared this with findings from walking all the canals in Solihull to see precisely how many berths are currently available.  This showed that there are more moorings than boat owners in Solihull.  Roger then went on to describe that the real need was for residential moorings in urban locations for people who wish to live full time on their boats – this is something the proposed marina does not and cannot offer.  His evidence as a former boater was very helpful.

 

In addition to all the above presentations the inspector spent some time (two full afternoons) visiting the site and numerous “receptor” locations including:

Stripes Hill Farm where five houses front onto the access road;

1724 Warwick Road to see the limit of the green belt and the currently unspoilt rural outlook – with a plea not to allow creeping expansion of the urban area;

170 Kenilworth Road to see how much of the marina can be seen from a typical view point affecting all the residents along the south side of the road;

Top Lock View and a walk down the tow path to just beyond the marina, including climbing over the locks and down the western side on the grass picnic area;

Home Farm – they see the site clearly from their yard and their upstairs rooms;

Watery Lane & Cuttle Pool Lane & footpath;

Heronfield, Herons Nest and the Kings Arms Bridge;

The footpath up to Lansdowne Farm;

The new Batts Hall.

The inspector has also independently visited the village to judge the need for “regeneration” and the benefits which the marina might bring to local business.