(DEBATE ON reading out the entire letter from Councillor Feis-Bryce). Mr. Rezaie expressed that matters of a material planning consideration had been summarised in his forthcoming presentation. Members pursued the Chair to have the whole document to be read out, the Chair refused and instead opted to adjourn the meeting for 5 minutes to allow members to read the document.
Mr. Rezaie outlined the details of the application to members and explained that certain planning matters had already been judged to be acceptable in principle at a previous planning committee and that the current determining issues should be focused on the marketing aspect.
Mr. Rezaie outlined the site constraints material to the application site, summarising those as ‘’other employment’’; ‘Floodrisk Zones 2-3’ and a ‘PTAL rating 1/2'.
Mr. Rezaie outlined particulars of the existing and proposed Change of Use, the
accompanying design alterations, both at elevation and floor plan. He explained that
previous and current consultation with statutory bodies/authorities had resulted in no
objections being raised, however there had been objections from nearby residents and a non-statutory body.
Mr. Rezaie gave brief response to the written objections received, steering members to relevant sections from the officers report which addressed concerns raised. Principally, and on the topic of marketing, Mr. Rezaie highlighted the applicants efforts, the period by which he had marketed the site for with no success in generating interest for their current use, stipulating that the marketing evidence provided demonstrated that a long and extensive process had been carried out which from a planning policy perspective those efforts far exceeded the minimum local plan policy requirements, which subsequently aligned with national guidance.
Mr. Rezaie commented on the late objection letter which had been received by Councillor Bryce, expressing that he could only regard comments from a material planning perspective, that some comments were unsubstantiated and non-material. Mr. Rezaie expressed that consideration of the marketing report had been dealt with within paragraphs 6.9-6.11 of the original report. That the applicant had provided copies of all sales literature, which unequivocally accorded with Paras. 2.75 and 7.76 of the justification for DM Policy 11 and relevant paras under Para. 2.152 from DM Policy 20.
Mr. Rezaie outlined that officers remained satisfied that due marketing steps had been taken and evidence provided. Based no new material planning considerations raised since members last resolved to grant planning permission on the same application in February, officers recommended to members that approval should remain unchanged and that planning permission be granted without delay subject to legal agreement and imposition of conditions.
Councillor Gallagher queried the reason for appeal to be allowed in June and Councillor Penfold indicated that some of the factual information in the officer’s report regarding amenities (restaurants and cafes) nearby are incorrect. Mr. Rezaie explained that the principle of this weighed against access to services, and that the relevant statutory authority in this regard the Highways had been consulted and officer’s recommendation aligned on those consultations.
Councillor Gibbons made reference to the local plan core strategy and stated that the
proposal is contrary to the aims and objectives of the local plan for the area.
Mr. Rezaie responded by indicating that local plan policies and national guidance allow for Change of Use applications to take effect when sites become unviable/unsustainable, but only if it has been successfully demonstrated that all marketing criteria’s had been carried out and to a satisfactory degree, which in this case had.
Councillor Sheikh asked about provision of social housing/affordable homes in the proposed application. Mr. Rezaie expressed that there are no such planning policy requirements for development of under 10 units.
Councillor Sheikh expressed discontent that provision of social housing/affordable homes could not be applied here.
Councillor Penfold asked for points of clarification regarding DM 9 & 10
Mr. Rezaie responded by expressing that those policies were not relevant to the site in question as they related to mixed-use employment locations and the site is now dedesignated and now outlined as ‘’other employment’’ and only policy DM11 applies.
Councillor Krupski raised the question of lack effective marketing which would pave the way to change of use into residential.
Mr. Rezaie explained that policies DM 11 & 20 determines the effectiveness of marketing, which prescribes 36 months to be undertaken in which in this case the applicant had covered 96 months’ worth of effective marketing which adhered to both policy requirements.
The chair invited the property owners to speak for 5 minutes.
Mr. Simon Fowler planning agent for the property owners confirmed the proposal and askedthe Committee to agree with the officer’s recommendation.
4.19. Mr. Hensher the property owner introduced the company which owns the site as a mainoffice space operators in (20 years) Lewisham. They had acquired the concerned propertyas office space but have been unable to commercialize it due to various reasons such asinfrastructure and access. They have not been able to negotiate directly with Catford folkswho have objected to the proposed change of use.
Councillor Gibbons pointed out that information about the potential of the site was inaccurate as there were two shops nearby, and that the site had been unsuitable for the purpose it was originally bought. Discussion took place around marketing strategy by agent and Councillors Smith, Penfold.
Councillor Sheikh asked questions surrounding the applicant’s motives for purchasing the premises, and if an alternative use other than residential had or could be considered, such as shops, faces...artist studios etc. The property owner explained that as they are office space developers, other activity has not been considered.
Councillor Smith expressed discontent over green space provision, internal space
standards, and questioned ceiling heights within the units, and crime and safety.
4.23. Mr. Rezaie responded to points raised around green space provision, xpressing that it was not a planning policy requirement to provide open green space for a proposal of this scale/density. Mr. Rezaie made further emphasis that the applicant’s motives/intensions are not material planning considerations, nor should ceiling heights be as this is covered by Building Control. Mr. Rezaie further expressed that the proposed units all exceeded the minimum internal space standard in accordance with Nationally Described Space Standards 2015.
Mr. Rezaie also emphasised that residential developments will come equipped with "secure by design" principles, implemented by way of condition which would ultimately improve aspects of public realm and crime/safety measures.
Councillor Smith questioned the validity of arguments in favour of change of use to
residential, primarily on grounds of internal space standard, open green space rovision, ceiling heights and crime/safety concerns, shifting members to refuse.
Mr. Rezaie suggested that perhaps decision could be deferred till after a site visit by
Councillors. Also that members need be mindful of an earlier committee’s decision to
approve the scheme in February, and that only marketing matters need be deliberated further.
Councillor Gallagher explained that it was a different committee which had approved that scheme and they now wanted to review the whole scheme.
Mr. Rezaie advised that there is an appeal in place at the moment and the implication of such appeal is that the inspector would take the previous committees decision into
consideration and that members need to be mindful of this.
Councillor Smith suggests to differ the application and suggested that maybe a site visit would be beneficial.
Mr. Chau the legal counsel advised on the appeal process and its impact on the decision and recommend that in order to establish a solid decision when there are not enough documentation or local knowledge regarding the area, the motion to conduct a site visit would be recommended and decisions deferred until after a site visit. Mr Chau further informed the meeting to be mindful of the time table of the next committee and delays in decision.
Discussion took place and it was decided that before voting to defer involving Councillors, Moore, Mallory, Sheikh, Penfold and the legal advice requested. Mr. Chau explained that planning inspector intervention can be quite long but it is something that can be expedited. Then councillor Sheikh insisted the objectors should present their objection in 5 minutes.
A discussion took place on whether there needs to be a vote on site visit, and also if in that case objectors need to present to this meeting or not. Finally Councillor Smith proposed a motion to defer the application until after a site visit. This motion was seconded by councillor Mallory.
However without vote taken on the motion to defer on councillors Gibbons and Sheikh the objectors were invited to present their case as they have been waiting all this time.
Ms. Lynskey spoke as the chair of Catford Folk, indicating that the area is one of the poorest in Lewisham and that this change of use application does not suit the area, as it will cause loss of employment space forever.
Councillor Kelleher mentioned the history of discussions with the developer and made a statement against change of use on the grounds that marketing has not been proper.
Councillor Gallagher asked Mr. Rezaie about their options, the implication of their decision in this committee against the pending appeal.
Mr. Rezaie explained the flexibility behind deferring for a site visit, which could take account of the appeal timeframe so the scheme would be presented before the next committee. He also explained that at appeal, any appraisal by an inspectorate would be weighed against the earlier committee decision which recommended to approve and the current policy standpoint, and that an overturned refusal would have cost implications for the council.
Councillor Gallagher was satisfied with the clarification, but moved to reject officer’s
recommendation. Councillor Penfold seconded.
Councillor Gallagher could not draw a refusal reason, expressing that the minutes should be used.
Mr. Chau pointed out that the reason for the rejection of Officer’s recommendation should be stated.
Mr. Rezaie supported Mr. Chau that a refusal reason should be provided, and reiterated that refusal on grounds of insufficient space standard and/or marketing may not uphold at appeal as officers considered those aspects to be policy compliant. 4.42. The motion for refusal was put to the committee on the grounds that it breaches DM 9 and 10 and it is contrary to Core strategy 4, 5 & 7b. Mr. Chau requested that the actual wording of reasons for refusals to be delegated to the officers.
All Councillors voted against the officer’s recommendation and the application was refused,
Councillor Ogunbadewa (Chair), Councillor Penfold (Vice-chair), Councillor Gallagher, Councillor Gibbons, Councillor Krupski, Councillor Mallory, Councillor Moore, Councillor Sheikh, Councillor Smith.