Agenda item

22/P/00687 - Lancaster Volvo Garage, Guildford, Pirbright, Woking GU24 0LW


Prior to consideration of the application, the following persons addressed the Committee in accordance with Public Speaking Procedure Rules 3(b):


·         Councillor Mark Watson (Pirbright Parish Council) (to object);

·         Mr Dermot Main (to object) and;

·         Mr Charles Slaughter (MD of Squire Furneaux (in support)


The Committee considered the above-mentioned full application for erection of workshop / MOT facility and new valet following demolition of existing workshop / MOT facility and valet structures.  Refurbishment of existing showroom, new façade and associated external works.


The Committee received a presentation from the Planning Officer, Kieran Cuthbert.  The Committee noted that the garage was located on the southern side of the Pirbright Village area, the north side was within the Conservation Area, and the garage itself was just outside but within the Green Belt.  The main changes proposed to the floor plans included a slight increase in depth and a slight decrease in width.  The square area of footprint had altered from 1205m² to 1210m², which equated to an overall increase of roughly 0.4%.  The main change to be made was to the parapet roof which was fairly modest in terms of its depth.  The bulk of the building behind the parapet was unaltered on the north side and reduced in scale.  In 2018 an application for a similar and larger parapet was approved.  It was argued that the parapet would create a more cohesive roof shape than the existing multiple pitches.  The proposed valet building at the rear of the site was larger than the existing valet building with a 79% increase in floor area.  However, a number of outbuildings will be replaced which will give the rear of the site a less cluttered appearance.  The proposed valet building will run along the main building as opposed to the current buildings which are set further back.  The works were considered to be redevelopment of previously developed land which was one of the exceptions to allow for development within the Green Belt. 


One of the main concerns raised regarding this application was for the parking onsite.  It was important to note that both access points would be retained, with far more space on the northern side.  There was no great increase in scale to the site and there was no indication that the proposal would increase the amount of business onsite.  Employee parking would also be increased from 75 to 91 spaces which equated to a 21% increase.  At the site visit, concerns had been raised regarding the loss of one of an outbuilding which provided screening to a neighbouring property.  The applicant had subsequently confirmed that a 2.5 metre fence would be erected to provide adequate screening. 


The existing access and exit points onsite would not be altered and the works proposed would result in a net increase in parking onsite.  Both customer and staff car park spaces would be accessible when deliveries were taking place.  There was also ample room for delivery vehicles onsite.  Given the 0.4% increase in scale of the proposed building, the siting of the proposed valet building to the side, as well as the modest changes to the front of the building, the proposed changes overall were considered to be acceptable.  Parking issues in the local area was an existing concern and was not one that was related to the proposed works.  Given the proposed parking plan would offset any increased need for parking, planning officers were satisfied that no new parking issues would arise from the proposed developments.  As per NPPF paragraph 81, significant weight should be placed on the need to support economic growth and productivity, taking into account both local business needs and wider opportunities for development.  The proposal was therefore recommended for approval subject to conditions.


The Chairman commented that Planning Committee had attended a site visit the day previously.


The Chairman permitted Councillor Keith Witham to speak for three minutes in his capacity as ward councillor as well as the Surrey County Councillor representing Pirbright for over ten years.


The Committee noted concerns raised that the Volvo Garage had been a source of regular and ongoing concerns and complaints from residents regarding inconsiderate and obstructive parking, particularly caused by the loading and unloading of vehicle trailers.  The application sought to redesign the premises through enabling an expansion or intensification of its business activities.  However, the space allocated to vehicle trailers was insufficient and the conditions suggested by officers were not enforceable.  The comments from Surrey County Council’s Transport Development Team was from their perspective a relatively minor application, but it was not a minor application for the residents who would be affected on a daily basis, many of whom would like the application rejected.  Pirbright Parish Council had very reasonably asked for some extra wording on two conditions to be added, if the Committee were minded to give consent.  Pirbright Parish Council would prefer a short deferral, if possible, to enable their concerns and extra conditions to be discussed with officers, Surrey County Council and the applicant.  However, if the Committee wished to deal with the application tonight, it had suggested two extra specific extended conditions, condition 3 with the extra words that ‘all staff parking shall be specifically identified and retained in perpetuity for such use’ and ‘no additional stock or other vehicles would be stored onsite other than in the marked bays shown on the approved plans.  No stock shall be parked outside of the site within the local area’.  In addition to condition 4 ‘maintained free from obstruction for their designated purposes and all servicing and unloading/loading shall be undertaken within the site’.  The suggested additional wording was justified by Section 9 of promoting sustainable transport of the National Planning Policy Framework 2021.  These issues should not prove to be a problem to the business, the Committee was asked to discuss and add to any consent.  It would help future enforcement officers when looking at what had been granted as without tougher conditions the problems would continue to get worse.


The Chairman, Councillor Fiona White reminded the Committee that it could only consider the application before it and could not solve an existing parking problem.  In response to comments made by the public speakers and ward councillor, the planning officer, Kieran Cuthbert confirmed that issues in relation to biodiversity had been addressed by condition.  The scale of the site was considered to be acceptable given the proposal would increase the footprint by 0.4% only.  The level of staff parking provision was indicated and was also considered appropriate.  Planning officers had also assessed the impact on the Conservation Area and the Listed Buildings were considered far enough away that the proposal would not impact them.  A very similar application was approved in 2018 and the only visible change was the proposed roofscape which would be a lot more coherent rather than multiple pitched roofs.  With regard to the proposals impact upon the Green Belt, the site would pertain to be a redevelopment of previously developed land and only represented a 0.4% increase in footprint.  The proposal was therefore quantifiable as redevelopment as it would not exceed the site area or the currently developed parts of the site.  Much of the roof had also been reduced in height as was shown in the elevations and therefore mitigated against any harm caused by the parapet roof.  A Flood Risk Assessment had been submitted with the application and no flood concerns were identified and had been included in the conditions along with the Fire Risk Assessment.


The Committee discussed the application and wanted to receive confirmation that it would be conditioned to ensure that the applicant provided the 2.5 metre fence proposed between a resident’s property and the site.  Clarification was also sought on how drainage would be managed, in light of comments made that a ditch had been filled in.  It was noted that condition 9 addressed biodiversity and Green Belt issues were negligible given the small increase in footprint on previously developed land.  The wording of condition 4 in relation to the loading and unloading of vehicles within the site should be looked at and made clearer. 


The Committee also noted further comments that the principle of re-development of the site was well established.  Concerns were though expressed regarding conditions applied in relation to biodiversity given that there had not been any kind of ecological assessment of biodiversity net gain included in the application.  Notwithstanding that the principle of redevelopment was acceptable, clarification was sought as to whether the application could be deferred as requested by the Parish Council.  The installation of the 2.5 metre fence was again referred to and the requirement for it to be mandated by condition.  Stronger wording was also suggested around the enforceability of biodiversity net gain.  Also, whether time limitations on hours of construction could be applied so that works only took place during socially acceptable hours.  Support was also expressed for the conditions requested by the Parish Council in relation to ensuring that the staff parking facilities were maintained in perpetuity as well as in relation to the loading and unloading of vehicles to be undertaken onsite and in forward gear.


The Committee noted comments that there was no reason to defer or refuse the application.  The County Highways Authority did not object to the scheme subject to the submitted parking and traffic plan.  Empathy was expressed for local residents who did not want a Volvo Garage in the village, but this was not something that could be considered in planning terms.  The scheme was modest and represented an improvement upon what was already in existence and support was expressed for the Volvo business in improving their site subject to the strict wording of conditions. 


The Committee noted further comments in favour of the site being updated.  Concern was expressed regarding the traffic management plan proposed and whether lorries unloading vehicles would end up doing so on the main road causing a safety issue which would necessitate the employment of enforcement officers.  The Committee noted surprise that neither the local residents nor Parish Council had been formally consulted about the scheme by the Volvo Garage so that practical solutions could be found to concerns raised.  Concern was noted about the biodiversity net gain and why planning officers had not insisted upon this being more clearly defined.  Concern about flood risk was also raised given that the ditch had been filled and the requirement for the installation of the 2.5 metre fence to screen a resident’s property had to be clearly stipulated to be fulfilled by the applicant.  The level of light would also be affected by the installation of the higher roof and solid.


The Committee noted further sympathy for the local residents regarding the Volvo Garage which was a commercial enterprise in the Green Belt.  Support was expressed for the proposal to have high fencing installed where the current service points were being demolished at the back.  Concern was noted regarding the delivery of vehicles on huge lorries with a large number of cars on the back of them who could potentially offload and load vehicles on the roadside.  It was anticipated that the proposed space for this activity would not be large enough even with the removal of the 5 cars designated on the plan.  Legal advice was sought as to what the Committee could do to ensure that the conditions were strengthened to ensure that all activity regarding the offloading and loading of vehicles took place onsite.  No purpose was perceived for the proposed parapet.  Whilst a similar application was approved in 2018, the Committee should be mindful of the conditions suggested by the Parish Council. 


The Team Leader, Gemma Fitzpatrick responded to comments made so far by the Committee.  In relation to biodiversity net gain, it was not unusual to require this by condition.  Planning officers were satisfied that the ability to provide a biodiversity net gain was achievable and the condition was asking for those details for subsequent approval.  Construction time limits in relation to surrounding residential property was addressed by condition 6 which required a Construction Transport Management Plan and would provide control over those issues.  In relation to the suggested amendments to conditions 3 and 4 which had been suggested by Pirbright Parish Council, planning officers did not have a problem with the additional wording regarding ‘all staff parking spaces shall be specifically identified and maintained in perpetuity for such use’.  However, planning officers did have an issue with the following sentence that ‘no additional stock or other vehicles shall be stored on the site other than in the marked bays shown on the approved plans’.   Conditions were required to be precise, and no additional stock was not quantifiable.  The sentence continued to state that ‘no stock shall be parked outside of the site within the local area’.  This did not meet the tests of a condition as planning officers could not condition activities taking place outside of the sites red line.  As far as the amendment to condition 3, it was considered not unreasonable to add that all staff parking was to be identified and retained, but planning officers strongly advised against the additional sentence. In relation to condition 4, the Highway Authority had assessed the application in terms of highway safety, therefore if members were minded to recommend the additional wording that officers and the Chairman consulted with the Highway Authority regarding their recommended condition.


The Legal Advisor, Delwyn Jones confirmed that conditions were drafted with the law and the six tests in mind, so the Highway Authority who proffered them included the requirements of precision, enforceability and reasonableness. The Highway Authority may therefore consider that the conditions cannot be improved as they are legally compliant and enforceable already.  When enforcing conditions and highway safety, there’s also a range of legal powers available such as enforcement notices, stop notices, breach of conditions notices which carry a combination of fines and court action.  If the breach was especially serious, there was the possibility of an injunction which carried a fine and the possibility of a prison sentence.  It was accepted that this was theoretical and was dependent upon the facts, circumstances and evidence.  However, if as it was claimed that we are powerless to enforce conditions, there were still options capable of implementation and dependent upon circumstances.  In relation to non-planning enforcement powers these were possessed by the Local County Highway Authority.  Civil remedies may also be available in relation to dangerous situations on the Highway which give rise to civil action.


The planning officer, Kieran Cuthbert confirmed that with regard to the installation of the 2.5 metre fence, it had been included on the plans which were conditioned to be implemented.  With regard to concerns about the loss of light caused by the parapets, the loss of light would only affect the road and planning officers had found that there would be no impact upon neighbouring properties.  The elevations of the parapet were considered by planning officers to be of a modest depth and would not increase the massing to a significant level and had been previously approved as part of the 2018 application.  The filling in of the drainage ditch could not be controlled by planning condition as it fell outside of the site. 


Further clarification was sought by the Committee to confirm if Surrey County Council were made aware of the ditch being filled in as they were responsible for drainage issues.  The Team Leader, Gemma Fitzpatrick confirmed that it did not meet the threshold for the Local Lead Flood Authority to be involved.  


The Committee again requested assurance that a condition could be applied to ensure that deliveries were made off road.  The Team Leader, Gemma Fitzpatrick confirmed that the additional wording for condition 4, as suggested by Pirbright Parish Council would need to be consulted with the Highway Authority as it was an amendment to their condition. 


The Chairman confirmed that she would like to be clear on members’ views on the conditions.  Suggestions had been put forward by Pirbright Parish Council about amendments.  Planning Officers had also stated that in relation to condition 3 they didn’t have any difficulty with the first sentence of the Parish Council’s proposed amendment, but they were not comfortable with the other two.  If a vehicle was legally on the highway there was nothing the Planning Committee could do to stop those vehicles from being legally on the highway.  With condition 4 there was some suggested additional wording from the Parish Council.  As these are conditions imposed by Surrey County Council as the Highway Authority, therefore we should consult on them with myself as Committee Chairman and the local Ward Member Councillor.  


The Committee requested clarification on the second proposed additional sentence, the concern was around precision of no additional stock or other vehicles and that was considered to be too vague and not sufficiently precise.  Would amending it to ‘no vehicles would be stored onsite other than in marked bays’ be sufficiently precise?  The Team Leader, Gemma Fitzpatrick confirmed that it was easy to identify what was meant by that, however it was important to know what the purpose and reason was for the condition? The Committee noted that it was in order to ensure it was maintaining the Parking Management Statement and the Parking Plan, as if they have allocated spaces for these vehicles then it would not seem unreasonable to request that those spaces were used for those vehicles and should not be stored outside of those spaces.


The Team Leader, Gemma Fitzpatrick noted that she was still confused at what the purpose was of the condition.  If the Committee was saying no vehicle was to be stored onsite other than in marked bays shown on the approved plan, then that was easy to identify and suitably precise.  However, given the concern that there was overspill parking, and the garage was using the local highway for parking, it was unclear why the Committee would want to potentially reduce the amount of parking onsite.


The Chairman confirmed that with regard to the amendment to condition 3, the addition of the first sentence from Pirbright Parish Council would be subject to further discussion with Surrey County Council as the Highway Authority, the Chairman of the Planning Committee and the Local Ward Councillor.  The proposed amendment would read that ‘all staff parking spaces shall be specifically identified and retained in perpetuity for such use.’  The Chairman asked for a show of hands which was agreed by the Committee. 


The Chairman confirmed that with regard to the proposed amendment to condition 4 by Pirbright Parish Council, was subject to further discussion with Surrey County Council as the Highway Authority, the Chairman of the Planning Committee and the Local Ward Councillor, to add in the words ‘Free from obstruction for their designated purposes and all servicing and unloading/loading activity shall be undertaken within the site.’  The Chairman asked for a show of hands which was agreed by the Committee.


A motion was moved and seconded to approve application 22/P/00687 which was carried.










Ramsey Nagaty





Colin Cross





Paul Spooner





David Bilbe





Fiona White





Angela Gunning





Ruth Brothwell





Chris Barrass





George Potter





Marsha Moseley





Chris Blow





Maddy Redpath





Pauline Searle











In conclusion, having taken account of the representations received in relation to the application, the Committee


RESOLVED to approve application 22/P/00687 for the reasons as outlined in the report and subject to the discussions as outlined above in relation to the proposed amendments to conditions 3 and 4. 



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