A controversial planning application for the construction of a respite care centre on land off Wheatfield Drive has gone to appeal after South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) failed to determine the case within the required eight week period.
The application, registered with SGC on 26th February, angered local residents and Town Councillors because it altered access arrangements established in an earlier application for an MS therapy centre on the same site.
That earlier application, decided in November 2009, stated that access to the site would be from Bradley Stoke Way rather than Wheatfield Drive.
The applicant, Perpetual Legacy acting on behalf of the Moonstone Appeal, now says that the presence of an underground oil pipleine running along the edge of Bradley Stoke Way makes access from that side of the site “unviable”.
The u-turn resulted in 23 objections being lodged against the latest application, including one from Bradley Stoke Town Council saying that access from Wheatfield Drive would “result in an unacceptable increase in traffic movement through this already congested area”.
With SGC failing to make a decision on the case by its target date of 23rd April, the applicant has now submitted an appeal (on 30th April) to the Planning Inspectorate on the grounds of “non determination”.
It has urged the Inspectorate to make a decision within its nominal 16-week timescale so that planning approval, if granted, can be obtained by September, which it says is a condition of grant funding.
The case summary page [ref: APP/P0119/A/10/2128164] on the Planning Inspectorate website states that statements and representations must be made before 24th June with a cut-off of 15th July for final comments.
The Journal has so far been unable to obtain an official statement from SGC regarding the reasons for the Council failing to decide the case. We were promised a statement by Wednesday last week but nothing was forthcoming by Friday.
In a bizarre twist, the case appeared on SGC’s Circulated Schedule last Thursday (13th May), with a recommendation from planning officers that the application be approved. However, the advice is preceded by the following rider:
“The Local Planning Authority can no longer determine this application and as such a formal decision cannot be issued by South Gloucestershire Council. The following report sets out the officer assessment and recommendation as it would have been had the application not been appealed.”
Conservative South Gloucestershire Councillors for Bradley Stoke (Brian Hopkinson, Sarah Pomfret, John Ashe and Robert Jones) issued the following statement to The Journal on Friday (14th May):
“Although this would be a worthwhile facility, a number of residents have expressed concerns about the application, particularly the issue of access.”
“We understand that the applicant has appealed on the grounds that a decision on their first application by South Gloucestershire Council has not been reached quick[ly] enough and that a second identical application has now been registered today by the council’s planning department and which will be subject to the same eight week target for determination.”
“We hope that efforts will be made by the applicant to allay the concerns held by residents.”
In the meantime, the Moonstone Appeal’s chairman Michael Gelder has pleaded with those opposing the application to “think of the benefits to those who are really suffering from this dreadful illness [MS]”, according to a recent article on the BBC Bristol website.
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