A charity looking to build an MS therapy centre and respite care facility on land adjacent to Wheatfield Primary School has won its appeal against South Gloucestershire Council’s (SGC’s) decision to refuse planning permission.
Permission to build the therapy centre was granted in November 2009, subject to a condition that the site be accessed exclusively from Bradley Stoke Way – following scores of objections from residents of Wheatfield Drive who feared that the alternative of allowing access via their street would worsen already-existing traffic issues in their neighbourhood.
But when the charity later submitted plans for a respite care facility on another part of the site, the proposed access switched to Wheatfield Drive because, it was said, fibre optic cables had been discovered running immediately beneath the line of the proposed access road off Bradley Stoke Way.
A BBC article at the time said it would cost an astonishing £1 million to move the cables, which the charity said it couldn’t afford.
SGC failed to issue a decision on the revised access plans within the stipulated eight-week period, leading to the application being referred to the Planning Inspectorate.
Despite the referral, Councillors on SGC’s Development Contol (West) Committee went on to consider the application and finally voted to reject it in late June. That decision was made against the advice of the Council’s officers, who had concluded that the access proposals were:
“safe … and would not result in a material impact upon highway safety and amenity.”
Bradley Stoke Town Council’s Planning Committee had previously voted unanimously to reject the application and residents’ concerns were supported by local MP Jack Lopresti.
In the decision report published yesterday, the Inspector says:
Overall, I conclude … that vehicle movements associated with the proposed development would not unacceptably affect the safety and convenience of road users in the area and would not unacceptably affect the living conditions of residents in the surrounding area.
The Inspector specifically dismisses a number of statements made by Councillors in justifying their decision.
Their claim that traffic predictions ignored “environmental capacity” is dismissed because the term was not properly defined and no assessment of the scheme according to it was provided.
Similarly, the Inspector says that Councillors’ claims that the living conditions of residents would be harmed were not backed up with specific details.
In a separate decision on a claim for costs of the appeal proceedings by the appellant against SGC, the Inspector concludes that:
“… unreasonable behaviour resulting in unnecessary expense … has been demonstrated and that a full award of costs is justified.”
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