Charity wins appeal in MS therapy centre planning row

MS Therapy Centre - North Elevation

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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  1. At last, the NIMBY protesters have lost their case, with sense and fairness winning through in the end.
    I am proud to live in Bradley Stoke and glad that this wonderful resource will be available for those people with MS who live in the area.


  2. Becky, whilst you might call the residents of Wheatfield who opposed the siting of the entrance to the MS Centre via the Road in which they live, the road which runs outside of their houses where they bring their children up, the road where Wheatfield School, (who also opposed the access) gives access to the many children who go there many accompanied by their parents and then accompanied by teachers who take them on regular walks to the leisure centre, via the many blind bend corners, Nimbys. As a member of the planning commitee which turned this application down I looked long and hard at the plans, the alternatives, the initial permission, the site itself, the proposed and already granted access from Bradley Stoke Way, weighed up the disruption from construction vehicles coming through Wheatfield and Dewfalls for what overall is a large developement. Discussed with well over two hundred people who not only live in the two roads but many others that bring their children to the school. None of these people had any objection to the M.S. Centre but to the access from the Road they live in which not only has to cope with the many houses from what was to have been initially two seperate culd-de-sacs but also from Wheatfield School which often log jams some of the smaller cul-de-sacs which lead in from Wheatfield. I heard many stories from residents where they had been held up for more than an hour due to cars parked across their drives and one resident that urgently needed an ambulance which just could not get through to his home resulting in a knock on affect to his health due to a lengthened emergency. Any more traffic to this Road would have been avoided had the M.S. Centre come in from Bradley Stoke Way. A recommendation had been made by a South Glos planning officer that it would be less dangerous for traffic to come in through Wheatfield or Dewfalls rather than Bradley Stoke Way. This statement was made as he felt that the traffic was better to continue flowing in Bradley Stoke Way at uniterrupted high speed, rather than utilising the slower road of Wheatfield. What is obvious that it will be more dangerous for the residents and children living in and using Dewfalls and Wheatfeld with the additional traffic. Some very large ones whilst the building operations go ahead. In my view using a bit of lateral thinking keeping the access in Bradley Stoke Way would have given an opportunity to slow the speed down of this Road. The access point is not far from the crossing from the Willow Brook shopping centre across to Champ-sur-Marne and the Leisure Centre and Community School. I asked for cross sections of the proposed original access which had been costed and agreed at a much earlier time for the Bradley Stoke Way entrance. From what I could see there was not a problem to bridge the buried cables which the M.S. centre siad would cost a million pounds to move. As a planning committee member I had asked to see those estimates and see a report justifying the amount stated, time was given for this prior to the main committee decision day but it was never produced. I just hope your so called Nimbys never need to find an accident or death has occurred outside of their homes, due to visitors/patients coming to the centre, running late for appointments but not slowing down to an appropriate level to the the unfamilar area they are entering. The M.S. centre already had permission in my view they have only saved themselves the cost of the new entrance which had already been built into their plan some while ago. An expert report was submitted by South Glos to the Planning Insoectorate who decided this appeal. It was very comprehensive and it concluded quite definately that this new access should not be granted. Bradley Stoke and South Glos Cllr Brian Hopkinson

  3. Personally living in Wheatfield Drive and my child attend the school I dont have a problem with the MS Centre itself but the access and traffic issues, anyone who knows the road for school drop off and pick up knows how ridiculous the parking is, let alone with additional vehicles and construction vehicles.

    Also there is the question of the additional unit on site that hasnt as yet as its use disclosed? Respite for families the charity says but with security and single rooms!

    Again I feel this is a very bad planning decision on the Councils behalf and I just hope that there is not a seriour accident/incident becuase of the traffic.

  4. What you might call a double whammy!
    First the people of Wheatfield Drive will now have to put up with construction traffic, mud etc and traffic following construction also pay for the costs of the other sides appeal via council tax.
    “… unreasonable behaviour resulting in unnecessary expense … has been demonstrated and that a full award of costs is justified.”
    What redress do residents have faced with decisions like this!!!!

  5. Becky – you obviously do not live in Wheatfield Drive or have to deal with the traffic.

    Cllr Brian Hopkinson – well said sir.

    It appears obvious that access from Bradley Stoke Way was never an option for the centre, as breaking a fence is far cheaper than “bridging” a cable.
    MS Centre – Yes, Wheatfield Drive access – No.

    Also, at what point does everyone find out what the additional unit will be, the rumours currently are that it may be a secure unit for rehabilitating people back into the community – is this something parents really want next to their childrens primary school?

  6. I’m just wondering how easy construction traffic will find it to access the site along Wheatfield Drive given the amount of parked cars.

  7. As a resident who bought 119 wheatfield Drive moved to Diana Gardens then moved back to Wheatfield Drive in 2005 because we could afford a house here in a good location for my children we had to move my son from his school because we couldn’t get him to school on time because we couldnt get out of the road! It is not the best place to put access to a centre that will need disabled cars (these are bigger than normal cars). The chartiy bought the land long before any access was made problem it got turned down 3 times! So why did they not go for that land on tesco
    oh tesco would not let them! Drive down wheatfield and Dewfalls and see how bad access is (if you dare)!!! There is nowhere to park as it is for eorking mums who do school run! Any car that blocks my drive will have a 999 call put out and yes we could move but not so easy as we dont rent!! you go on about us “not in my backyard” One day you may see it as safety but carry on maybe you will feel worried 4 your kids too

  8. Clare says: “Any car that blocks my drive will have a 999 call put out”

    Sorry so you call the emergency services whenever a car blocks your drive? Yes, if that happened to me I would be very annoyed; I may even call the local Police if the car isn’t moved within 30 minutes. But to call 999, which is reserved for life threatening emergency’s is absolutely crazy!!

  9. Note what you say Clare but in my experience its the school run that blocks up our roads. Just look at the roads when the kids are off school-much quieter.
    Mums doing the school are a menace in themselves-always rushing and parking where they feel like.
    Agree with Mike 999 is for emergency not for blocked drives.
    Blame the planners and councillors -they created Bradley Stoke and there are some very bad examples of bad planning but then it was all about getting in as many houses as possible to keep the Council coffers full of rates.

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