Further delays in South Gloucestershire Council’s assessment of a controversial planning application for proposed development at Bradley Stoke’s Willow Brook shopping centre that could see drive-through McDonald’s and Starbucks outlets opening at the site mean that it will now be determined under new procedures which have been described by opposition councillors as “anti-democratic” and “a body blow to residents’ rights”.
The Willow Brook planning application was submitted back in March but has been delayed by the need for the applicant’s agent to respond to concerns raised by a number of council departments, including highways, environmental health and tree protection.
Over 140 members of the public have formally registered objections to the application, against just five who have written in support. Bradley Stoke Town Council also voted unanimously to object, citing traffic, highways and environmental concerns. Opinions expressed on the Journal’s online channels have, however, been more balanced, with plenty of readers saying they would welcome the new facilities.
SGC’s new planning system procedures, agreed by the Conservative-led authority in July, came into force on 1st November and any current applications not decided by this date will now be decided under the new rules. The authority says the changes are intended to modernise the planning system and help the council defend its decision making against potentially costly appeals.
Features of the new system that have come under criticism include the exclusion of members of the public from site inspection meetings, where planning committee members visit the location of an application to better understand the physical context. Also, it is now much more likely that small to medium size applications will be determined solely by a planning officer rather than being brought to a committee of councillors, since the new system now requires three councillors to refer a proposed officer decision to committee, compared to just one previously.
The new rules are likely to be seen as a slap in the face by the twenty or so objectors to the Willow Brook application who attended Bradley Stoke Town Council’s Planning Committee meeting in April, where they were encouraged by town councillors (some of whom are also SGC ward councillors) to “attend any site inspection meeting and planning committee meeting if [and] when these happen”.
The latest news from SGC planning department is that the applicant has now submitted a night time noise assessment report, which had been called for to address concerns regarding the potential impact of noise from patrons visiting the proposed restaurants at night. The report references representative data from a McDonald’s restaurant at Hengrove Leisure Park, which is said to have a similar “noise climate” to the proposed development at Willow Brook. It concludes that proposed restaurant[s] would “not result in any significant night time noise impacts … at the nearest noise sensitive receptors [at a property 17m away in Wheatfield Drive]”.
The applicant has also submitted revised plans to slightly rotate the footprint of the McDonald’s unit to take account of the presence of an ash tree that is protected by a tree preservation order.
Once the revised plans have been assessed, the planning officer will prepare a report for publication on the council’s weekly Circulated Schedule and unless (now) three councillors choose, within five working days, to ‘call in’ the officer’s recommended decision, it will be formally issued.
Should a ‘call in’ be successfully made, the application would go on to be considered by the new Development Management Committee, which has the option of requesting a site inspection meeting before making a decision.
More information and related links:
Photo: Residents from properties adjoining the application site demonstrate their opposition.
This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal magazine (on page 41). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH (except August), to ALL 8,700 homes in Bradley Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.
POSTSCRIPT (14th November 2018)
In a letter dated 12th November 2018, the council’s Environmental Protection team has requested that a condition be applied to any granted planning permission restricting the hours of operation of the drive-through units to between 7.30am and 11pm.
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