A controversial planning application for new developments at Bradley Stoke’s Willow Brook shopping centre that would include two new drive-through food units anticipated to be occupied by McDonald’s and Starbucks has been refused permission.
The proposed scheme, which also includes two new retail units and rearrangement of the car park, had been recommended for approval by a South Gloucestershire Council planning officer, but was ‘called in’ by a number of local ward members for determination by committee.
Meeting at the Jubilee Centre in Bradley Stoke on Thursday 21st February, the Development Management (DM) Committee was considering the application for the second time in four weeks after members had deferred a decision at their January meeting to allow a site inspection visit to take place.
Above: Committee meeting under way at the Jubilee Centre.
Proceedings at the meeting followed the usual pattern with supporters and objectors being given time to air their views before councillors debated the issues, with guidance from the principal planning officer. However, one noticeable difference this time was that Bradley Stoke councillor Roger Avenin, who, as a committee member, had spoken strongly against the application at the previous meeting, spoke from the public gallery, his place on the committee having been taken by Stoke Gifford councillor Ernie Brown. The Journal understands that Cllr Avenin was advised to step down as it was feared that he may have “fettered his discretion”.
Many of the points raised by the public and local ward councillors centred on the remoteness of the two food units from the main buildings at the centre (they would be positioned either side of the current Waves car wash) and their close proximity to residential properties in Wheatfield Drive.
Above: Annotated plan showing closest residential property.
Following the site inspection visit, the applicant had submitted sketches showing that the closest property in Wheatfield Drive would be 22m distant from the single-storey Starbucks unit and 50m from the two-storey McDonald’s building. However, it was pointed out by one councillor that vehicles using the drive-through lanes would pass much closer than this to the property.
With five of the eight committee members having raised concerns relating to noise, pollution, anti-social behaviour, the proposed 24-hour opening and the creation of a “harmful concentration” of food outlets within the town centre, a proposal was tabled to refuse the application. The principal planning officer advised that, before moving to a vote, members should consider granting permission but with conditions applied that would mitigate against their areas of concern. However, Cllr Dave Hockey said several of his concerns weren’t addressed at all in the officer report and far too many conditions would be needed to make the application acceptable.
On eventually moving to a vote, the application was refused permission by five votes to one, with two abstentions.
Because the DM Committee’s decision is contrary to the officer recommendation, under new procedures introduced by the council last November the application will now automatically be referred to a larger parent committee, the Spatial Planning (SP) Committee. This mechanism is intended to ensure that “planning decisions are taken in the best interests of the public and don’t expose the council to unnecessary risks and costs which can come if a developer appeals a council decision”.
A spokesperson for The Brookmaker Limited Partnership, owner of the Willow Brook Centre, said:
“We are disappointed that councillors have chosen to overturn their officer’s recommendation and refuse the application for the extension of the Willow Brook Centre in Bradley Stoke.”
“We have worked closely with officers at South Gloucestershire Council to deliver a policy-compliant application that sought to improve the offering available at the centre with additional food and drink and retail units.”
“We hope that members of the SP Committee [when they hear the application] will be minded to follow their officer’s recommendation and grant approval.”
More information and related links:
- Planning application: PT18/1491/O
- De-briefing notes from the site inspection visit
- Agenda and reports for the DMC meeting on 21st February
- Transcript of the BSJ’s live reporting from the meeting [PDF]
This article originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal magazine (on pages 6 & 7). 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.
Update (7th March 2019)
It has not yet been confirmed when the Willow Brook Centre planning application will be heard by the Spatial Planning Committee. The next scheduled meeting of the committee is shown in the council’s calendar as being on Monday 25th March.
The SPC will deal with the application de novo (i.e. it is not a review of the DMC’s decision, but a full determination).
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