St John's South Development

Development Control Manager
Lichfield District Council
District Council House
Frog Lane
WS13 6YZ

Dear Sir/Madam,

Application No. 12/00182/OUTMEI - Outline Application (Amended)

Lichfield Civic Society wishes to submit further objections to the recently proposed amendments to the above planning application, which follow various previous submissions made by the Society to these proposals, including those to the initial planning application and to the Lichfield District Local Plan.

There are a number of concerns arising from these amendments, as follows:


It is considered that the consultation process undertaken with regard to this amended proposal is inadequate and not in accordance with the Council's own Statement of Community Involvement, nor in line with reasonable practice. The Statement of Community Involvement indicates that the minimum action will be to "Write to all neighbours who are likely to be affected by the proposal." It is apparent that there has been failure to take this action in full in the vicinity of the site. This matter should be remedied before the application is processed further and certainly prior to any report being prepared for Committee consideration. In addition, because the changes to the application are so materially different from the original application and because the applicants have not undertaken any further pre-submission consultation, an extension to the period for response should be formally agreed and fully publicised. Whether it is even appropriate for such significant changes to be dealt with as an amendment to the initial application is a serious question, since a new application would have hopefully been given full publicity, with sufficient time for consideration of the very different issues now raised by the present proposal.

Green Belt

Key information that formed part of the previous public consultation is no longer true. The developer's consultation leaflet, "St John's, South Lichfield", prominently include the following statement:

"Are you building on the Green Belt? - No. Most of the site was removed from the Green Belt some years ago and re-designated as an 'Area of Development Restraint'".

However, it is now proposed that a new access road and part of a car park will be built in the Green Belt in the area at the rear of No. 22 London Road. Additionally, playing fields originally proposed wholly within the ADR are now partly in the Green Belt. This demonstrates further that the information provided previously is no longer true and provides further justification of the need for this proposal to be treated as a new application. If not, and the Council continues to deal with the application as an amendment, it seems clear that the public are being misled and proper consultation is being circumvented, through the use of seriously misleading information.

The fact that land at the rear of No. 22 London Road is in the Green Belt and the new access road encroaches into it raises several planning policy issues:

1. Encroaching on the Green Belt is in policy terms inconsistent with keeping the land permanently open as required by the NPPF. The amended Planning Statement tries to minimise the significance of this encroachment but it is only necessary because an inferior transport solution is being promoted. If the question is asked is this essential or does it provide a better highways solution and overall layout than the Council's SDA proposals and Map C.2 South Lichfield Concept Diagram the answer very clearly is no.

2. The 1998 Local Plan defined the ADR as an area capable of development without encroaching into the Green Belt a premise on which the submission version of the Local Pan set out the concept rationale and key design principles which should be adhered to. The Lichfield Local Plan 1998 in chapter on 'Environment, The Countryside and Rural Economy' the Council specifically stated that the Area of Development Restraint had "a sensible long term boundary which will not need to be altered beyond the plan period".

3. The principle of maintaining the existing Green Belt boundary is embodied in the Local Plan submission version in map C.1. on page 155 showing the South of Lichfield Strategic Development Allocation site on an Ordnance Survey map base where there is an indication of the boundary which is clear and unambiguous that the proposed allocation does not alter or remove land from the Green Belt.

4. If the boundary were to be considered for change then it should be done through the Local Plan. This would mean deferring this application until the Local Plan process is completed.

5. The Inspector's preliminary finding that the site allocation is sound does not imply or approve any modification of the Council's Local Plan policy that the boundary of the Green Belt is to be modified or encroachment of "development" of any nature is acceptable. Indeed the Inspector throughout his report has resisted all proposals for development in the Green Belt.

It is fundamentally wrong to allow encroachment into the Green Belt. In addition allowing this will create a precedent for further releases of the Green Belt some of which are evident in the layout currently submitted albeit those issues are not for determination at this stage. The Council's concept and design principles should not be abandoned. The developer should be advised to submit proposals which do not conflict with these issues.

Need for a new application

The very significant change to the access arrangements now being proposed are another cause of concern, and would also justify requiring a new application. Changing the two access points to the development from the Southern Bypass as originally proposed to two points on London Road is considered unacceptable as a way forward and a solution. The three access points to London Road that will result, each with traffic signals, is considered unworkable and unnecessary, particularly because of the concentration of all construction and development traffic on to already congested sections of highway. Traffic forecast evidence put forward to seek to justify the acceptability of these proposals is based upon unrealistic and over-optimistic assumptions of non-car usage and patterns of traffic flow.

Accepting these proposals is tantamount to abandoning the principle of provision of the Southern Bypass and is detrimental to the whole City, and will result in a fundamental change to the long established planning and highway strategy for the City.

The original proposals for accessing the area should be re-instated and priority given to the provision of the Southern Bypass, with all development access from this road. This would remove the loss of Green Belt to the rear of No. 22 London Road, obviate the need for acquisition and demolition of this property and provision of an unnecessary and wasteful additional access off London Road. Further, it would create a much better balanced re-distribution of traffic across the network and considerably lessen the congestion and delays inherent within the current proposals. If the Council consider funding for completion of the Southern Bypass in the short term is not achievable then an alternative solution could be to impose a planning condition restricting the level of development so that it can only progress to full completion when the Southern Bypass is completed so avoiding the need for a new access road through the site of No. 22 London Road. Until the funding is secured and the construction completed the site access should be confined to the eastern end of the section of the Southern Bypass, enabling capacity for an agreed number of houses to be completed only, perhaps up to half the ultimate total. This approach would provide time to secure funding for the completion of the Bypass and provide an incentive to achieve funding at an early date.

Local Plan site allocation considerations

The Inspector's preliminary findings on the submitted Local Plan endorses the Council's policy to allocate the South Lichfield SDA. The allocation does not propose nor has the Inspector recommended any change to the Green Belt boundary or the concept rationale and design principles in the Plan. Should the Council in the light of the Inspector's initial report decide to consider the application before adoption of the Local Plan then it ought to be determined according to the basis on which the allocation was made. In this context one of the key design principles is:

"9. Measures to demonstrate how the amenities of existing residents living on the boundaries of this site will be respected and protected, with any proposed layout justified on this basis".

It is manifestly evident that the amended layout is not consistent with this design principle. Demolishing No. 22 London Road and putting a principal access road between two residential properties is seriously damaging to the amenities of residents immediately adjacent as well as many others nearby who will be affected by a run of three signalised road junctions and the associated traffic, pedestrian movements and noise. As the primary access for the proposed school peak time usage is likely to be significant. This deleterious impact on existing residents of the current layout is based upon an attempt to avoid early provision of the rail under bridge to complete the Southern Bypass. Whilst there may be a layout which achieves that objective the current submission fails to conform to an important design principle and should not be approved until a layout which satisfies the design requirements is submitted. A revised layout should also ensure that the other Local Plan requirements are fulfilled which this layout does not e.g. mitigation for the impacts of the adjacent railway line and focusing all traffic movement in and out of the site on London Road as opposed to dispersing them. The amended Planning Statement on page 9 incorrectly states "The provision of this stretch of bypass will remove a significant amount of through traffic from the majority of Shortbutts Lane, a residential link between the A51 and A5127 that currently functions as a sub-standard orbital route". This was correct in respect of the original plans but is not true that the revised road layout will remove traffic from the majority of Shortbutts Lane. The reverse is likely to happen.

Scope of the site

Finally, the Society have consistently held that the area of the planning application should not extend across Green Belt to Knowle Lane. This is a completely unacceptable and inappropriate approach. If this land is to be dedicated as publically accessible land, appropriately laid out and landscaped, and ownership legally transferred to the local authority or some other entity, trust or charity, in association with any planning permission for development of the land within the ADR, this can be undertaken through a Section 106 Obligation or Agreement and this area does not require to be within the red line application site. This is yet another reason for the Council to require a new planning application for the development.

I would be grateful if these comments are reported to the Committee in due course, but, if you wish to discuss any matters raised, please contact me. Please keep me informed of progress with this application.

Yours sincerely,

John Thompson,
Lichfield Civic Society.
4th September, 2013