Councillor Sue Cooper addressed the committee,
as she was Cabinet Member for Climate, she wanted to share some
thoughts. In summary, she felt that the guide was very good and was
in support of it, but had some comments as follows:
The new version circulated was an improvement
Climate and sustainability section was good, and we should consider
this for extensions. It was felt some statements appear to
contradict climate change and sustainability principles,
particularly the figures 43 to 46.
Energy inefficient outside walls should be covered during
extensions if they lose heat. The diagram labelled red (simple
build, covers the old wall) would be more sustainable and
efficient. Would rather a plain functional extension rather than a
more complex build with smaller, multiple joins.
Questioned why there was a requirement for a setback by a
Cabinet member considered that the guide and its updates were a
This item was introduced by Cabinet Member for
Planning (South), Councillor Anne-Marie Simpson. Also supporting
the item was Cabinet Member for Planning Policy (Vale), Councillor
Debby Hallett. Officers Jake Bassett and Marta Bou-Fernandez were
present to answer technical questions, along with Head of Planning,
Cabinet member for Planning (South) explained
that the design guide was intended to support high quality
development for both districts, containing advice and giving
clarity on sustainable design, and supporting our corporate
priorities on climate emergency. It was a Supplementary Planning
Document, produced in-house by the hard work of officers, and will
support decision making for planning applications. It will have
greater accessibility with its online format. The external
consultation had led to amendments and then some further minor
amendments as presented. Councillors had been directed to view
those amendments by comparison of the old and new website links.
Thanks were given to the Joint Design Guide working group for their
Cabinet member for Vale added that she was
excited about this document and felt it was an exemplar piece of
work. Working together on this planning document paves the way for
further joint working. Central Government changes in planning
policy could lead to a further review of the design guide in future
and strengthening of climate emergency targets.
The committee asked questions and made
comments, of which the main points are summarised below.
- Discussion was had about the amended
diagram figures 43 and 44. Officers would check these to ensure
they were correctly labelled. Regarding the guidance on suitable
home extensions (coded red for not likely acceptable, amber and green for acceptable in principle), some
members queried whether this should be so prescriptive. Officers
responded to this, explaining that the figures were to give
guidance and all planning applications are assessed on their own
merits, but they needed to be sympathetic to local character and
the original dwelling (well established design principles, as in
the NPPF and national Design Code). Permitted development was the
figure labelled in green. The other coloured diagrams show examples
where permission would likely be required.
- Some members of the committee
expressed that there was some difficulty cross referencing the
guide that was to be published online. Difficult to search keywords
through the whole document. After discussion officers did offer a
solution of providing a plain text version that could be searched,
but once a document was agreed by Cabinet, the full functionality
of our website including a search function would be available.
- The committee agreed that the Joint
Design Guide was a very good piece of work and thanked the officers
- A member felt that the colour scheme
of the document was not always ideal for ease of reading. Officer
explained that the document was made to meet the requirements of
accessibility guidance for web design.
- Officer advised that they could add
a sentence into the guide regarding the suggestion to include
underground parking (where viable) for residential property
development. A member questioned car club schemes and the Head of
Planning confirmed that this can be secured under Section 106.
- A committee member wanted to see
strengthening of using hedgerows / soft boundary treatments, as
these should be as important as trees. Another idea was to add
advice for householders on ways to support ‘dark skies’
( darksky.org, avoiding artificial lights to support nature).
- Identified some link errors at the
beginning of the guide – officers to check.
- A member of the committee asked for
strengthened wording, noting that the word ensure was less common
and replaced with “if you are considering”. Suggested
wording was “in order to make your house more
sustainable”. This was discussed and officers did agree with
the desire to strengthen wording, however national policy does not
back up stronger wording – at this stage, we can only
encourage. If we make demands where there was no policy to back up
the stronger requests, there could be judicial reviews and appeals
as a result, which we could lose (wasting officer time and work).
The development of a new Joint Local Plan should assist this
strengthening in future, and at that stage we would also update the
Joint Design Guide. Overall, the aim was to encourage, and we hope
for a shift in national policy to support strengthened wording in
our guidance. Our guidance needed to link to our currently adopted
local plans. Planning reforms may help in the future to strengthen
the planning weight used in decision making.
- Can there be more detail on what was
meant by permitted development?
- Request to make weblinks on the
document a different, more stand-out colour.
- A member asked officers to check
inconsistency on distances – ‘no more than 1
metre’ on figures and ‘no more than 1.2 metres’
in the body text.
- Solar and wind renewable energy in
AONBs was suggested for the guide. Officers reminded that this was
guidance, but the Joint Local Plan will help strengthen this. There
was high level mention of renewable energy in the guide, under the
header ‘Natural features and resources’.
Chair concluded the meeting by summarising the
key points made:
1. creating a searchable document online
– officers had offered a solution
2. a link to permitted development information
3. Hedge and soft boundary treatments and
information on Dark Skies
4. Look into word strengthening where it was
deemed viable to do so.
Officers and Cabinet Members were thanked,
along with officers supporting the management of the meeting.