Thursday, 6 February 2014

Eddisbury Square - an update from the planners at CWaC

As I mentioned last night I was seeking further confirmation from CWaC planners regarding the situation at Eddisbury Square.  

I publish below the response I have received from the Area Planning Manager this afternoon - one of Fiona Edwards's (Head of Planning) colleagues - as Fiona is away for the moment.

Before reading this email I think it is worth pointing out that I believe the planning application did not fully describe the car parking position prior to the Sainsbury application going in.  The planning application referred to 101 existing car parking spaces - which as a result of the Sainsbury application and the extension to the rear would be reduced to 91.  

Last night I was sad enough  to walk my dog in the rain around the Square and counted the car parking spaces.  There are 64 car parking spaces in front of the Square - all unaffected by the application - 40 around the periphery and 24 in the middle.  To the rear I got into the 30s - including where the building works are going on.  

Now I've always viewed the rear of Eddisbury Square as being a private service road (there is an old notice saying this) with car parking spaces for shop staff and for the residents of the flats above.  I don't think this point was appreciated by those submitting the application or the highway's officer when reviewing it.  If they had they would have split the car parking provision - and we wouldn't have had talk of 101 spaces being reduced to 91.  If my assessment of the car park provision is correct it should have been 64 public car park spaces (not forming part of the application site) with 37 private parking spaces to the rear being reduced to 27.

So - bear this in mind when you read the Area Planning Manager's comments - I had mentioned to him the point about the rear car parking... 

'Dear Cllr Dawson

Thank you for your recent contact regarding the Sainsbury's development at Eddisbury Square in Frodsham. 

Before I go on to comment on the current situation, I feel it would be beneficial to set out the context of the current development works. 

Planning application 13/01913/FUL, described as an 'amalgamation and extension of units 12,13 and 14 Eddisbury Square to create an enlarged single A1 Retail Unit', was submitted back in May 2013. Following a period of consultation, which included giving the Town Council, local Ward Councillors and the Highway Officer an opportunity to comment, the application was granted planning permission in July 2013 under powers delegated to the planning department. There were a number of local objections, but the Officer concluded that the proposal would be in accordance with current planning policy. 

The site location plan submitted with the application (often referred to as the 'red line plan'), which shows the area of land to which the submitted application relates, included the units in question plus the site of the proposed extension, which required the removal of a number of parking spaces at the rear. The rest of Eddisbury Square was surrounded by a blue line, meaning land also in the ownership of the applicant. However, 'blue line' land does not form part of a planning application under consideration. 
Given that the proposal would result in the loss of a small number of spaces, the Highway Officer recommended a condition requiring a car park management plan to be submitted and agreed. The planning Case Officer decided to follow this advice and imposed the condition on the planning permission. 

The first point I need to make is that the whole site is privately owned and the Council generally has no control in how private landowners choose to manage parking on their land. It would seem that the purpose of the condition was to try and manage the impact of the loss of parking spaces at the rear of Eddisbury Square, rather than the main block of parking to the front, as the latter would remain unaffected by the development. It is understood that the parking at the rear is restricted to unit occupiers and residents and is not available as public parking. 

The next point is that the developer has not sought to discharge the condition and no car park management scheme has been submitted to or approved by the Council. The exact wording of the condition is as follows: 

"A car park management plan will be submitted for the approval of the planning authority. The approved management policy will detail the allocation of parking spaces, maximum parking times and enforcement procedures and shall remain in force thereafter.

Reason: To reduce the impact of the loss of parking on site and overall town centre area by facilitating an improved turnover of parking space usage in accordance with Policy T1 of the Vale Royal Local Plan First Review Alteration."

As it can be seen, there is no specification within the condition as to when the scheme needs to be submitted for agreement. As such, it is entirely up to the developer as to when they choose to submit, if ever at all. Whether this was intentional or a drafting error, the fact is that the Council cannot take enforcement action to force the developer to submit a management scheme for agreement under the terms of the condition. It could also be argued that the loss of a relatively small number of spaces in the rear parking area is a matter primarily between those with a right of access and the landowner, and in any event is unlikely to cause any significant impact locally as the main front public parking area is unaffected by the development.  

As such, given the above factors, the Council would not consider it expedient to pursue the submission of a car park management scheme in this instance.

In hindsight, it could be said that the imposition of the condition was not strictly necessary. However, I can understand why Officers felt it would be helpful as a mechanism to mitigate against the loss of parking. I would accept that the context of the condition is not entirely clear and I would offer an apology if anyone has understandably made a connection between the imposition of the condition and the landowner's current attempts to introduce a new parking regime for Eddisbury Square. 

I would therefore wish to confirm categorically that the existence of the car park management scheme condition or otherwise on the planning permission is immaterial to the landowner's current attempts to introduce a new parking regime for Eddisbury Square, over which the Council has no control. 

I trust the above is helpful. If you have any further questions, please contact me.'