The Committee received and considered the report from the Senior Planning Officer.
Councillor G Carpenter left the meeting during the determination of the application.
The Development Manager reported that the proposal within the submitted full planning application 06/21/0925/F is for the introduction of charging equipment including a payment meter box and a car number plate camera on a pillar in the car park. There is a separate application for advertisement consent for the information signage required to clearly inform drivers that they are expected to pay for using the car park. The proposed signage within application 06/21/0926/A comprises four types of sign:-
• Sign 1 on the application form is 0.65 x 0.6m size explaining electronic payment (just pay) and 4 in number, and three of these are in the rear parking area not visible outside the site. (0.39m sq which is just over the allowable 0.3m sq area allowed for information signs under
advertisement regulations permitted development).
• Sign 2 on the application form is 0.9 x 0.65 m size (0.58m sq) one in number, just behind the entrance gate fronting the highway. It joins the flanking signs existing identifying the car park as being for the Roman Fort.
• Sign 3 is to be found at the pay-station alone and is 0.75 x 0.65m in size and incorporates the tariff and payment method. (0.49m sq).
• Sign 4 is the terms and conditions sign and there are 4 of this type measuring 0.9 x 0.65 m (or 0.58 sq m). One is visible from outside the site on Butt Lane from the access point but is at 90 degrees to the highway behind the opening point of the gate on the south side.
• One other ‘sign 4’ and one ‘sign 1’ are on a shared post visible from Butt Lane within the site at the pay station.
The Development Manager reported that accompanying the proposal are the following documents:-
• Planning Application Forms and Certificates of Ownership,
• Application drawings and drawings for signage,
• Design and Access statement; and
• Appeal decision from another site where charges were introduced.
The Development Manager informed the Committee that this application is brought before the Development Control Committee because of the considerable public objection raised, ranging from neighbours to visitors to the site, including objections from the Parish Council, and potential objection from a statutory consultee, Norfolk County Highways, should a Traffic Regulation Order not be pursued.
The Development Manager reported that the Rector of St Peter & Paul Church has concerns regarding the consequences of pay to park being introduced as the church has a small area of land, a triangle, near the church which people park on to go walking or take
dogs for walk, rather than use the Fort car park. This causes considerable difficulties for people wishing to park near the church to attend a Sunday morning service, a funeral or weddings. Requiring people who use the Fort Car Park to pay is likely to increase the congestion near the church and The Old Rectory and to make the road leading up to the church rather constricted, due to how narrow it is.
The Development Manager reported that Norfolk County Council; Local Highways Authority has objected unless mitigation is provided. Parking on the highway is not only obstructive to all users of the highway, especially vulnerable road users, it can also be inconsiderate leading to parking on road side verges resulting in mud and debris being discharged onto the road surface and also creating longer maintenance issues. These factors also give rise to conditions detrimental to highway safety. Likewise, such parking can also give rise to other social issues which is a matter for the LPA to consider.
The Development Manager reported that it is recommended by the Local Highways Authority that a condition be appended to any grant of permission that “No works shall commence on the site until the Traffic Regulation Order for waiting restrictions has been promoted by the Local Highway Authority”, in the interests of highway safety. This needs to be a pre-commencement condition as the impact applies to traffic associated with the daily running of the site. County Highways have made no bespoke comment on signage but their response letter was referenced to cover both applications and did not raise concerns with driver distraction.
The Development Manager reported that the County Council as Local Highway Authority response makes a case that the impact of the introduction of charging for parking can be a material consideration, above and beyond the continued function of the land as a car park and its remaining open to all drivers not just visitors to the Roman Fort. Consequently, the Local Highway Authority (LHA) believes that any permission to install the payment meters and APRN infrastructure should be conditional on first being able to secure a scheme for removing the current unrestricted parking on roads in the vicinity of the site entrance, that is to say on Butt Lane. The County has not suggested restrictions outside homes on Church Road. The LHA has therefore asked that the legal costs incurred by the County for a Traffic Regulation Order to restrict parking in the village be funded by the applicant; the word pursued is used and in this context would require the transfer of funds before an application was issued.
The Development Manager reported that the applicant has provided an appeal statement where the RSPB in Wales appealed successfully over a refusal decision that was mainly predicated around the potential for signage at a site to be a distraction to drivers. The matter of charged parking to create displacement onto other highway was not commented on in the submitted appeal statement and signage causing distraction is not at issue in this case. It is common ground with County Highways that one should be careful in drawing conclusions about other appeal cases where there may be different circumstances, the submitted appeal reference concerned a car park at a bird watching site where the LPA had refused permission for signage and charging pillars.The applicant’s agent has confirmed 5th January 2022 that the applicant is not prepared to fund the £8,000 legal cost of “pursuing” a Traffic Regulation Order, “unless the planning committee decides on good planning grounds that this is necessary in order for permission to be granted”.
The Development Manager reported that both the applications for planning permission and the advertisement consents are recommended for approval. The consequences of allowing the permissions are not likely to create “severe” highways impacts and therefore permission should not be refused on highways safety grounds. As this is not a development that will result in a material change of use of the site’s operation or character, there is no need to impose any restrictions on the use of the site or the installation of the apparatus. The operative use of the site will continue to be subject to the conditions on the planning permission for use of the car park.
The Development Manager reported that it is considered that because there is no loss of parking or change of land use only the matter of the impacts of the signage and pillars can reasonably form part of the planning consideration. The Local Highway Authority’s concerns regarding the possible impacts of the development are noted, but Officers have to give some weight to the applicant’s suggestion that it would look to impose some alternative means of charging to be undertaken without the need for planning permission. It is important to note
that this application does not represent the only means or opportunity for the Local Highway Authority to install “no parking at any time” restrictions in the vicinity, if the LHA saw fit to do so and was able to resource doing so. The consequences of allowing the permissions are not likely to create “severe” highways impacts and therefore permission should not be refused on highways safety grounds. However, the possible consequence of not allowing permission unless the TRO process were followed would be to cause expense to the applicant which could restrict access to the site which is not in the wider public interest.
The Development Manager reported that as with anti-social behaviour, anti-social parking or driving is not something the planning system can readily control and the installation of an ANPR camera arguably acts to reduce criminality and anti-social behaviour at this site. The visual impact of the proposed changes from outside the site is very limited by the surrounding hedging. Within the site the environment is dedicated to parking where such features are to be expected. A failure to grant permission risks the site becoming unviable and carries some risk of it closing to public access. While footpaths dedicated to the public would remain, other access could close and the car park could also close.
The Development Manager reported that in conclusion, both the applications for planning permission and the advertisement consents are recommended for approval. The consequences of allowing the permissions are not likely to create “severe” highways impacts and therefore permission should not be refused on highways safety grounds. As this is not a development that will result in a material change of use of the site’s operation or character, there is no need to impose any restrictions on the use of the site or the installation of the apparatus. The operative use of the site will continue to be subject to the conditions on the planning permission for use of the car park.
The Development Manager reported that the full application 06/21/0925/F was recommended for approval subject to the following conditions:-
1) Development to commence within 3 years;
2) Development to accord with approved plans and drawings.
And any other conditions considered appropriate by the Development Manager; and
that application 06/21/0926/A was recommended for approval subject to the following conditions: -
1) Advert signage to be for a five year period;
2) Development to accord with approved plans and drawings;
3) Hedges to be maintained at a specific height to screen signage from afar; with standard conditions regarding compliance, period of validity (5 years), safe condition, removal stipulations and other standard requirements; and any other conditions considered appropriate by the Development Manager.
Mr Warnock, applicant, reported the salient areas of the application to the Committee and asked that they approve it to help fund the ongoing maintenance and repair costs of the Roman Fort.
Councillor Fairhead suggested that the car park should offer the first hours parking free of charge to aid the many dog walkers who used the car park on a regular basis. The Chairman reported that the parking fees did not fall under the remit of planning.
Ms Bunn, Rector of St Peter & Paul Church, had concerns regarding the consequences of pay to park being introduced as the church has a small area of land, a triangle, near the church which people park on to go walking or take dogs for walk, rather than use the Fort car park. This causes considerable difficulties for people wishing to park near the church to attend a Sunday morning service, a funeral or weddings. Requiring people who use the Fort Car Park to pay is likely to increase the congestion near the church and The Old Rectory and to make the road leading up to the church rather constricted, due to how narrow it is. She asked the Committee to refuse the application.
Councillor Smith, Leader of the Council and County Councillor for the area, was unable to attend the meeting but had sent a written representation and asked the Executive Services officer to read it out to the Committee on his behalf, which strongly opposed the application.
Mr Swann, Chairman of the Parish Council, reported the reasons why the Parish Council strongly opposed the application and urged the Members to refuse it. Councillor A Wright asked Mr Swann if there had been any discussions between the Norfolk Archaeological Trust and the Parish Council regarding parking fees when the car park was opened. Mr Swann responded that no such conversation had taken place.
Councillor Jeal reminded the meeting that people liked free parking and was concerned how an emergency vehicle would access Butt Lane if displaced cars were parked there and he opposed the application on highways grounds.
The Development Manager whilst appreciating those concerns expressed, ultimately they were concerns which planning could not address unless it could be proven that they would have a severe, unacceptable impact on the NPPF. The Development Manager suggested that County Highways should be asked to clarify their definitive position in planning terms regarding the impact on the access to the car park which was a concern to local residents.
Councillor P Hammond suggested that an honesty box could be installed in the car park for public donations to help raise funds to support the Fort.
Councillors Candon, Fairhead, A Wright & Williamson supported the Development Managers suggestion that County Highways should be invited to attend the Committee to explain their stance and proposed that this application should be deferred.
Councillor Jeal put forward a motion that the application be refused on highway safety grounds. The Development manager reported that this application was not a change of use for the site and the grounds of highway safety would not stand up if challenged at appeal.
Councillor Hanton proposed that the application be deferred to the next meeting and to invite County Highways to attend the meeting and clarify their position. This motion was seconded by Councillor P Hammond.
Following a vote; it was RESOLVED:-
That application numbers 06-21-0925-F and 06-21-0926-A be deferred.