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Why applications for Shoreham Airport and New Monks Farm should be refused

Tuesday, 02 October 2018 09:57

New Monks Farm New Monks Farm Image courtesy Tim Loughton MP

Both of these applications are due to be considered by Adur Planning committee on 3rd October 2018.

APPLICATIONS AWDM/0961/17 (New Monks Farm, Lancing) and AWDM/1093/17 (Cecil Pashley Way, Shoreham Airport)

Application AWDM/0961/17 (New Monks Farm, Lancing)

Consideration of the New Monks Farm (NFM) application was deferred at the ADC Committee meeting on July 18 in order to (a) allow IKEA to consider further work to mitigate the environmental impact of the proposed store in response to objections received and (b) for further discussions with lancing college on the possibility of a fourth arm to the proposed A27 roundabout, so as to provide direct access to Coombes Road. Officers have prepared a supplementary report to update the report considered at the July committee meeting

On the IKEA store design matter, discussions have led to minor changes to parts of the north elevation of the proposed store building with the aim of reducing its impact when seen from higher ground in the adjacent National Park. The proposed changes involve introduction of louvres (or “fins”)above the main recessed loading bay, slanted so as to break up the expanse of blue metal cladding when seen from higher ground to the north. Whilst this is welcome in terms of mitigating the visual impact of the building, it is evident that it does not go as far as ADC officers would have wished in terms of breaking up the bulk of the building (the officers’ report terms it “disappointing “in paragraphs 6.3 and 6.4), and its harmful visual impact, when seen from the National Park and from the opposite side of the Adur Valley.

It is very important to note that these changes have not resolved the objection from the National Park Authority, which still stands.

The size and prominence of the IKEA brand advertising on the side of the building was also a concern. The applicants say that this is not part of the present application and would be the subject of a separate application under the Town & Country Planning (Control of Advertisement) Regulations 2015. This is legally correct and such an application will need to be considered on its own merits later on, if the present application is approved. However, the advertising is an integral part of the scheme and it is not unreasonable for the local authority to consider the impact of the building in the knowledge that large scale advertising on it will follow. The officers’ report says “IKEA clearly does not feel that any further compromise is necessary and it is considered that there has to be some acceptance of the corporate identity of the company, notwithstanding the sensitive location of the proposed site” (paragraph 6.7)

The officer report (paragraphs 6.9 to 6.11) states that “heads of terms have been prepared” on arrangements for provision of a “fourth arm “to the proposed A27 roundabout and are the subject of discussions with Lancing College . The applicants hope that an agreed legal arrangement can be reached in time for the committee meeting on October 3. However, the fact remains that no agreement is yet in place and that construction of a fourth arm would require land owned by the college, a financial arrangement to pay for it (possibly “bumping out” other necessary infrastructure, given the financial fragility of the scheme) and, above all, a separate planning permission from the National Park Authority . To add to the complexity of this issue, neither Highways England nor WSCC Highways consider a “fourth arm” is necessary in traffic flow or traffic safety terms. This would also likely reduce the prospects of success for any such planning application given the overriding importance of safeguarding the national park landscape.

The officers’ report updates the position on provision of pedestrian, cycle and equestrian route across the A27 to link the built up areas of Shoreham and Lancing with the open countryside of the national park to the north. This remains a very controversial aspect of the scheme. The applicants state that the width and headroom (under the A27 bridge) of the route is adequate, matches similar provision endorsed by SUSTRANS elsewhere, and is supported by both Highways England and WSCC highways. The applicants also state that closure of the Sussex Pad crossing and its replacement with the new crossing facility will be safer for all concerned.

The applicants views are still strongly disputed by SUSTRANS, the British Horse Society and numerous local cycling organisations, whose objections still stand.

Flood risk and land drainage issues are also re-visited in the officers’ report. The issues raised by objectors since the July committee are considered in detail and officers conclude that these can be satisfactorily managed and mitigated , given that all the relevant authorities ( Environment Agency, Southern Water , WSCC Lead Local Flood Authority and ADC’s own engineers) now indicate that the application proposals will not add to the flood risk elsewhere. However, no arrangements appear to be in place for long term management and maintenance of the SUDS infrastructure, which is essential for proper management of surface water drainage on the site. This is an important omission.

Development viability remains uncertain. Views are still awaited on the latest application proposals from ADC’s financial viability consultants. These, too, are essential to proper consideration of the development application. One important unresolved matter is provision of a developer contribution to an upgraded primary school. The developer has not met WSCC’s normal financial contribution requirements and has instead offered a larger area of land. This offer is not acceptable to WSCC Education.

Immediately after the July meeting, the Government published a revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) . The officers’ report outlines the main changes to national policy arising from the new NPPF and how they bear upon the two applications. The Officers’ overall conclusion is that, despite some variance in important respects with the recently adopted Local Plan (such as the much larger size of the retail unit and the reduced size of the country park) and some unresolved environmental, traffic and financial viability issues, these negative points are outweighed by the benefits of the scheme in delivering housing, employment and community facilities. Officers’ justification for this view is that, whilst the IKEA store significantly exceeds the floor space total indicated in the local plan, it is essential for the overall financial viability of the development and –without it- the local plan allocation at NMF would not proceed.

The decision on this application will come down to how the committee members exercise their planning judgement in terms of :

  • whether they feel all the outstanding information is now available so as to allow a properly informed decision to be made ( some matters are still awaiting further information , such as the outcome of discussions on the “fourth arm” and primary school provision , and further information on development viability from ADC’s specialist consultants)
  • disputes between the applicants and various objectors on some key issues , such as provision of pedestrian, cycle and equestrian route across the A27 and flood risk / land drainage
  • whether any benefits from the scheme are outweighed by its negative impacts , particularly the visual impact of the development on its surroundings , where there is still an objection from the National Park Authority

AWDM/1093/17 Cecil Pashley Way, Shoreham Airport

This application is very closely linked to the NMF proposals: the two schemes share a proposed new access off the A27 and it makes sense to consider them together , as there are cumulative impacts in terms of traffic generation, social and economic benefit, landscape, heritage, biodiversity, flood risk , land drainage and noise.

As with NMF, there are significant variances with the recently adopted Local Plan , which indicates a minimum of 15,000 square metres of commercial floor space , whereas this proposal is much larger at 25,000 square metres, meaning that its local impact is very different from that anticipated during the local plan examination process. The applicants argue that the local plan allocation is not financially viable and that, therefore, a significantly larger development is necessary. In other words, this allocation in the local plan was flawed from the beginning.

The result of this much larger development is that it is much more difficult to manage and mitigate its environmental impact in what is a very sensitive location. The site is adjacent to the South Downs National Park, partly falls within the Adur Estuary SSSI, and is close to several important heritage assets at Shoreham Airport, the Old Toll Bridge and Lancing College. All these features are of national importance and have statutory protection.

Despite the applicants’ best efforts, over a long period, to manage and mitigate environmental impacts, a number of significant ( or at least unresolved) impacts remain on the local landscape, heritage assets and natural habitats and wildlife . This has led to objections from Natural England, Historic England, the National Park Authority and the Sussex Wildlife Trust.

In summary, the negative environmental and social impacts of these developments outweigh any economic benefits. We urge committee members to review and exercise their own planning judgement in coming to a decision to REFUSE both applications.

A number of local groups have come together to produce a Booklet which examines the issues. Download below

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