29 MARCH 2006
REPORT OF HEAD OF PLANNING SERVICES
STATUTORY CONSULTATION FROM WARWICK DISTRICT COUNCIL
APPLICATION FOR OUTLINE PLANNING PERMISSION FOR AN ADVANCED ENGINEERING AND DEVELOPMENT CAMPUS FOR THE AUTOMOTIVE AND MOTORSPORT INDUSTRIES, INCLUDING NEW VEHICULAR ACCESS, AT FORMER HONILEY AIRFIELD OLDWICH LANE EAST, WROXALL.
1. Purpose of report
1.1 To ascertain the Council's response to the above consultation from Warwick District Council. Plan A attached is an extract from the Review of the Warwick District Local Plan. Plan B attached is a site layout plan showing the applicants illustrative proposals.
2.1 The former Honiley Airfield, located adjacent the Borough boundary to the south of Balsall Common, has for many years had an association with the automotive industry. In the 1960s the former runway areas were used for testing vehicle tyres, wheels and brakes. Workshops, offices and research and development facilities followed over the next 3 decades together with continued test track use. Since about 2000, the premises have been used for automotive related engineering and research/design by a number of tenants occupying about 6,500 SQM of building floorspace.
2.2 The Airfield site is located in the green belt. PPG2 Green Belts (1995) acknowledges that green belts contain major developed sites (MDS) such as civil airfields, hospitals and research and education establishments. If a MDS is identified as such in an adopted development plan, infilling or redevelopment is not inappropriate development provided it meets criteria set out in the guidance designed to protect the green belt. These criteria relate to impact on the purposes of the green belt, height of buildings and size of the development relative to the amount of development already on the site and the area of the land to be occupied relative to the area already occupied. More specifically, development proposals would need to have no greater impact than the existing development on the openness of the green belt and the purposes of including land within it and should not occupy a larger area of the site than the aggregate ground floor area of existing buildings (unless this would achieve a reduction in height that would benefit visual amenity).
2.3 In January 2003 the Council objected to the Review of the Warwick District Local Plan (1996-2011), but this was on the basis of the Plan's approach to new development at Stoneleigh Park (National Agricultural Centre). No objection was raised by this Council to the identification in Policy SSP2 of the Review Plan of part of the former Honiley Airfield as a MDS in the green belt (see Plan A attached). However, there is an objection to the policy from CPRE, which will have to be addressed. The Review Plan is not adopted and has yet to go through the public local inquiry stage. The policy therefore carries little weight or status in the decision making process. The adopted local plan (1995) does not contain any MDS and the former airfield land is washed over as green belt. Any proposals for significant development that does not accord with green belt policy is a departure from the adopted Plan and the Secretary of State would need to be afforded the opportunity to call-in any such proposals for decision if the Council was minded to grant planning consent.
3. Matters for consideration
3.1 The application is made in outline only with all matters of detail reserved except means of access. Submitted drawings showing the design of buildings, site layout and landscaping are therefore for illustrative purposes. It is clear from the planning application form that existing buildings on the site have a floor area of 6,500 SQM and buildings proposed amount to 27,500 SQM. Car parking provision would increase from 280 as existing to 1,200 proposed (see Plan B attached).
3.2 Vehicular access is to be from a new traffic island at the east of the site onto Honiley Road. An existing access from Oakley Lane East will be closed.
3.3 The application site area excludes most of the former runway/taxiway areas. About 10 hectares of the application site would be developed/redeveloped for offices and research and development purposes.
3.4 Most of the new development would take place in a 9-hectare development zone on the north-east side of the former airfield where 9 building blocks would contain a collective floor area of about 23,300 SQM for business use. About 40% of the floorspace would be used for offices and the remainder used for research and development/light industry. Buildings would be generally 1 and 2 storeys high but key landmark buildings may potentially rise to 3 storeys. One of the landmarks would be the 'catalyst centre' (2,600 SQM) containing office accommodation, conference facilities, exhibition space, presentation/lecture seating for up to 250 people, dining/cafe facilities, and retail facilities to support the site.
3.5 A smaller, isolated development zone (1.2 hectares), in the west of the site, would be for a single occupier in a building, or buildings, containing about 4,200 SQM of floorspace for business purposes. About 55% would be for offices the remainder for research and development/light industry. Building heights in this zone would be a maximum of 2 storeys.
3.6 The applicants supporting planning statement acknowledges that the proposals do not meet all of the requirements of the criteria for a MDS in the green belt because the floorspace being proposed is substantially greater than the footprint area of existing buildings. The applicants also acknowledge that as a consequence the development would be 'inappropriate' development in the green belt that would need to be justified by very special circumstances. The justification put forward by the applicants relies, in summary, on the following:
3.7 The RSS identifies 3 High Technology Corridors (HTC) within which cluster developments closely associated with the Region's research and development capabilities and advanced technologies will be promoted. The site is within the Coventry, Solihull, Warwickshire HTC. However, the RSS intends that new developments within the HTC should be focussed on the Major Urban Areas (MUA) and at specific 'nodes' indicated in the RSS. The site is neither in the MUA nor at an identified 'node'.
3.8 The proposed development may benefit from a research and development facility related to the motor sport industry but it does not form part of the application. About 40% of the new floorspace is intended for office development. it is not clear therefore, that there is an essential link between the test track and the proposed development. No evidence has been put forward that there is an overriding and essential need for the proposal that cannot be satisfied, wholly or in part, in the MUAs or at identified 'nodes'.
3.9 Your highway engineers consider that the site is not in an accessible location well served by public transport. The significant increase in floorspace and car parking proposed would be likely to encourage car borne travel. This would conflict with current planning policies at the national, regional and local levels that seek to locate significant trip generating development where it can be served by a variety of transport modes, particularly public transport cycling and walking. The impact of traffic requiring a 1200 space car park would be very noticeable on the rural roads in the area.
3.10 Your highway engineers further consider that the design of the roundabout access to Honiley Road looks competent subject to viewing details of any Transport Assessment, a capacity check and a safety audit. The access proposals will involve highway works in Solihull and new highway in Warwickshire. If planning consent is granted to the development and access design proves satisfactory, a suitable legal agreement would be required between the applicants and the two highway authorities to govern implementation of highway works, maintenance and funding issues.
4.1 The proposals are a departure from the adopted local plan. Whilst the review of the local plan proposes an MDS at the former Honiley Airfield, it is not adopted. The proposals do not meet the criteria set out in national guidance on green belts that govern the extent of development of MDS. Very special circumstances are therefore needed to justify the use of green belt land for the development proposed. The case for the proposal in this green belt context is not sufficiently made out by the applicants to override the normal presumption against development in the green belt.
4.2 The proposals would encourage car borne travel and would conflict with current planning policies that seek to promote sustainable development principles and less reliance on the private car for access.
4.3 In these circumstances I recommend that an objection is made to the proposals to Warwick District Council.
That Warwick District Council is informed that this Council's response to the consultation is to object to the application proposals for the reasons given in paragraphs 3.7 to 4.3 of this report.