06:03PM, Thursday 17 December 2020
A waste and recycling facility in Ascot has moved a step closer to being turned into hundreds of homes after councillors approved outline planning permission this week.
The Shorts Waste Transfer and Recycling Facility, in St Georges Lane, is believed to be an ‘inappropriate’ development on the greenbelt but planning officers stated that ‘very special circumstances’ (VSC’s) would outweigh this.
The Royal Borough Development Management Panel met virtually on Wednesday night and voted unanimously in favour of the outline proposals – which are subject to a series of conditions and the completion of a section 106 agreement by the developer, Shorts Group Limited.
The application – which could see up to 131 new homes, children’s play facilities and pedestrian and cycle links through the site – was only seeking ‘access’ to be considered at this stage, with all other matters reserved for further consideration.
In the report, officers say that access is ‘considered acceptable’ and would not have an impact on the safety of the highway or ‘free flow of traffic’.
However, they do acknowledge that the plans would be an ‘inappropriate’ development on the green belt. But despite this, a series of VSC’s are said to outweigh this harm.
These include the 131 homes providing the borough with a better housing land supply; visual improvements; decontamination of the site, and the removal of lorry movements along Ascot High Street.
One of the major objectors to the plans is Sunningdale and Ascot Parish Council, which raised concerns about the number of homes proposed, adding that ‘no affordable homes’ are being offered.
Nearby St George’s School, in Wells Lane, said it welcomed the change of use of the site to residential but worried about St George’s Lane being used as the main access to the site, which is also the main access to the school.
The developer says that the carriageway here will be widened to facilitate two-way traffic and that on-street parking will be removed to allow easier traffic movements.
Karen Charles, representing the applicant, said that the devlopment will offer ‘a mix of rented and shared ownership affordable homes’. She added that during a consultation in 2016, 91 per cent of people supported the site’s redevelopment, with 84 per cent thinking housing would be the best alternative use.
She added: “Anybody living locally will be familiar with the 990 permitted HGV vehicle movements that use the local highway network.
“The application has been through a rigorous assessment process with your officers who are satisfied that the application confidently meets the green belt test.”
Councillor David Hilton (Con, Sunningdale and Ascot) said this was one of five sites near the centre of Ascot coming forward for development ‘over a period of time’.
“This has been known about as a place that would be developed for something like eight years, so no surprise that we eventually end up with an application,” he added.
Cllr Hilton said ‘no one actually owns’ St George’s Lane, which is ‘not an adopted road’, therefore nobody is responsible for its maintenance.
He raised concerns about street lighting on the road, which can get ‘pretty dark’.
“If this is approved, the issue of maintenance at St George’s [Lane], and whether lighting is appropriate, should be included in the issues that planning consider should this be deferred to them,” Cllr Hilton said.
Cllr Geoff Hill (TBF, Oldfield) said ‘it would be nice if the Royal Borough could adopt the road’.
He added: “I know the road has to be of a certain standard, but I would have thought if we’re going to have 131 dwellings at the end of it, then the borough should adpot it and maintain it to the highest standard.”
Planning officer Vicky Gibson responded to the issue of St George’s Lane. She said: “I think what tends to happen is RBWM and Shorts [the applicant] will maintain that road, but that is not a reason for why this application should be refused.”
Councillors then proceeded to vote unanimously in favour of the planning officer’s recommendation and grant planning permission, subject to conditions and completion of the s106.
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