Last updated: Sat 3 May 2014

Highways Authority rejects homes plan

Somerset County Council’s Transport Development Group says it has ‘no option but to recommend refusal’ of plans to build up to 100 homes in Nunney.

Barratt Homes masterplan

Barratt Homes plans to build up to 100 houses at Glebelands and Green Pits Lane in Nunney.

The highways authority responded to an application submitted by Barratt Homes for outline planning permission to build up to 100 new homes at Green Pits Lane in Nunney.

Nunney Parish Council earlier voted against the plan. Its own calculation was that Nunney needed around 24 new homes, whereas Mendip District Council proposed 52 homes. Barratt Homes surprised everyone by pushing for ‘up to’ 100 homes.

Mendip District Council‘s Planning department has published 47 letters received from the public and 6 replies from consulted specialists.

The rejection of the plans by Somerset Highways is significant and has the potential to halt the plans as they are at the moment.

Here is the response from Somerset County Council’s Transport Development Group in full:

Please find attached my response to the above application. When I spoke to you last week I hadn’t looked at the detail but assumed that they’d followed the pre-application advice I’d given them. They have made a major howler with the access involving third party land and safety issues and another access point will have top be found. A solution can be found but what they’re suggesting is not acceptable.

I refer to the above-mentioned planning application received on 25 Feb 14 about which I have the following observations on the highways and transportation aspects of the scheme:-

Transport Assessment

The Transport Assessment (TA) gives some cause for concern. The trip distribution model has been based on existing traffic flows rather than destination analysis based on census data which is unusual. In addition the modelling for the Nunney Catch roundabout has used geometry that is inconsistent with the actual dimensions and unequal lane usage on some arms has not been analysed. Despite this it is not possible to base a reason for refusal on these problems. The trip distribution could turn out to be similar if a different method was used and the capacity of the Nunney Catch roundabout is unlikely to be compromised.

Travel Plan

Barratt Homes Nunney

A protest against plans to build in Nunney made the news last month.

The submitted Travel Plan (TP) is of decent quality. The site audit is detailed and this has led to a good range of measures to encourage modal shift away from single occupancy vehicle trips. There are some small improvements necessary but these can be achieved without any real difficulty.

The TP traffic generation does not correspond with that contained in the TA so the baseline from which the TP targets are developed is not rigorous. Because the TA has carefully predicted the traffic movement baseline, it is possible to predict the trips in actual numbers as well as in percentage terms.

A good site audit has been carried out and the opportunities for and barriers to sustainable travel have been well identified. The only real area that has been mentioned but not addressed is bus travel. The existing bus service has been well identified and the TP mentions that improvements in the bus service could bring improvements in potential bus usage. What is missing is contact with Transporting Somerset to investigate how the bus service could be improved and a commitment to make this happen. Improvements to bus services can be expensive and the developer has shied away from any firm plans. This represents a real opportunity for sustainable travel and engagement with the relevant department here at County Hall will identify specific measures and set a cap on how much would need to be spent. It is realised that the cost would have to be commensurate with the size of the development but this can be negotiated.

There is a slight concern that there is no commitment to cycle parking in line with the County Council Parking Strategy. This can be fixed at reserved matters but it is hard to reverse engineer good usable cycle parking and a commitment in the TP would give us the comfort that it would be dealt with. Cycle parking should be easy to use for potential cyclists or it can act as a deterrent. If a cyclist has to drive the car out of a garage before removing the cycle and then replacing the car for instance, it is easier to simply take the car.

The targets within the TP have to firm and robust for the life of the TP. It is mentioned that targets could be changed during the lifetime of the TP but this is not acceptable. The period over which the targets are monitored should be between first occupation and 5 years following 80 percent occupation.

If the targets are not met, the submitted TP provides for a safeguard sum. The amount included, however, is insufficient and a sum of ? 17,500 has been calculated. It is believed that this sum would be more suitable to achieve an improvement should the TP targets not be met.

Should there be a resolution to grant permission, the TP will have to be secured in a Section 106 agreement. Because of the financial components, it is not possible to secure the TP in any other way.

Access

The supporting documents show Glebelands and Green Pitts Lane being widened to 6 metres. While some widening is necessary to allow 2 vehicles to pass, 6 metres may be too wide and likely to encourage excessive speed. Given the bank and hedge on the western side of Green Pitts Lane which tends to throw vehicles away from the hedge making the road seem narrower it could be argued that 6 metres is still too wide. By aiming at 5.5 metres, centre line markings would not be required and the feel of a country lane would be retained.

There is a problem with the visibility at the junction of Glebelands and Green Pitts Lane for vehicles emerging from Glebelands. There is a parcel of land owned by a third party, probably the statutory undertaker who is responsible for the electricity transformer, across which the visibility splay would have to pass. This means that it is not possible to achieve the necessary visibility in perpetuity. The scheme proposes a road narrowing in the vicinity of the junction which requires approaching vehicles from the south on Green Pitts Lane to give way to vehicles from the north. Vehicles waiting to emerge from Glebelands will not be intervisible with traffic northbound on Green Pitts Lane. The resulting conflict is likely to create a hazard.

During pre-application discussions the Highway Authority expressed a preference for access elsewhere on the site frontage to Green Pitts Lane. With most traffic from the development heading for the Nunney Catch roundabout it was suggested that the proposed amount of widening was unnecessary and that access would be simpler from closer to the roundabout avoiding the junction of Glebelands and Green Pitts Lane. It is disappointing to find that the suggestion has not been taken up. Having decided to ignore advice, the third party land makes the submitted solution unworkable.

Parking

Because this is an outline application and layout is not to be decided at this stage, there is no information about parking levels. The parking scheme for the site should conform to the standards set in the Somerset County Council Parking Strategy. Optimum standards are set but car ownership levels are likely to be high and the optimum standard should be adhered to. The parking space sizes from the Strategy should be used with the following exceptions: spaces fronting the highway should be 5 metres long; spaces that are obstructed at the rear, by a wall or fence for example, should be 5.5 metres; and spaces in front of garages should be 6 metres long.

Estate Roads

The submitted layout is clearly indicative but there are some observations which may help to inform the reserved matters submission. The entire road network will be liable for a charge under the Advanced Payments Code (APC) and this will apply to all the roads and private drives proposed. Some of the private drives shown on the indicative plan will serve a number of properties and the potential for conflict between neighbours about the maintenance of the road is quite high. The Highway Authority would rather that these areas were designed as full shared surfaces, 5 metres wide with 0.5 metre service margins, so that they could be adopted. The shared surfaces should be a different colour to the other roads which is best achieved by the use of block pavoirs.

The dimensions involved on the submitted indicative layout are hard to discern but the roads should be 5 metres and any footways should be 1.8 metres wide. There are some tight bends shown which are useful for slowing vehicle speeds but it is important that a refuse vehicle can still pass a parked car. Road widening at the bends may be required if the curve radii are low. Swept path analysis should be used to confirm that the chosen widths are adequate and to determine whether the turning heads will work. The vehicle size for the swept path analysis is an 11.7 metre, 4 axle refuse truck which is the standard refuse vehicle size in Somerset.

Drainage

Details of the drainage proposed are sketchy but there is mention of the possible use of soakaways. Infiltration testing will be necessary before this method would be permitted. It should also be noted that soakaways should be positioned at least 5 metres from any structures and that includes highways which are equally susceptible to uncontrolled water around their underpinnings.

If soakaways are not possible a system of gullies and connection would be required to collect water from the road and this could then be discharged into a suitable disposal means, after some attenuation if necessary, as long as the written permission of the disposal agency has been obtained. Existing highway drainage may only be used if the developer can demonstrate that the existing drain has sufficient capacity and is in good enough condition to accept the additional water.

Summary

In light of the above, the Highway Authority has no option but to recommend refusal of this application because the means of access as submitted is unacceptable.

It may be possible to condition an access in a different position whilst agreeing the principle of development. If it is possible, the Highway Authority would request the following conditions:-

No work shall commence on the development site until a suitable access has been constructed in accordance with a design and specification to be approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority and to be fully implemented in accordance with the approved details, unless otherwise agreed in writing with the Local Planning Authority. The provision of these works will require a legal agreement and contact should be made with the Highway Authority well in advance of commencing the works so that the agreement is complete prior to starting the highway works.

The proposed estate roads, footways, footpaths, tactile paving, cycleways, bus stops/bus lay-bys, verges, junctions, street lighting, sewers, drains, retaining walls, service routes, surface water outfall, vehicle overhang margins, embankments, visibility splays, accesses, carriageway gradients, drive gradients, car, motorcycle and cycle parking, and street furniture shall be constructed and laid out in accordance with details to be approved by the Local Planning Authority in writing before their construction begins. For this purpose, plans and sections, indicating as appropriate, the design, layout, levels, gradients, materials and method of construction shall be submitted to the Local Planning Authority.

The proposed roads, including footpaths and turning spaces where applicable, shall be constructed in such a manner as to ensure that each dwelling before it is occupied shall be served by a properly consolidated and surfaced footpath and carriageway to at least base course level between the dwelling and existing highway.

In the interests of sustainable development none of the dwellings hereby permitted shall be occupied until a network of cycleway and footpath connections has been constructed within the development site in accordance with a scheme to be submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority.

No work shall commence on the development site until an appropriate right of discharge for surface water has been obtained before being submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority. A drainage scheme for the site showing details of gullies, connections, soakaways and means of attenuation on site shall be submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority. The drainage works shall be carried out in accordance with the approved details, unless otherwise agreed in writing with the Local Planning Authority.

Prior to any commencement on site, a parking scheme for the site should be submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority. The scheme should conform to the County Council Parking Strategy. Parking should be provided in accordance with the approved scheme and kept clear of obstruction at all times and retained for the parking vehicles in association with the dwellings hereby permitted thereafter.

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