Tetlow King Planning (TKP) helped to persuade the Herefordshire Council Planning Committee of the important contribution that care sector jobs can make in the current economic climate. A planning application for a 90 bed care home submitted on behalf of the MF Freeman Group of Gloucestershire was granted permission subject to a legal agreement. The care home incorporates a significant element of dementia care and is an innovative modern design by Feakes Hanlon Architects Ltd of Nottingham.
The application had been recommended for refusal by the officers of the Council for only one reason; relating to the designation of the land as protected employment land. The reason said that the provision of a care home on land safeguarded for employment purposes in the Development Plan was considered inappropriate and “would lead to the loss of good employment land which needs to be protected from non-employment uses”.
A number of other pertinent planning issues had been raised by various parties. The Council’s design officer made a strongly worded objection. There were also issues on the amount of parking and the impact from noise of adjoining commercial users on the care home potentially restricting the operation. TKP and the development team successfully answered these concerns. TKP and Transport Planning Associates explained that the proposal was actually providing more parking than the Council’s policies required.
TKP had already helped win an appeal at this site on behalf of the MF Freeman Group for a 60 bed care home. The new proposal for a 90 bed care home took a larger area of safeguarded employment land. Even though this scheme would provide more than 100 jobs the Council’s officers were unpersuaded of the economic benefits. We used the Homes and Community Agency report “Employment Densities Guidance” to explain that the existing planning permission on the site for B Class employment uses and retail would provide no more (and probably less) jobs than the care home development now proposed. We highlighted that the type of jobs rather than the number seemed to be at issue.
The clients showed in detail through a sequential search that there was no other site available in the town. The recommended reason for refusal from officers proved especially difficult to justify in the light of the new National Planning Policy Framework (issued 27 March 2012). The site had been vacant for nearly a decade and the client confirmed that the prospects for its development for B Class uses were poor. There appeared to be no shortage of employment land in this area. The Planning Committee unanimously approved the application.
This case illustrates the challenges that planning applications for care development on safeguarded employment land can face; even when it can be proven to create more jobs than the type of employment the land is protected for.