The revised version of the controversial scheme to develop 30 luxury apartments at Northcliff Lodge -overlooking the Custom House and Cardiff Bay – has been recommended for refusal by Penarth TownCouncil’s planning committee.
The proposal would involve the removal of several trees and the erection in separate tiers of three of luxury apartment blocks in staggered intervals down the steep cliff face.
The original – almost identical – scheme was first proposed last year and was comprehensively rejected in January this year by the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s planning committee after an impassioned criticism of the plans by former Vale and Penarth Town councillor Gwyn Roberts (then Labour St Augustines). [Cllr Roberts retired as a Vale Councillor in May and was not re-elected when he stood again for Penarth Town Council.]
Last night two members of Penarth Town Council’s planning committee – its chairman Cllr Nigel Humphrey (Labour St Augustines) and the Leader of the Council, Cllr Mike Cuddy (Labour St Augustines) – both declared an interest and absented themselves from the council chamber for the duration of the discussion on the grounds they both know the architect of the Northcliff Lodge scheme [Chris Loyn ]
Cllr Gary Allman (Conservative St Augustines) also left the chamber at this point.
By prior arrangement the chair was taken by Cllr Rhiannon Birch (Labour Cornerswell), who is not a member of the planning committee and is consequently not allowed to vote.
Cllr Birch’s husband Cllr Mark Wilson also remained in the chamber but he too was there in the capacity of a non-voting councillor.
Like Cllr Birch, Cllr Wilson is also not a member of the planning committee in the current Penarth Council .
The Town Clerk Emma Boylan then proceeded to outline the revised version of the Northcliff Lodge. She said the proposals would involve the demolition of the “existing dwelling [ i.e. Northcliff Lodge ] and outbuilding, the erection of 30 apartments , new access and alternations to adjacent parking area, replacement tree planting and landscaping and associated works” .
The Town Clerk said this was a “re-submission application” and explained (for the benefit of newly elected councillors) that in the Vale of Glamorgan Council planning committee in January had “raised concerns over the scale massing and form of this development and its inpact on the immediate and wider landscape setting” .
The Vale Council’s planning committee had refused the January application because it was “overscaled and incongruous in the street scene and within its coastal headland context and would fail to either preserve or enhance the character of the nearby Conservation Area -listed building .”
The Town Clerk told the committee that the new development proposal involved the demolition of the existing dwelling and outbuildings, the consgtruction of a new access and “subsequent rationalisation of the parking area of the existing apartments” [ i.e. the existing Northcliff flats which were built in the late 1960s and early 1970s on the site of the original Cliff Villa/North Cliff mansion] .
She said the changes to the original Northcliff Lodge application [ the one rejected in January] included “reductions to Block B” revisions to Blocks A and C, changes to the colours of the exterior finishes , a reduced gap between Block A and B, amended gradients, improved amenity and pedestrian spaces and “enhanced landscaping”.
She said the revised Northcliff Lodge design had been changed to “reduce the massing of the structures and to disseminate the building into the Headland landscape” . Quoting the developers, the Town Clerk went on to say that “an additional investigation had been prepared to consider and access the issues raised in relation to the impact on the adjacent heritage assets and wider visual amenities “.
The Town Clerk then came to the vexed issue of Section 106 payments – the money which developers are normally required to pay to a local authority [ in this case the Vale of Glamorgan Council] in order to compensate for – and mitigate the impact of – their proposed development on the local community.
She revealed that the developers [ Celtic Developments (Penarth) Ltd] are now proposing a total payment of £300,000 in Section 106 contributions made up of:-
- £270,335 towards “off-site affordable housing”
- £29,665 towards “community facilities”
Cllr Birch – in the chair – opened up the matter to discussion by the committee
Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward) who was attending the planning committee meeting with his newly-elected daughter Cllr Kathryn McCaffer (Conservative Plymouth Ward) wanted to clarify that the Vale Planning Committee had voted against the original proposals for Northcliff Lodge and in doing so had rejected the recommendation of the Vale Council’s own planning officers who had recommended acceptance. This was confirmed to be the case.
Cllr Turner said that presumably the revised scheme which had now been submitted was the consequence of further discussions between the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s planning department and the developers in order to address some of the issues raised by Vale councillors in the Vale Planning committee. This too was confirmed.
Cllr Jon Luxton (Labour Stanwell) said it was good to see that improvements had been made to the proposed buildings to make them “less incongruous to their surroundings” but he returned to the issue of the developer’s Section 106 contributions – and described the offer of £300,000 from the developer as “quite low”.
Cllr Luxton said the Section 106 figure SHOULD be £1,100,000. He also said the developer’s offer of £300,000 was what he described as “a very round figure” which he found “strange” . He said that “no real evidence” had been provided regarding the issue of the ground and footings which was one of the reasons which the developers had given for reducing what would ordinarily be a Section 106 payment of £1,100,000.
Cllr Luxton said “Without providing actual evidence I don’t see how or why we as a community and a council as a whole should be subsidising a building project which seeks to – and will provide – much profit for the builders. I can’t see why they should not be paying the proper amount of £1,100,000.”
Cllr Birch asked where the “£600,000” disparity had come from .
Cllr Luxton said it was a rough calculation. He said £679,000 should be the contribution towards social housing . On top of that should be £209,000 for education, £29,000 for community facilities, £68,0o0 for open spaces, plus another 1%.
Cllr Martin Turner queried whether there had now been a change of regulations which involved the Town Council in deciding how Section 106 money would be spent.
Cllr Birch in the chair said that her understanding was that the Town Council could be consulted and indicate its wishes on what it wanted Section 106 moneys to be spent on but the town council’s wish list was not statutorily binding on the Vale of Glamorgan as the planning authority.
Cllr Mark Wilson said Penarth members of the Vale Council would be consulted on such expenditure. Some of the Section 106 money would be discretionary and much of it would be put towards education. One of the issues facing Penarth was that local schools were very full, lots of them were at over-capacity. There were no plans to build a new school in Penarth in the near future . New housing developments in the town had a “cumulative effect” – a “knock-on-effect” elsewhere in the town [even if people who bought these new homes might not themselves have school-age children]. Any new housing also tended to increase pressure on parking in the town
Cllr Wilson said he was also concerned about the “visual infringement” which the proposed development would bring about. It would take away a lot of the trees and would make Penarth a “worse place in lots of ways” – but, in conclusion, pointed out that he was not a member of the Penarth Town Council committee
Cllr Laura Rochefort (Labour Cornerswell) said of the developers “We don’t know what their profit margins are or how much money they are going to make. It is going to cost a lot of money to live there [ on the proposed Northcliffe Lodge development ] . The amount of money which we get from Section 106 is not enough . I don’t think we can justify being given just £300,000”
Cllr Martin Turner noted that members of the previous administration of Penarth Town Council in considering the earlier scheme (in January 2017) had had the benefit of a site visit. He suggested that another site visit be arranged for the benefit newly-elected councillors on the planning committee. He said that the committee should be considering the matter on the basis of the planning issues involved – and the matter of Section 106 money would follow from that. “How much money the builders are making is not necessarily a planning constraint”
Cllr Ian Buckley (Labour Cornerswell) said “I don’t think there has been an awful lot of change from the previous solution – which wasn’t accepted“. He did not think there had been enough change to warrant recommending the scheme .
A vote was called by Councillor Birch of all those in favour of the scheme . No councillors put their hands up . The overall result was For = NIL, Against = 5, Abstentions = 1.