Arlington House Residents’ Association responses to Officer’s report and recommendations – re: Application ref: F/TH/10/1061
Arlington House and 1-50 Arlington Square, Margate
It seems that the Officers are recommending to Members that the entire application be deferred to the Secretary of State for determination but that Members should be recommending approval of the Application as a whole. It also seems that all further matters relating to this application are recommended be delegated to the officers for determination. In view of the importance and controversy surrounding this application, it should be a matter to be considered by Full Council in the first instance and then any subsequent decisions dealt with by the Planning Committee.
There are no details whatsoever of the Sect. 106 Agreement appended to the Planning Officers report. It would be dangerous and foolhardy for the Council to proceed with this application until such time that all the necessary legal agreements are in place and signed by the applicant.
The Council must bear in mind the historical difficulties it has experienced with this particular applicant in the matter of the implementation of fire precaution works in Arlington House which were subject to a Sect. 72 Notice for over five years. The Council was eventually forced to complete those works in default. The Council even had to carry out works within flats which were owned by the applicant.
Therefore, on past performance, the applicant is unlikely to comply with any agreements or conditions to improve Arlington House that may be imposed or implemented subsequent to any permission which may be granted to construct the new store.
Furthermore, many of the recommended conditions of approval are only to be implemented prior to any construction on the site, rather than prior to any demolition. As such, the Council will then find itself with its hands tied behind its back if the applicant then decides it wishes to apply for relaxation or changes to those conditions.
At paragraphs 1-4 of the Officers’ report, Members are being asked to recommend approval of the outline part of the Application which relates to the proposed shops and hotel, fronting Marine Terrace.
Approval and delegation of this part of the application would deny Members the opportunity to determine the future details of a significant application in a prominent area of Margate. The process of delegation to officers would also deny public consultation in respect of the details of any such application.
In view of the importance of the site, its position at the gateway to Margate and its role in the regeneration of the town, Members and other interested or affected parties should have the opportunity to be involved in the outcome of any future application and decisions relating thereto.
At paragraph 12 of the Officers report, a condition is recommended in respect of the provision of drains to the site. However, a letter from Southern Water dated 9 March 2010 appended to the report submitted by Ramboll on behalf of the applicant states that there is insufficient capacity to serve the development; it will be several years before adequate infrastructure will be provided; and that the development is considered premature.
At paragraph 18 of the officer’s report, a condition is recommended that no construction work takes place that is likely to disturb sea birds for a period of two hours at each high tide, between October and March. If approved, this condition should be extended to include works of demolition and site clearance which, by their very nature, are likely to give rise to a greater degree of noise and disturbance than the construction.
At paragraphs 19 and 20, reference is made to the ground floor of Arlington House. For the purposes of clarification, it should be explained that this reference relates to proposed new commercial units fronting All Saints Avenue and not any development within the residential tower block of Arlington House itself.
At paragraph 23, a similar reference is made to Arlington House and should be clarified as above.
Paragraph 25 makes reference to a drawing dated 31 May 2011. This drawing has not been published on the UK planning website. More particularly, the same drawing is also referenced at paragraph 26 of the Officer’s report where it is indicated that this drawing relates to the resident’s car parking.
In view of the contentious issues surrounding the residents’ car parking area this omission raises serious concerns as to why this drawing has not been published or made available to residents in order that any further comments may be submitted.
Paragraph 26 of the Officers report also makes reference to a further drawing dated 31 May 2011 in respect of landscaping which is not available for viewing on the UK Planning web site.
Clarification is sought in respect of paragraph 27 relating to “secure cycle parking facilities.” The published plans show details of a cycle storage facility within Arlington House for the use of residents and, as such, the conditions outlined in Paragraph 27 should be expanded to include that facility.
Paragraphs 32 and 33 relate to both the BREEAM rating and energy efficiency measures affecting to the food retail store. However, no similar or equivalent conditions have been imposed in respect of Arlington House.
Paragraph 40 of the Officer’s report restricts deliveries to the retail store to not more than one each hour between 23.00hrs and 07.00 hours. However, even this restriction provides for up to 9 deliveries to take place each night. Such a situation is totally unacceptable within a residential area.
Indeed, paragraph 41 of the Officer’s report stipulates that loading trolleys are not moved between the hours of 20.00hrs and 08.00hrs on any day. It defies logic how deliveries can take place between 20.00hrs and 23.00 hours and 7.00hrs and 8.00 hours – but the loading trolleys cannot be moved during that time.
Therefore, it would be more appropriate for the conditions be amended so that no deliveries take place between the hours of 20.00hrs and 08.00hrs in any event in view of the stores location in a residential area.
Paragraph 42 also defies logic, in that the fixed plant is expected to operate at a lower noise level during the night than it does during the day. It would be more appropriate for the lower levels of noise to be applied on a 24 hour basis.
In view of the fact that the store is to be situated in a residential area and in such close proximity to residential buildings, it would be appropriate for the trading hours of the store to be restricted in the same manner as Morrisons and Tesco Cliftonville – that is to say closure to the public by 20.00hrs or 22.00hrs at the very latest. The operation of a 24 hour store on the Arlington site is inappropriate and unacceptable.
Attention is drawn to the superstore measurement s of :-
- 7,677 sq. metres of gross external area,
- 2,408 sq. metres of net convenience goods sales ( retail food space)
- 1,544 sq. metres of comparison good sales ( non food retail area).
A store of this size in the proposed location is an inappropriate scale of development. This has greater relevance later in the Officer’s report in respect of matters relating to the matter of customer parking.
121 points of concern have been noted.
However, it now transpires that at least three residents of Arlington House have made responses to the application which have not been accounted for or made available for public viewing. This situation calls into question the whole consultation process as there may be additional Thanet residents who have not had submissions taken into account.
The Officers report states that Kent Highway services has raised no objection to the development. This statement does not accord with the documentation which has been submitted by the applicant.
In a Technical Note submitted on behalf of the applicant by Colin Buchanan (Traffic Consultants), a comment attributed to Kent County Council is reproduced at paragraph 2 of that report. It states, “If the developer is unable to provide any other suitable mitigation proposals in addition to the proposed box junction markings at Cecil Square and, assuming satisfactory resolution of the other issues listed below, we are minded to recommend refusal of the application on the grounds of the unacceptable, increased congestion and delays likely to be created by the proposals in relation to the Clock Tower and Cecil Square”.
CLOCK TOWER JUNCTION
The Officer’s report states that the length of traffic queues will double as a result of the development.
At bullet point number four, it indicates that the doubling of traffic queues will take place for only one peak hour. This is untrue, for reasons which will be referred to later in this response.
No evidence has been produced in relation to bullet point number seven to indicate a change in stance by KCC from the position reported in the technical note dated 21st April 2011.
The final bullet point under the subheading, Clock Tower Junction, the Planning Officer appears to be presenting a view not supported by KCC.
The Officer’s report states that traffic queues will be extended by (sic) 27 vehicles and 59 vehicles on Marine Drive and Marine Gardens respectively. If this is correct it will in fact result in a trebling of the length of the current queues (not merely a doubling as previously mentioned). Clarification of this particular point needs to be sought.
The Officer’s report also states that the proposed Yellow Box Junction in Cecil Square is acceptable. However, this appears to be at variance with the views previously attributed to KCC and should therefore be verified.
In any event, Marine Gardens (the length of roadway between Cecil Square and the Clocktower roundabout) is not sufficiently long to contain a queue of even 59 vehicles – more especially as this will include busses. It calls into question why the bus companies have not been consulted on this application. Even if a yellow box junction was operational in Cecil Square, it would only serve to increase the numbers of vehicles queuing at the other three arms that are waiting to pass through Cecil Square.
BELGRAVE ROAD / MARINE GARDENS JUNCTION
Here again, it is shown that the length of vehicle queues will double as a result of the development. This does not take account of vehicles waiting to exit Dreamland car park, most of which would be exiting Belgrave Road in a northerly direction and subsequently into Marine Gardens.
The Officer’s report states that the doubling of the length of the traffic queue in Belgrave Road is not considered to be a significant impact. Such a view cannot be considered credible with the anticipated increase of traffic expected when the Dreamland Park re-opens in 2012.
Moreover, the traffic report from Colin Buchanan states at paragraph 8.33 that the junction of Marine Gardens with Belgrave Road will be over capacity with the addition of Dreamland traffic.
STATION GREEN JUNCTION
The Officer’s report makes spurious reference to, ”one peak hour on a Friday afternoon.” In fact, the applicants own traffic survey indicates that the store car park will be at, or nearing, capacity for eight consecutive hours on a Friday.
The proposed improvements to the Canterbury Road approach will result in the removal of the existing pedestrian facility at that point. No mention is made in the Officer’s report of the two new proposed pedestrian controlled crossings which will effectively dissect the Station Green roundabout and negate it’s required implementation as a conventional roundabout. The plan for this proposal was published on the UK Planning site on 19 May 2011. These crossings will significantly interfere with the circulatory flow of traffic around the roundabout and, therefore, impede traffic trying to enter the roundabout.
Attention is dra
wn to the proposed new link road junction in All Saints Avenue which will give access to the store car park and delivery area.
This will be a 3-arm junction situated at the southern end of the site, close to the railway bridge and controlled by traffic lights. Consequently, this will cause traffic to queue in both directions on All Saints Avenue where no queuing exists at present because it is a through road. Such queuing is likely to impact on the Tivoli Park Avenue junction as well as traffic exiting the Station Green Roundabout into All Saints Avenue.
The officer’s report states that, “Existing cycle parking is maintained for Arlington House.” There is currently not existing cycle parking at Arlington House, other than a temporary, unofficial facility which has been set up by the Arlington House Residents’ Association in a currently disused commercial unit.
There are numerous issues to be addressed.
The Officer’s report states that car parking for the food store is provided at the maximum allowable in accordance with the levels given in the local plan. It should be questioned as to why the gross external area of the store has been used to assess the parking provision, rather than the retail areas to which the customers, (for whom the parking is provided) have access.
Thanet District Council has adopted its own policies, separate from KCC and national guidelines and therefore the TDC policy of 1 space per 20 sq meters of food retail and 1 space per 30 sq meters of non food retail space should be applied to this development.
There is no reason why the maximum parking allocation should be allowable in any event. Due of the proximity of the proposed superstore the railway station, bus services and pedestrian and cycle facilities which are given such great weight in the officer’s report, parking allocation should be reduced from the maximum.
Clarification needs to be sought on the statement cited at bullet point number two under the Car Parking Heading, as it appears to be contradictory and makes little sense.
No consideration, justification or reasoning is given for the reduction in the residents car parking from 85 spaces to 64 spaces. No reference is made to the provisions for residential parking in accordance with the Thanet Council policy which would provide for car parking to at least be maintained at its current level.
The Officer’s report also refers to the “vehicular exit from the site onto Marine Terrace.” This is currently an unmade road running between the Dreamland cinema and the former public house.
This will become an area of significant conflict between vehicles and pedestrians. Pedestrians will use this route between Marine Terrace and the store. It’s an obvious and attractive route between the store, the beach, the Turner Centre and the town but it is not a designated pedestrian route.
The proposal relating to staff car parking should be implemented from the time the store opens – rather than as a measure to gradually change travel habits after staff have become used to driving and parking at their place of work.
Under the heading sub heading of Traffic Noise it states that traffic in All Saints Avenue will double.
This is clearly a gross underestimation, given the statistics submitted by the developer showing the number of car movements each hour. Such movements total some17,000 during Friday and Saturday alone and these are the only two days quoted in the survey
There is mention of “acoustic glazing and ventilation”. This relates to a trickle ventilation system (which is likely to be fixed open) within the proposed replacement double glazing for Arlington House. However, in the exposed location of Arlington House, such as system is hardly appropriate as it will diminish the efficiency of the windows.
In any event, trickle vents were not installed to the sample set of windows which the applicant has installed to one of his own flats – nor are trickle vents shown on the revised drawings lodged by the applicant.
AIR QUALITY ASSSESSMENTS
The Officer’s report raises issues of Air Quality in Birchington Square and Buenos Ayres. However , in reality, it would be the residents and visitors using the se
afront who are most affected by the reduction of air quality as a result of the increased traffic and the increases in “queued” traffic.
The Officer’s report restricts working as 08.00 hrs to 18.00 hours Monday to Friday and 08.00hrs to 13.00 hours on Saturday. This would call into question why the store would then be permitted to operate on a 24 hours basis and for deliveries to be allowed to take place over the same time scale.
KENT POLICE ARCHITECTURAL LIASION OFFICER
This Police report acknowledges that the site suffers from crime and anti-social behaviour as a result of its proximity to Margate seafront.
The correspondence from the Police needs to be viewed in greater detail in view of the fact that it highlights the need for separate and secure parking for residents.
The current parking proposals provide for residents’ parking at a number of sectors on the outer perimeters of the Tesco parking. Much of the proposed residents’ parking is some distance away from the entrance to Arlington House and is also in an area subject to use as a thoroughfare by pedestrians, Tesco customers, beach users and those frequenting the seafront pubs.
CONSERVATION OFFICER’S REPORT
There are a number of issues in the Planning Officer’s report relating to comments made by the Council’s conservation team which are worthy of comment.
A suggestion that a property market is likely to emerge in Margate whereby a flat in Arlington House could realise £465,000 is pure fantasy. The suggestion that the windows should be replaced in a style a colour similar to the original design is in direct contradiction of the approved Arlington Planning Brief whereby the visual appearance of Arlington House is required to be changed.
The reason for the replacement glass to be tinted is to hide the diversity of curtains, blinds etc. It is neither feasible nor practical to dictate to residents or leaseholders the style, colour, etc. of blinds or curtains they have in their own homes. To attempt to do so may give rise to issues in respect of Human Rights legislation.
The Conservation Officer is of the opinion that the cleaning of the concrete panels has been successful. In reality, experimental cleaning has taken place on a small number of panels and it is already almost impossible to determine the difference between those which have or have not been cleaned.
The use of a light stain on the experimental panels to the east of the building is testimony to the fact that such an approach is totally inappropriate and ineffective.
. A site visit by Members of the Council is essential in order that they may see for themselves the effect of the several attempts at cleaning and staining of the panels that have been carried out by the applicant
The comments relating to the current entry system at the ground and first floors of the building as being, “a bit tortuous,” is totally fatuous.
Similarly,. the recommendation to retain a “concierge’s lodge” is a matter for leaseholders – who in fact have chosen not to fund the provision of this service.
The Arlington planning brief included a small residents’ plaza in front of the Arlington House entrance but this has not been included in the developer’s plans.
The Planning Officer’s comments indicate that she is satisfied that the developer’s have undertaken a Sequential Assessment. However, issues have been raised by planning consultants on behalf of the owners of the Dreamland site, stating that the Dreamland site is sequentially preferable and more appropriate.
As this is an issue which will be investigated by the Secretary of State, it is essential that the Council is satisfied that the necessary sequential tests have been applied.
The Council’s Planning Officer states in her report that the applicant has proposed that parking will be free for the first 3 hours to allow customers to walk to the town centre. However, the applicant’s agent wrote to the council on April 27th 2011 stating that it did not wish the Council to place any restrictions on the operation of the store car park and that it was Tesco’s practice to manage the car parking for the benefit of their own customers.
Clearly, the applicant has no intention of providing the Council with details of how it intends to provide 3 hours free parking for its customers to shop elsewhere, let alone enter into a legal agreement to provide such a facility. Both Kent County Council and Thanet District Council need to seek clarification and agreement with the applicant on this point.
The Planning Officer’s report states that Margate will increase its share of area retail expenditure from 20% to 38%. Whilst this may be true, the whole of that increase is likely to be as a result of spending at the new Tesco store, rather than any increase in spending in Margate as a whole, or the High Street and Old Town in particular. As such, it will be interesting to learn the views of Mary Portas when she visits Margate as part of her brief to report to Central Government in respect of the decline of High Streets and town centres.
The Officer’s report acknowledges that the Council’s Planning Brief requires a high quality external refurbishment of Arlington House and a change to the public perception of the building. The current poor appearance of the building is acknowledged on the basis that the concrete panels are dirty, stained and covered in fungal growth which has damaged the concrete surface.
The report indicates that the proposed cleaning and treatment of the panels would change the overall colour but retain the natural variance in the background colour of the concrete. However, the applicant has consistently failed to demonstrate that the proposed cleaning and staining is capable of producing the desired finish and effect. This can be verified by inspecting the experimental panels on the eastern side of the building at the 2nd 3rd and 4th floors.
Similarly, the applicant has failed to produce any evidence to show any degree of sustainability of the proposed concrete stain.
The Planning Officer’s report suggests that the installation of a cleaning cradle will be a positive addition to the future maintenance of Arlington House. However there seems to be little point in re-siting much of the telecommunications equipment installed on the roof in order to improve the appearance of the building and at the same time, erect a cleaning cradle in their place. In any event, the cradle will only be capable of reaching three sides of the building; its ability to maneuver around the projecting sides of the building is questionable; and safety issues in operating a cradle in such an exposed location will need to be addressed.
The necessity for a cleaning cradle has been questioned on a number of occasions. The applicant claims that it is a requirement of Thanet Council. However, Thanet Council has not insisted upon a cleaning cradle as part of the upgrading of Arlington House. The leaseholders of Arlington House are opposed to the installation of a cleaning cradle on the basis of both need and aesthetics in any event.
The Officer’s report goes on to state that the proposed windows will open inwards with a “tilt and turn” mechanism to allow for cleaning from the inside. This calls into question the need for a cleaning cradle to be erected on the roof of the building.
Furthermore, the need for a cleaning cradle is questioned if a suitable low maintenance finish which is resistant to water and dirt is applied to the external concrete.
The installation of new windows to the flats is an additional issue which gives rise to many contentious issues. Whilst the applicant has installed a sample set of new windows in one of its own flats, those windows are of a different style and design to those currently proposed.
The Planning Officer’s report makes reference to UPVC windows with an aluminium coloured frame. It is assumed therefore that the new UPVC will be the colour of aluminum e.g. a light grey. The sample set installed by the applicant have a dark grey coloured frame and will give the building a far more dramatic change of appearance as required by the Councils Planning Brief.
The sample set of windows has had 5 different degrees of tint applied to the glass in order to most effectively change the appearance of Arlington House and hide the array of curtains and blinds. It would be more appropriate to opt for a darker degree of tint rather than a light tint in order to achieve that aim. Again, it would be beneficial for the Council to undertake a site visit to see for themselves the varying effects of the options available.
A further issue which the applicant has failed to address is the thermal efficiency or energy rating of the proposed windows.
The applicant has claimed that 26 of the flat leaseholders in Arlington House own the windows to their respective flats and therefore have the right to refuse the window replacement.
The fact of the matter is that all leaseholders own the windows to their flats. As such, all leaseholders could, potentially, refuse entry to their flat for the purposes of the windows being changed against their will. The windows are not owned by the applicant, they are part of the demised flat which has been purchased by each leaseholder on a long lease.
Whilst the provisions of the lease in relation to repairs to the windows may vary (in so far as the cost of such repairs being a service charge item) – that situation does not apply in the case of the windows being replaced when they are in a serviceable condition and are merely being replaced as a result of aesthetics.
The Planning Officer makes reference to the replacement of the windows as being subject to a legal agreement. Bearing in mind that this Application has now been ”on the table” for a period of six months, it must call into question why such a legal agreement has not been secured. The Sect. 106 agreement should be in place before any approvals or recommendations are made in respect of the rest of the application.
It is most unfortunate that the applicant has not taken any steps whatsoever to seek the views of leaseholders in respect of the type, style or colour of the windows that he proposes to install in their homes.
As the flats are held on long leases, the windows form part of the demise and as such it must call into question the applicant’s right to seek planning permission to change those windows without the permission and agreement of the individual leaseholder. Similarly, it must call into question the Council’s right to grant permission in such circumstances.
The windows to an individual flat do not form part of the common parts of the building, they are not under the control of the landlord and can only be used by, or give benefit to, the individual owner or occupier of each flat.
The Officer’s report states that the scale of the proposed store is not overly dominant in All Saints Avenue.
The plans and the artist’s drawings show that the new store will be by far the most dominant building in All Saints Avenue and at the gateway to Margate.
A visit to the site is essential to appreciate the size of the proposed development. Only by standing at the north-west corner of the residents car park and scanning the site can the true extent of the proposed store be envisaged.
The Officer’s report confirms that the site is well related to public transport, railway station and bus networks. It further confirms that the proposed retail superstore in is a highly accessible location by means other than the car. This, in itself, calls into question the need for a car park of the size requested by the applicant which is needed for Tesco customers alone.
The Officer’s report states that there is a need for sufficient parking time to allow customers to visit the town centre are fundamental to the acceptability of the scope and needs to be secured through a legal agreement.
It must therefore be appropriate for such legal agreements to be secured prior to the application being approved in order that measures are in place prior to the commencement of the development to ensure that there will be the future provision to enable visitors to walk to other parts of the town.
The Planning Officer goes on to mention that a total of 729 vehicles will arrive and depart during a peak hour on a Friday and a total of 760 vehicles will arrive and depart during a peak hour on a Saturday.
However, the Officer’s report fails to mention that over 600 cars will arrive and depart for each of nine hours on a Friday and that over 600 cars will arrive and depart for each of eight hours on a Saturday. These figures are in accordance with the report submitted by the applicant and are on the basis of an hourly turn around rather than a three hour stay in order to visit other parts of Margate.
It is only Friday and Saturday that are quoted in the report whereas a seven day report would be more appropriate. The report for Friday indicates 4,379 cars entering the car park and 4,356 cars leaving for the 24 hour period. Similarly, the Saturday report indicates a total of 3,961 cars entering and 3,990 cars leaving.
Therefore, allowing customers to remain in the car park for periods of up to 3 hours will result in the car park being full for those 8 or 9 hour periods, queues of traffic forming that are waiting to get into the car park and, potentially, 600 cars being unable to park.
In order to alleviate the traffic queuing on adjoining roads it may be appropriate for electronic “TESCO CAR PARK FULL” signs to be erected on the Canterbury Road and All Saints Avenue approaches to the store as well as Cecil Square. (similar to the car park signs in operation in Canterbury city centre). Such measures may then go someway towards alleviating conflict between cars and pedestrians in the vicinity of the seafront and the railway station.
STATION GREEN JUINCTION
The Officer’s report states that works to widen the Canterbury Road approach will retain the existing pedestrian crossing . This statement does not accord with the most recent plans submitted by the applicant on 19 May which show the removal of the existing traffic island and pedestrian facility situated on the Canterbury Road, near the eastern end of Buenos Ayres.
The Officer’s report makes no mention under this heading of the applicants proposal to install two new pedestrian crossings. One such crossing dissects the roadway on the Station Green roundabout at a point adjacent to the pedestrian exit from the railway station and the second pedestrian controlled crossing dissects the Station Green roundabout at a point adjacent to the Sun Deck seating area.
It is a matter of concern that such significant alterations and their likely impact on traffic flow are not highlighted in the officer’s report.
ALL SAINTS AVENUE / TIVOLI PARK AVENUE JUNCTION
The Planning Officer’s report states that the proposed development will have no impact at this junction. However no reference whatsoever is made to the junction between All Saints Avenue and the All Saints Industrial Estate. This junction sits at a point approximately half way between the new link road junction and the Tivoli Avenue junction. Bearing in mind that the junction between All Saints Avenue and the All Saints Industrial Estate can only be utilised when arriving and leaving to the south, due to the low railway bridge traversing All Saints Avenue, consideration must be given to the impact upon highway safety.
No comments have been received from Kent County Councils Highways Department. The omission has been drawn to their attention and has been mentioned to Thanet Council in submitted comments in relation to the application.
The Officer’s report states that the car park will be managed to provide capacity for food store customers. This statement appears to be at variance with an earlier statement in the officer’s report that a 3 hour Free parking facility will be provided for store customers to visit the town.
Clearly, clarification needs to be sought on this particular point.
Given that the applicant’s figures in respect of car park usage by store customers indicate that there is little surplus capacity for others who might just wish to use the car park for the purpose of visiting the beach, or other facilities within the seafront or town areas.
It has been accepted by the Planning Officer that the proposed level of store parking is at the maximum allowable by Thanet Councils own policy. No reference has been made to confirm that the method of calculation has been correctly applied.
It is essential that the Planning Committee should satisfy itself that the policy has been correctly applied and that it is appropriate that areas of the store which are not involved in the sale of food or non food items should be taken into account to assess the level of parking provided for store customers. The applicant has utilised both the ground floor and the first floor of the atrium along with all of the back of house areas, storage areas, loading bays, offices and staff facilities including toilets to justify the level of customer parking needed.
Clearly, this methodology has been employed in an attempt to justify a far larger car park than that to which the store is entitled under Thanet Councils own policy, on the basis that the store is expected to be extremely busy. However, facilitating such an increase in vehicular movement would be contrary to the aspirations of both Thanet and Kent Councils intentions to create a more pedestrian friendly environment.
The Planning Officer’s report goes on to state that the residents have failed to produce any evidence to show that they have guaranteed parking spaces associated with their properties.
There is in fact no need for the residents to produce any such evidence because all the necessary evidence is already in the Councils possession.
Approval was given by Margate Corporation on 24 July 1962 under Planning Reference ES/1/61/82D for the erection of 142 flats with car parking spaces. This resulted in the residents car park being constructed and connected to Arlington House. It is that very same car park which still exists and is in use today.
The car park is referred to in the lease between the Council and the applicant and is identified a on plan of the upper floors appended to that lease, marked Part B of National Grid Plan TE 3470 NE.
Furthermore, the Council has a letter from Roger Gale, MP, dated 6 April 2010 which states “the residents of Arlington House most certainly do have rights to car parking spaces”. That letter was acknowledged by the then Leader of the Council on 14 April 2010, in which he confirms “that a separate deck for parking was provided for the flat block with approximately 80 spaces for cars”.
In any event, residents have had use of the car park for a period in excess of 40 years. That use has taken place with the knowledge of both the Council and the applicant. Those parties have acquiesced to the residents use. The easement is therefore absolute and indefeasible.
As such, the Council will find itself in some difficulties, if in its capacity as Planning Authority, it grants permission for the demolition and change of use to the applicant in respect to an area over which third parties have easement rights. It will be for the Council to commence a legal action against each and every one of the residents before any demolition takes place.
Similarly, the Council will find itself in difficulties if in its capacity as the Freeholder and Landlord if it gives landlord’s consent for the residents’ car park to be demolished and a retail food store to be erected in its place. The terms of the lease provide for the applicant to not do anything on the site which causes nuisance, annoyance or inconvenience to the residents.
The applicant has provided no evidence whatsoever to justify the reduction in parking provision for 142 residential flats, to be reduced from the current level of 85 spaces to the proposed level of 64 spaces.
The Officer’s report confirms that restrictions on the noise level from the development will be restricted over the high tide period by way of a condition.
It should be clarified that this condition will also be applied to restrict noise during demolition of the existing site.
It is also worthy of comment that greater consideration is being given to restricting disturbance to wildlife than to the residents of Arlington House and other residents of properties which are in fact far closer to the source of the noise than the birds on the shoreline.
The Officer’s report gives the impression that traffic in All Saints Avenue will double, giving rise to an increase in noise level of three decibels.
The applicant’s have produced figures to show that, certainly on a Friday and Saturday ( being the only day mentioned in the applicant’s report.) that for each hour between 09.00hrs and 19.00 hours there will be an average of well in excess of 600 cars entering or leaving the store car park. Those traffic movements will be audible on both sides of Arlington House by virtue of either movement on All Saints Avenue or movement within the customer car park.
Obviously, 600 cars each hour equates to 10 cars each minute, or 1 car every six seconds throughout the day. In practical terms, it will take each car longer than 6 seconds to travel the length of All Saints Avenue and to find a space in which to park within the car park. Similarly, it will take longer than six seconds for each car to exit the car park and to exit All Saints Avenue, As a result, this will give rise to a constant movement of vehicles on both sides of Arlington House.
This is clearly an unacceptable situation in such close proximity to a residential block of 142 flats and the new residential properties being constructed on the western side of All Saints Avenue.
The Planning Officers report states that the Environmental Officer has recommended acoustic glazing and ventilation needs to be provided to all properties facing All Saints Avenue. However, it is not made clear whether the acoustic glazing is intended to be fitted to both sides of the building or whether the building will have different glazing to each side of the building.
In any event, the provision of acoustic ventilation by way of trickle vents needs to be called into question as to whether it is appropriate in the case of Arlington House because of the height and exposure of the building to extreme weather con
ditions where the benefit of double glazing would be negated by such ventilation reducing the thermal efficiency of the installation.
Mention is made of the installation of replacement windows being secured by way of a legal agreement with the applicant except in the case of the 26 flats that the applicant claims cannot be legally enforced.
It would clearly be more appropriate for the applicant to have taken steps to seek the agreement of all of the leaseholders at an earlier stage in order to avoid potential problems whereby the Councils aspirations to improve the look of the windows may not be delivered. Similarly, the Council should seek to have the legal agreement in place at an early stage rather than at some point in the future.
The Planning Officer’s chapter relating to noise makes reference to the noise from delivery vehicles at the service area being mitigated by an acoustic fence . However, no such mitigation is proposed for noise travelling to Arlington House .
Whilst the lower floors of the building maybe protected from such noise by the store itself, the upper floors of the building ( potentially all those above the 4th floor) will not profit from such protection and the flats on the eastern side of the building will be in a direct line for the noise travelling from the service yard.
Such a situation is not appropriate in close proximity to a residential block` of 142 flats.
The restriction placed on deliveries of one each hour overnight, provides little comfort to the residents of Arlington House.
There is no restriction on deliveries during the day and because of the existence of two delivery bays, the applicant clearly anticipates that there will be times when more than one delivery takes place at any one time. Such a situation must call into question the number of delivery which the applicant envisages will take place on a daily basis.
It must also be borne in mind that all delivery lorries will enter and leave the site, passing the western side of Arlington House in both directions as delivery lorries are unable to pass beneath the railway bridge which traverses All Saints Avenue.
The Officer’s report reflects that the development will lead to a further increase in the already unacceptable levels of carbon dioxide at Birchington Square.
If the impact of the development is so significant as to increase the pollution at Birchington Square and that carbon dioxide levels will increase at Buenos Ayres it must follow that the air quality surrounding the vicinity of the seafront will be significantly reduced.
The volume of traffic circumnavigating Arlington House will be doing so at slow speed and therefore the carbon dioxide emissions will be significantly higher. As such, it is likely that the levels of pollution produced will be at a level comparable to that existing at Birchington.
The fact that the applicant considers it unnecessary to propose any mitigation of the increases in emissions other than minimal future measures proposed in the Travel Plan is clearly unacceptable.
FLOOD RISK AND DRAINAGE The letter from Southern Water where it raises concerns in respect of the capacity within the drainage system to cope with additional flow appears to have been overlooked.
The applicant has submitted a report from consultants Ramboll to establish the current and future drainage flows on the site. However the figures they have used in the calculations need to be questioned.in respect of the flow levels from the six existing commercial toilets used to offset the additional 10 toilets to be installed at the Tesco store as they are inaccurate and misleading.
The current toilets are in shop units employing very few staff (probably no more than 12) and, other than a cafe, are not used by the public. The Tesco toilets on the other hand will be serving hundreds of staff and thousands of customers each day. The Ramboll report claims that the existing shops use their toilets a total number of 1,728 times each day and offsets this against a total number of uses at the Tesco store of 2,880 per day. This is totally absurd and completely unrealistic.
CRIME AND DISORDER
The planning officers report acknowledges that the area suffers from crime and anti-social behaviour
Tesco will be selling cut-price wine, beer and spirits and therefore restrictions need to be placed on the opening hours of the store in order to avoid an escalation of the problems already experienced which are mainly alcohol related.
.Mention is also made of the Police recommendation for the car park to gain Safer Park Mark accreditation.
However, this is likely to be impossible to achieve given that the car park will initially have one (and subsequently two) pedestrian accesses directly onto the night time economy areas (Marine Terrace) which gives rise to the source of the crime and antisocial behaviour in the first instance.
Under this heading, the planning officer lists matters that she feels cannot be taken into account as part of the planning process. However, some of these are issues which do form a part of the planning application and therefore should be taken into account.
The cost/funding of the works to Arlington House is a very relevant matter which will be the subject of a Sect.106 Agreement and therefore it is essential that this is in place before consideration is given to the approval or recommendation of the matter as a whole. This is more especially relevant in the light of the applicants lack of attention to the Councils asset for a period in excess of 20 years and the need for the Council to execute works required by law less than two years ago.
There should be concerns in the minds of the Councils Officers and its Members of the likelihood that the applicant will renege on any agreements in any event.
Prescriptive easements is another area where the Council should have concerns and seek clarification on the potential impact and consequences of granting planning permission for unlawful demolition to take place on its own land. An email was sent to the Councils Solicitor on 23 May 2011 raising these issues. Despite a further email being sent to him and two phone call to his office, he has not responded to the matter.
The matter of thermal insulation of Arlington House is a matter for the Council to consider in relation to the Planning Brief insofar as it relates to the sustainability of the building and the applications compliance (or otherwise) with the requirements of the Brief for environmental improvements.
The size of the residents lobby does not accord with the requirements of the Planning Brief for a private courtyard in front of the entrance to Arlington House and therefore certainly is something to be considered as part of the planning process.
There are far too many unanswered questions relating to this application and far too many matters which are being left to be resolved at some point in the future. Bearing in mind the size, importance and complexity of this application, it is essential that greater attention is paid to the detail of each element and the impact of each of the proposals. This is especially relevant if the matter is to be referred to the Secretary of State as he will not look kindly upon the Council if he finds that there are issues that should have been answered or resolved before the application was passed to him.
Moreover, the recent announcement by David Cameron for an investigation by Mary Portas into the decline of town centres may impact upon the Secretary of States views or practices when dealing with such applications as this. Indeed, the Council could find itself faced with a delay in this application being determined until such time that the Portas report is published and any resultant Government policies implemented.
In any event, it must be seen that the Council has given this application full and proper consideration. Part of that consideration must involve a site visit and the Planning Officers decision to not recommend such a visit must be questioned. It should also be considered that all Members of the Council should be involved in the democratic decision-making process in respect of this application.
If the Council makes the wrong decision, it will impact on Margate for years to come, hindering the regeneration of the area. A store of the proposed size with countless traffic movements will cause chaos to an already traffic-laden seafront. Unlike the decision on the Clocktower traffic lights, decisions in respect of the Arlington site will not be easily reversed.