Councillor Hiller left the meeting at this point.
The planning application was for the change of use for part of an existing agricultural barn and paddock at Battlefield Live, French Drove, Thorney to a Laser Tag activity area.
It was officer’s recommendation that planning permission be refused, for the reasons set out in the report. The Development Management Manager provided an overview of the application and highlighted a number of key issues within the report and update report.
Councillor Bartlett, Thorney Parish Council, addressed the Committee and responded to questions from Members. In summary the key points highlighted included:
· The application was first discussed by the Parish Council in 2011, prior to Mr Simons becoming a Parish Councillor;
· No complaints had been received during the temporary permission;
· It was suggested that objections had evolved into personal attacks;
· The Parish Council wished for the application to be heard by the City Council Committee straight away, however the Parish Council did hear the current application;
· During the deliberation, Mr Simons and one other Parish Councillor left the room. The application was supported by a majority vote, and the Parish Council referred the application to the Committee; and
· It was believed that the application had resulted in bitterness within the community.
Councillor Sanders, Ward Councillor, addressed the Committee and responded to questions from Members. In summary the key points highlighted included:
· Councillor Sanders explained that he had visited near the application site after the planning inspector’s decision, while the site was still in operation, to establish the noise levels;
· It was considered that Councillor Sanders would not wish to live with the level of noise he experience while at the site;
· The Battlefield Live experience was fun, however it was not believed to be appropriate in the proposed location, as people who lived in the countryside expected a certain level of peace and quiet;
· Councillor Sanders believed that the application was substantially the same as the previous application, which had been refused by the Committee;
· Noise complaints had been received during the operation of the business, and Councillor Sanders had referred these to the Enforcement Team;
· The noise was likened to that of a children’s football match, and it was noted that sound tended to travel long distances in the countryside; and
· The Development Management Manager confirmed that Sparrow Barn and Oak Lodge residents had objected. No objection had been received from Bluebell Cottage.
Mrs Jose, Clare Cottage resident, and Helen Godber, Old Hall Farm Cottage resident, addressed the Committee in objection to the application and responded to questions from Members. In summary the key points highlighted included:
· Mrs Jose had been a resident for 28 years;
· It was believed that the application was driven purely by the applicant’s desire to use his family’s land for the proposed business, and not what was appropriate for the site;
· It appeared to be that the applicant was under the impression that residences were distant and scattered. However. Mrs Jose advised that this was not the case and that a strong sense of community existed in the area;
· The Battlefield Live franchise could be facilitated at any location, the applicant’s did not necessarily have to pursue it in the proposed location;
· It was suggested that the noise not only affected the nearby residents, but those people who walked in the local area as well;
· Ms Godber explained that the noise in question did not come from the equipment, but from the screaming and shouting of the participants;
· The surrounding land was open and flat, as such noise carried significant distances;
· Peace and quiet was considered at key factor of countryside living; and
· It was believed that the application was significantly the same as the previous submission, and would course the same level of distress.
Gareth Edwards, Swann Edwards Architecture, Sean Sullivan, Acoustic Associates, and Graham Simons and Nigel Simons, applicants, addressed the Committee in support of the application and responded to questions from Members. In summary the key points highlighted included:
· Nigel Simons advised that, following the refusal of the previous application, the applicants had worked with officers. As such the current proposal had moved and acoustic fencing had been added;
· Graham Simons believed that the application supported the development of rural business;
· The noise was that of children playing, similar to that of a children’s football match. It was suggested that complaints were not received about these;
· It was claimed that during the previous trial period, no substantial noise complaints were made and that residents were unable to complete their log books due to the lack of noise;
· A number of individual instances of noise had been raised, which the applicants believed to be dog walkers in one instance, and of too short a period to be significant in the other;
· It was believed that the application satisfied local and national criteria;
· Sean Sullivan reiterated that there was no criteria in place for such schemes in terms of noise levels. The noise generated from the site was generally low, at 35 to 40 dB. However, as the background noise of the site was also low, the disparity between the two was noted. It was believed the proposed acoustic fencing would mitigate against this;
· The site had operated with an average of 30 people per day, with two sessions from 10:30 to 12:30 and 14:00 to 16:00. It was estimated that there was approximate to blocks of 45 minute play per session;
· An initial maximum of 20 participants has been in place, however this was often exceeded with school visits, where up to 40 students attended; and
· It was believed that fences up to 2 metres did not require planning permission. The fences proposed on the site were designed to extend from the pre-existing buildings, so as to limit their impact.
In response to questions from the Committee, the Development Management Manager advised that relevant evidence in relation to noise levels was included within the report, and that, on its own, a 2 metre high fence could be erected under permitted development regulations.
The Committee discussed the application and expressed sympathy for the objectors, reiterating the importance of the countryside environment. The matter of noise was raised, and the Committee considered that a balanced judgement would be required.
In response to discussion of noise levels experience during the site visit, the Planning and Highways Lawyer advised that the advice from officers and noise consultants was included within the report, and that any informal experiments were not material planning considerations. It was further advised that if a condition was proposed for a trial period, this would be likely to fail the test of necessity required for conditions, as a trial period has already been undertaken.
The Committee compared the potential noise of the proposal to children playing in a school or park, which was not considered to be of significant impact. It was, however, noted that residents in the countryside had greater expectations of peace and quiet. In relation to the proposed acoustic fence, the Committee suggested that the signified the applicant’s attempt to mitigate and noise pollution and were pleased to see that natural hedging was proposed to block the fence.
A motion was proposed and seconded to agree that permission be granted, contrary to officer recommendation, subject to a condition in relation to the acoustic fencing and with delegated authority to the Corporate Director Growth and Regeneration to include other appropriate conditions. The motion was carried five voting in favour and three voting against.
RESOLVED: (five voted in favour and three voted against) that:
1) Planning permission is GRANTED subject to a condition in relation to the acoustic fencing; and
2) Authority be delegated to the Corporate Director Growth and Regeneration to include other conditions and appropriate.
Reasons for the decision
It was considered that, on balance, the application would not produce unacceptable levels of noise. It was further considered that acoustic fencing proposed by the applicant would provide sufficient noise mitigation, and did not represent a visual intrusion within the landscape.
Councillor Lane left the meeting at this point.