Planning permission has been granted for the redevelopment of the Sir Winston Churchill public house site in Debden Broadway.
Foul language and interruptions from the public gallery forced a temporary suspension of the District Development Control Committee at Epping Forest District Council on Wednesday 11 December 2013. Committee Chairman, Councillor Brian Sandler repeatedly appealed for members of the public to respect the process of the debate before other councillors voted to suspend the meeting and clear the public gallery. The meeting continued after a short delay with members of the press present. The debate was also webcast for live and subsequent viewing. Those members of the public choosing to stay were able to watch the debate from the council’s ground floor reception area.
View photos in a slideshow by clicking on a picture below and then click start slideshow.
The controversy surrounded a planning application at the Broadway in Debden. It comprised redevelopment of the site of the Sir Winston Churchill pub, and a number of lock-up garages owned by the council. The applicant planned to build a new 7 storey building with parking. 64 new flats were proposed for the upper floors with retail, food and drink units on the ground floor. 62 parking spaces, a service yard, access and car parking completed the plan of development.
A section 106 legal agreement would require a contribution of £192,000 towards local primary and secondary school facilities as well as £14,400 towards health services.
Former councillor Joan Davis spoke on behalf of objectors to the proposal. She argued that it was an overdevelopment and out of keeping with other parts of the Broadway. She felt that parking and traffic congestion would be detrimental to existing residents and objected to the lack of an affordable housing element to the proposed scheme.
Local resident Christopher Holt argued that the height of the development was out of proportion and the shadow cast by the building could be dangerous to road safety. He called for further traffic assessments.
Town Councillor Jill Angold-Stephens spoke for Loughton Town Council. She referred back to earlier proposals for housing at a lower density and the inclusion of affordable housing. She described the current public house as an iconic gateway to the Broadway and asked the developer to think again.
Mr Simmons for the applicant referred to the council’s own development brief calling for more retail and business. He asserted that it would not mean the loss of a pub. He argued that the development would bring jobs and regeneration as well as new housing. He asserted that ‘affordable’ housing would make the scheme unviable but that the section 106 contribution of over £200,000 would bring much needed community investment. He felt that the development was in line with council policy and would stimulate future ‘affordable’ housing opportunities.
Mr Simmons said that the changes in traffic would be small and the development would bring many benefits to the area.
Councillor Jennie Hart, a local ward member spoke of the concerns around the loss of the Sir Winston Churchill. She also expressed concerns about the size and scale of the proposed development which she felt was out of keeping with the wider area. She was concerned about the potential disturbance to existing local residents and felt the lack of affordable housing in a deprived area was unacceptable. She asked the committee to consider a redesign on a much smaller scale with screening and landscaping.
Councillor James Hart felt that the Broadway would benefit from some redevelopment but he had concerns about the height and scale of this particular proposal. He noted that while it might be ‘much-loved’ the pub was not profitable. He proposed refusal based on the height and bulk of the proposed building.
Councillor Gary Waller felt that the proposal had merit. He said that it would make a very interesting addition to the Broadway scene and would also bring a considerable number of new residents with ‘purchasing power’ to the benefit of the wider area. Over time he felt it would benefit the area.
Councillor David Stallan supported the proposal and the comments of Councillor Waller while acknowledging some of the points made by Councillor Jennie Hart. Councillors debated the scope for landscape planting.
Councillor John Markham felt that the proposed building was a ‘decent piece of work’ but felt the architects should think again about where it should go. He also expressed concern about the omission of affordable housing from the proposal.
Councillor John Knapman described the decision as a ‘much closer call’ than people might think. He asked if the pub could be nominated as an asset of community value. It was reported that Loughton Town Council had discussed the idea but had not as yet reached a decision.
Councillor Knapman discussed the potential income from the redevelopment of the site towards future provision of affordable housing. However, he was more concerned about the commercial viability of the current pub. He balanced the merits of housing development on a brown-field site with the potential demand for future development sites elsewhere. He felt the economic advantages of redevelopment were clear. He asked if this was the ‘right’ building design.
Councillor Yolanda Knight felt that such a development could be a catalyst for regeneration. She drew comparisons with examples in Harlow and Chelmsford which she felt lifted the businesses around them.
Councillor John Philip explored some of the Highways issues. He felt that the shadow would not cause problems. He liked the design but raised issues about the size and particularly the height. Like Councillor Knapman, he felt the arguments were finely balanced.
Councillor Jon Whitehouse recalled the Broadway Development Brief which had supported the replacement of the existing pub but he was not certain that a development on the scale of the proposal had been foreseen.
Councillor Caroline Pond said that she felt the building was too big for the site. The college on the opposite side of Rectory Lane was set back from the road and landscaped whereas the proposed building would be more prominent.
Councillor John Markham also felt the section 106 contribution of £14,000 towards health services was insufficient.
Councillor Leon Girling was not a member of the committee but spoke as a ward councillor. He argued that the residents of Debden wished to keep the essential character of the area. He agreed that some form of development on the site was necessary but not a building of this bulk and height.
Other non-committee members also spoke. Councillor David Wixley and Councillor Ken Angold-Stephens both felt the building was too large. Councillor Lance Leonard appealed to members of the committee to consider the principles of ‘localism’ in reaching their decision.
A motion to refuse the application on the basis of excessive height, bulk and lack of soft landscaping was lost by 5 votes to 8 with 2 abstentions. Committee Chairman, Councillor Brian Sandler then called a second vote in which councillors were reminded to set aside personal feelings and vote purely according to planning considerations. The committee voted 9 to 6 in favour of the planning application.