NORTH NIBLEY PARISH COUNCIL
AN ORDINARY MEETING OF NORTH NIBLEY PARISH COUNCIL WAS HELD ON MONDAY 1 DECEMBER, IN THE VILLAGE HALL, NORTH NIBLEY AT 7.30PM.
Present: Mr D Purnell (Chairman).
Mrs J Burton; Mr S Hale; Mr K Larkin; Mr D Palmer; & Mr L Smitherman.
District Councillors: District Councillors Mrs J Cordwell; Mrs L Reeves: & Mr P Smith.
County Councillor: Dr J Cordwell.
The Clerk: Mr R Symons.
There were five members of the public present at the start of the Meeting.
The Chairman opened the Parish Council Meeting.
The Chairman invited apologies. The Council received and accepted an apology from Mr K Brown. The Chairman recorded the Council’s wishes that Cllr. Brown made a speedy recovery.
Declaration of Interests. The Chairman invited members to declare any Interests relating to this Meeting. There were none
The Council approved and signed the Minutes of the Ordinary Council Meeting held on 3 November, as a true record. The Minutes of the November Ordinary Meeting of the Council had previously been distributed to all members and displayed on the public notice boards and the website. All members agreed the Minutes should be signed, as a true and accurate record. The Minutes were duly signed by the Chairman.
The Council noted matters arising from the Minutes, not covered by agenda items. The Clerk referred to his Update Note, which had been issued prior to the Meeting. He advised that:
The County Council’s contractor has been undertaking work on some of the trees in Wood Lane. The work was completed in the previous week following which the “Rights of Way” team are intending to look at the other issues to be addressed. The Clerk had received a request for the Parish Council to make a contribution towards the work, but due to the state of the Council budget, he had rejected this on the Council’s behalf.
Treecreepers Arborists have checked the condition of trees in St Martin’s Churchyard. The Clerk received a brief written report which stated “I have looked at the trees in the church yard, and there are none which give cause for concern. There is a tree to the left of the entrance which has shed a large section, and the remaining stems are heavily leaning. This is the only one which it may be prudent to remove in the near future, possibly with a view to replacing it. The only further action I would suggest is some crown lifting on a number of trees, but this is purely aesthetic”.
Treecreepers Arborists had also been asked to check on the state of the Jubilee Tree at the top of Lower House Lane. A verbal report has been received indicating there are no problems with this tree.
Garden Supplies have completed the work on the walls surrounding St Martin’s Churchyard. The work has revealed a large bulge and other damage to the north facing wall which appear to have been caused by roots of trees. The Clerk has asked Mr Gideon Ayres to provide a quote on the cost of repairing both sections of the wall. It is hoped that this work can be carried out within the 2014/15 budget.
he has checked the Council’s position on re-claiming VAT from HMRC in respect of grass cutting at St Martin’s Churchyard. VAT Notice 749 (para. 5.8.10) “maintenance of cemeteries by a local authority is a non-business activity for VAT purposes”.
he has investigated the potential for the Council to receive grants from the Stroud DC Recreation Community Facility Projects scheme. Five possible items have been identified and brief information has been to Stroud DC.
The Chairman offered to close the Meeting to enable members of the public to ask any questions. There were no Questions.
The Council received information about the following planning application:
1) S.14/2460/FUL. Land parcel to East of Wick Bridge, Upper Wick, Dursley, Gloucestershire. Continued use of land for agricultural purposes and the installation of up to 5 MW of solar photovoltaic panels and ancillary works. The Clerk explained that the application is in Alkington Parish area, but due to the potential impact on the Parish, North Nibley Parish Council had been invited to submit its views to the Planning Authority.
The Chairman explained to those present that at the November Meeting there had been a presentation by the applicant and a thorough discussion of this application.
The Chairman Closed the Meeting and invited members of the public to ask questions or make comments. Following discussion the Chairman re-opened the Meeting.
In the opinion of the Parish Council this application, although for a smaller area of land (13.15 hectares compared with 37.6 hectares), it is still a major and significant proposal and in terms of planning policy the adverse environmental impact is similar to the application (S.14/1336/FUL) which the Development Control Committee “Refused” on 13 October 2014. It considered the site is still in an inappropriate location and the reasons for the Council’s objections still apply.
The Council discussed the new application and unanimously agreed to Object to the application. Councillors considered that the new application should be Objected to on similar grounds as the previous application (S.14/1336/FUL).
Councillors also commented on the lack of public consultation.
The Clerk explained that the Council’s position at any Development Control Committee was unclear and that the Council may not be able to speak as the new application falls entirely outside the Parish. The Council asked the Clerk to make a request for a speaking opportunity. He agreed to clarify this by contacting the planning officer.
The Full details of the Council’s Objection is Annexed to these Minutes.
2) The Clerk informed the Council that he had been contacted by the Agent acting for S.14/2320/FUL Land At, Waterley Bottom, North Nibley, Gloucestershire. Full Planning Permission. Erection of an agricultural building. This application had been discussed at the November Meeting when an objection was agreed. Subsequently the applicant had withdrawn the application and at the suggestion of the planning officer his Agent contacted the Clerk to seek the Council’s views on a proposal to build a stable. The Clerk presented the available information, but the Council sought further details of the proposed building; an explanation of the reason for extending the entrance to the field; an assurance that the stable would be used for private use; and an assurance that the building was for horses and not used as a storage area.
The Clerk was instructed to inform the Agent that the Council would comment on the application when it had been submitted to Stroud LPA.
The Council noted that a Certificate of Lawful Existing Use had been Refused in respect of:
S.14/0620/CPE. Southend Farm, Bradley Road, Wotton-Under-Edge, Gloucestershire, GL12 7PB. The reasons given were that it was “due to the lack of substantive evidence”.
The Council noted that a Planning application had been Refused in respect of:
S.14/2312/HHOLD. The Nook, Vernals Lane, Swinhay, Wotton-Under-Edge, Gloucestershire, GL12 7PJ.
The Council received a written District Council Report from District Councillor Mr Smith. The Chairman invited discussion. Following questions Cllr. Smith provided additional information about the future Multi Service Contract. The Chairman thanked Councillor Smith for his report.
The Council received a written County Council Report from County Councillor Dr J Cordwell. Dr Cordwell added that there was still funding available in the “Active Together Fund”. Councillor Dr J Cordwell explained that the failure to repair the potholes in Old Hollow had been due to human error. These were now being repaired.
The Chairman invited Parish Councillors to provide reports of Committees and Meetings they had attended.
Mr Palmer presented his written report on visits to Alkington & Stinchcombe Parish Council Meetings in November. (See aside).
Mr Smitherman reported on his attendance at the recent Joint Cluster Group Meeting. Points discussed included: a training course on how to get grants. (AP. Clerk to attend a future event); police inspector willing to attend Parish Council meetings to discuss crime prevention & speeding (AP. Clerk to invite Inspector Andy Pool to attend Annual Parish Meeting in April); need to explore what more the Neighbourhood Warden service could deliver for the parish (AP. Clerk to invite Peter Gleed to attend February Meeting).
Mr Palmer reported that a group of volunteers are making good progress on clearing scrub from around the Monument.
Mr Purnell reported that he had attended the Dursley Neighbourhood Planning Meeting.
The Clerk provided an update on Breakheart Hill. Noting that the tenant had now vacated the land. Payments had been received up to the date of vacation. It was agreed that the Council needed to discuss the longer term future of its land at Breakheart Hill. This would be on the March 2015 Agenda.
Parish Council Finances:
The Council received for information and noted information about the preliminary discussions held on the Parish Council’s Provisional Budget & Precept application for 2015/16. The Clerk explained that due to the increased expenditure directly linked to the Council’s new responsibilities for St. Martin’s Churchyard it was anticipated that the Precept for 2015/16 would have to be increased. He would be bringing the Budget and Precept application to the February Meeting for the Council’s discussion and approval.
The Council agreed and approved the invoices and drew up cheques for the items listed below from the attached Payments Schedule.
North Nibley Village Hall. Hire of hall for period 4 November 2013 to 6 October 2014. £176.00
Garden Supplies. Work to remove ivy and other weeds from the walls at St Martin’s Churchyard. £518.40
TW Hawkins & Sons SGMS: Contract mowing at Cemetery 20 August to 8 October 2014. £491.90
The Clerk provided information about the Stroud DC Recreation Community Facility Projects scheme. (Councillors had previously been sent an advice sheet with the Agenda). The Clerk explained that he had sent to Stroud DC the outline proposals but had not received any reply. He agreed to follow up the matter. Councillors were content with the 5 projects mentioned on the draft and suggested that the projects for the Recreation Field; the Chapel; and the Village School, should be given priority.
The Council agreed that their Five Year Property Maintenance Plan needed updating. The Clerk was asked to put this on the February or March Agenda.
The Council received and approved written Reports on (a) The Cemetery; & (b) The Closed Churchyard. (See aside)
To receive for information details of Correspondence received.
The Clerk was unable to produce a written report due to IT problems.
The Chairman reminded the Council that Karen Phimister from GRCC had been invited to attend the January Meeting to present her report on Housing Needs Survey.
There being no further business the Meeting closed at 9.00.
The next Meeting of the Parish Council will be held in the Village Hall on Monday 5 January 2015 at 7.30 pm.
Annex A. Comments from North Nibley Parish Council.
“Continued use of land for agricultural purposes and the installation of up to 5 MW of solar photovoltaic panels and ancillary works”.
Land parcel to East of Wick Bridge, Upper Wick, Dursley, Gloucestershire, GL11 6DE.
The Council met on Monday 1 December 2014 and discussed this application.
In the opinion of the Parish Council this application, although for a smaller area of land (13.15 hectares compared with 37.6 hectares), it is still a major and significant proposal and in terms of planning policy the adverse environmental impact is similar to the application (S.14/1336/FUL) which the Development Control Committee “Refused” on 13 October 2014. This site is still in an inappropriate location and the reasons for the Council’s objections still apply.
The Council unanimously agreed to Object on the following grounds:
1. In the view of the Parish Council this proposal clearly is not in accordance with Stroud Local Plan Policy NE8 as it is a development within or affecting the setting of the AONB and evidently does not meet the Policy criteria of:
(a) The nature, siting and scale are sympathetic to the landscape; and
(b) The design and materials complement the character of the area
The Policy also states that “major development will not be permitted unless it is demonstrated to be in the national interest and that there is a lack of alternative sites.” The Council argues that, this is clearly a major development and that the applicant has neither demonstrated that it is in the national interest; nor that alternative brownfield sites, have been considered.
The Council also refers to Stroud Local Plan Emerging Policy ES2. “Within the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), or in locations where proposals would affect the setting of the AONB, applicants for the development of renewable energy schemes and associated infrastructure will need to demonstrate that the public or national interest outweighs the protection afforded to the AONB.”
The Council also refers to Stroud Local Plan Emerging Policy ES7. “Within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), or on land that may affect its setting, priority will be given to the conservation and enhancement of the natural and scenic beauty of the landscape whilst taking account of the biodiversity interest and the historic and cultural heritage. Major development will not be permitted unless it is demonstrated to be in the national interest and that there is a lack of alternative sustainable development sites.”
The proposed development is on land which adjoins the Cotswold AONB and there would be a significant visual impact from many parts of the AONB throughout the Parish, including Nibley Knoll and Stinchcombe Hill and the Listed Stancombe House Estate (Grade 1 listed) and beyond.
2. This proposal also fails to meet National Planning guidelines. Namely the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The NPPF at paragraph 17 recognises the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside and supporting thriving rural communities within it; contributing to conserving and enhancing the natural environment. It also encourages the effective use of land by reusing land that has been previously developed (brownfield land), provided that it is not of high environmental value. Allocations of land for development should prefer land of lesser environmental value, where consistent with other policies in the NPPF.
The NPPF at paragraph 109 states the planning system should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment by: protecting and enhancing valued landscapes.
The Council is of the view that this proposal would have a major adverse effect on the landscape character in the setting of the Cotswolds AONB and a major adverse effect on visual amenity for users of the Cotswold Way National Trail and visitors to the Drakestone Point viewpoint in the Cotswolds AONB as well as users of Nibley Knoll and visitors to Tyndale Monument. It is therefore contrary to Policy ES2 of the Local Plan and paragraphs 17 and 109 of the National Planning Policy Framework..
These are areas visited for their beauty and recreation by many people each year.
This development would also have a similar negative impact to many local residents and users of the roads, lanes and footpaths in and around the Parish of North Nibley.
3. This application also ignores the recently issued Planning Policy Guidance (PPG), which at paragraph ID 5- 007 indicates that local topography is an important factor in assessing whether large scale solar farms could have a damaging effect on the landscape and which recognises that impact can be as great in predominately flat landscapes as in hilly or mountainous areas. At paragraph ID 5-013 the PPG recognises that “the deployment of large-scale solar farms can have a negative impact on the rural environment, particularly in undulating landscapes.” In the opinion of the Council this is large scale solar farm and is one to which this specific piece of Guidance applies.
Additionally, the PPG at paragraph ID 5-010 says that “Renewable energy developments should be acceptable for their proposed location”, and indicates at paragraph ID 5-008 that distance away from a development is just one consideration, stating that "distance plays a part, but so does the local context including factors such as topography, the local environment and near-by land uses.”
In the Council’s opinion it is evident that due to the topography, this location is overlooked by large areas of the AONB and the adjoining land and that the proposed development would have a major detrimental impact upon the views from many parts. The Council challenge the applicant’s assessment, which is dismissive of the impact upon users of Stinchcombe Hill and the Drakestone viewpoint. In addition users of Nibley Knoll and visitors to Tyndale Monument would similarly experience “a negative impact” of their views of the landscape towards the proposed development.
The PPG at paragraph: 013 asks “what are the particular planning considerations that relate to large scale ground-mounted solar photovoltaic farms?” It goes on to recognise that the deployment of large-scale solar farms can have a negative impact on the rural environment, particularly in undulating landscapes. However, the visual impact of a well-planned and well-screened solar farm can be properly addressed within the landscape if planned sensitively. The Council acknowledge that the applicant has planned to screen this site, but consider that screening will be ineffective as it will take many years to grow and it will be an ineffective screen in relation to the elevated views from the escarpment.
The Parish Council note that “particular factors a local planning authority will need to consider include:
encouraging the effective use of land by focussing large scale solar farms on previously developed and non agricultural land, provided that it is not of high environmental value.
In the Council’s opinion the land is not as stated by the applicant as “poor quality agricultural land” (Design & Access statement para. 7.2); but in fact Grade 3 agricultural land (as stated in Design & Access statement Para 2.2). From local knowledge it is known that the land on which this proposed development will be located is agricultural land which has been in continuous use for dairy farming and more recently arable farming, until this time.
This development would result in the loss of Grade 3 agricultural land for 30 years. There is no evidence that the applicant has considered alternative “brownfield sites” of which there are many in the Stroud District. Instead the applicant prefers to turn this agricultural area into an industrial site within the rural countryside, detracting from the distinctive topography of the site and its surroundings.
The Council view the applicant’s claim that the land will continue to be used for agricultural purposes, as unproven.
4. In his oral statement to the House of Commons (29 January 2014) the Planning Minister, Nick Boles, stated the “The policies in the national planning policy framework are clear that there is no excuse for putting solar farms in the wrong places. The framework is clear that applications for renewable energy development, such as solar farms, should be approved only if the impact including the impact on the landscape – the visual and the cumulative impact – is or can be made acceptable. That is a very high test.”
It is the Council’s opinion that the applicant has also failed this particular test.
5. The Council considers that updated Archaeological and Ecological Assessments should have been submitted by the applicant
North Nibley Parish Council strongly Object to this Planning Application and request that the Application is called in for decision by the Development Control Committee and should be Refused on similar grounds to the Decision made on S.14/1336/FUL.